Apple doesn’t do social

Remember my post Brands like friends?

I concluded: “That’s why of all the things you can say about brands, this one is imperative: they have to be consistent. If not, it’s psychotic, schizofrenic, or – at best – somewhat confused. Most people don’t want to be friends with friends like that.”

But what about brands that don’t really want to be friends, like Apple? Apple is the most admired brand around, the brand most people want to become friends with.

Apple is very consistent in it’s behaviour towards the market. They create brilliant consumer electronics, build and dominate new categories, and make lots of money doing so. iPad 1 generated $9.7 Billion incremental revenue for Apple in about 10 months time. iPad 2, introduced 2 weeks ago, will probably do better. Meanwhile, iPad 1 goes down in price, leaving the competition battling the user experience of an aged product, forced to go down in price without even having launched their products yet – they don’t stand a chance.

Apple made me think about communities this week. Simply because they do not invest in building or supporting a community. They don’t do social. They don’t have Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter accounts – it’s not a lack of focus, it’s a statement. So I was wrong in another recent post, when I said that Apple wouldn’t buy Twitter, because they’d probably want to create their own social platform. Rubbish. They don’t do social.

Nevertheless, research after research shows that Apple is the strongest brand, the most admired company, with the largest fanbase in the history of high tech. And that fanbase is of course a community – the corporation Apple is just not investing in it.

This is very much aligned with their Do It Yourself customer support (outside of the US, where it is quite hard to find an Apple store, the website is about the only means of support). With Steve Jobs’ famous one liner: “You can’t expect the customer to know what he wants.” They don’t listen to the market, they create and direct the market. They are fundamentally not interested in their buyers, their fans. And although I am a fan of Apple’s products, and an admirer of their marketing strategy, I am sure this attitude will eventually bring Apple Inc. down. Because every successful product (strategy) will be copied, and you just can’t be brilliant all the time.

When I walked by the Apple flagship store in Palo Alto, California three hours before it started selling iPad 2 on 11 March, there was an endless line of fans waiting, filmed by television crews from all over the world, who in their turn were filmed by film crews from all over the world. Apple had provided them all with umbrella’s, customers and media the same, to keep them safe from sunburn.

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2 Responses to “Apple doesn’t do social”


  1. 1 Tim Waldron April 13, 2011 at 10:39 am

    great post Kees. I’m not a marketeer by any means but I have found that the strongest communities/groups are ones which are self formed. this is very much the case for apple.

    ‘Apple doesn’t do social’ perhaps because they don’t need to, it’s built itself. on the flip side, one could argue their stores represent a larger non-virtualized social destination.

    would be interesting to look at what the direct profitability of an Apple store is compared to their other distribution channels.

    when I go to a store I see, a free ‘bring your own laptop’ internet cafe through their free WiFi service, an adult playground through the demo products and most importantly the constant buzz of stories from Apple enthusiasts telling one another or store employees their latest coolest use of an Apple product.

    they’ve built a relationship with their customer through their products, traditional word of mouth and their store.

    as for direct investment: iTunes Ping,,? one could argue that is about the music.

    • 2 Kees Henniphof April 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks Tim, I agree – and I think it is the perception of many consumers that Apple has the strongest community in the world… which is true – without actually building one, like many of their competitors. This is El Dorado for any brand manager. My point: Few marketing folks these days ask themselves: Should we even invest in building a community, or should we invest in finding out why a community hasn’t been created yet by our customers. Maybe they’re not very happy with our products and services, maybe we haven’t been able to connect with them at the right level. Thanks for responding!
      Cheers, Kees.
      P.s. You sound like a marketeer, though. So be careful; you may become one.


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