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Vaughan Gordon

Is Apple taking its customers for granted?

By Vaughan Gordon

I must admit that I am a big Apple fan.

Several years ago, I remember my wife asking me what I wanted for Christmas. Typically, I hadn’t a clue, so she bought me an i-Pod. Whilst I was chuffed, the thing that instantly got my attention was the way it was presented. Just opening the box was an event: the design, the clever space-saving placement of the accessories, the i-Pod itself…it was all so clever.

But I wasn’t quite hooked.

Some months later, our PC died. My nephew, Leon – an avid Apple fan in the literal sense, convinced me the way forward was to buy an i-Mac. I’d done my research: everything in one beautifully designed unit, a big screen, clever applications…I could edit my own films, create a website, build a complete photo library. Given that I had only ever worked with PCs and thought Macs were for designers, this seemed like radically cool stuff.

I was nearly hooked, but not quite.

The turning point for me was the i-Phone, something I had sneered at when it was launched. Now self-employed as a marketing advisor, my i-Phone is my mobile office. Quite literally, I would be lost without it. I am now hooked – it’s clever, functional, can support over 85,000 apps and basically does everything but make my breakfast in the morning.

And there’s the rub. Being hooked is a state of mind I really don’t enjoy, because it suggests that I can’t do without it. Apple is so good at creating products which transcend the functional. For example, surely a phone is a phone is a phone, but the i-Phone is something quite special…and Apple knows this. As long as they continue to create beautifully crafted, ground-breaking products which continue to rock our worlds, they can continue to get away with most anything.

Today’s press conference confirming how Apple intends to deal with the 4G i-Phone connectivity glitches, is the latest in a long line of technical problems for the company. Remember the desperately short battery life of the i-Pod, or the i-Mac’s flickering screens. And who can forget the furore surrounding the i-Pod Nano’s battery failure and scratched screens.

For the foreseeable future Apple will continue to make millions of dollars, because their customers love their fantastic (if sometimes unreliable) products, the fact that we belong to a rather cool, exclusive club and extend to them a great deal of goodwill.

If they’re not careful, their success could ebb away for two key reasons:

  1. their customers’ affection for the brand and their goodwill may be tested once too often, possibly leading to some defecting to other brands.
  2. competitors, such as Blackberry, will raise their game and do a better job of producing functional, yet desirable and technically superior products.

Is Apple taking its customers for granted? Well, I remain loyal to the brand, certainly until a significant competitor appears on the horizon, able to hook me in the same way…and that may not be anytime soon.

And Apple knows that too.

Vaughan Gordon, Director – VG&A