Consumer Theory

Discussion on “Why a simple product line is integral to Apple’s success” (Edible Apple, 2009).

The article “Why a simple product line is integral to Apple’s success” discusses the success Apple has had carrying a limited number of products as opposed to competitors who carry a larger line of products. This limited product line serves a number of purposes: first of which, it keeps things simple for consumers. Steve Jobs played a large role in this product simplification upon his re-entry into Apple in 1997, saying that if he had trouble deciphering the differences between products, it was unreasonable to expect consumers to do so easily. With this thought in mind, Apple chose to simplify its strategy; instead of a number of varied products for different markets, they would produce four products for four segments: laptops for professionals and the everyday consumers, and desktops for professionals and consumers. A number of Apple product lines, such as the Newton, were cut at this time. Another way in which they used this strategy to keep things simple for consumers was in the clarity of names they chose for their products. For example, the MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro are straightforward, with no unnesessary numbers or random letters denoting which model they are.

Another purpose served by the simplification of their product line was the way in which it gave Apple a very streamlined and focused idea of their identity as a company. It allowed them to focus on the products they could produce well and prevent the waste of time and money on inferior products created for the sake of a more varied, and less excellent, product line. Their products—the iMac, iPhone, iPod, and iPad—stem from this thought process, and their simplicity of model and design not only makes it simple for the customer to choose without extensive research, but it also allows Apple to focus on improving them into further streamlined products with an excellence all their own. In addition, this has the added benefit of making technical support simpler as well, not only for the consumers, but for Apple. For these reasons, Apple benefits as much as the consumer from this choice.

The consumers themselves benefit in several ways from limited consumer choice in making their product buying decisions. The first benefit discussed in the article is the relative ease in deciding between different products. The article emphasizes the success Apple had in limiting its laptop product lineup to the Macbook, Macbook Air, and Macbook Pro. Restricting its consumers to only three options allowed them to easily decide which offering was most appropriate to their personal needs—while more “on-the-go” individuals may have opted for the lighter and easily transportable Macbook Air, those desiring more advanced features and capabilities could choose the Pro version.

In addition, Apple’s decision to simplify the names of their products also made it easier on consumers looking to distinguish between models. As a comparison, the article notes that “there are a multitude of Sony Vaio laptops out on market, and if you want to figure out how they differ, you have to study the specs.  How else can you figure out the difference between a Sony Vaio VGN-Z550N and a Sony Vaio VGN-CS215J/R”. Apple customers can quickly decide which product is most practical for their needs without having to do extensive background research, making their buying decision process much simpler and more enjoyable.

To illustrate the advantages of the consumer theory behind Apple’s limited product line, the article makes the fitting analogy: “When it comes to product offerings, Apple’s approach to business is a lot like that of a Basketball coach.  Would you rather have a smaller team comprised of only 7 All-Stars, or a full 12 man roster with 1 All-Star, 2 above average players, 3 mediocre players, and 6 benchwarmers. The Dream team wins everytime, baby.”

A comparable case to the minimalistic product lines offered by Apple Inc. is that of Tesla Motors, Inc.  At the moment, this specialty automobile manufacturer only offers one vehicle model to its consumers.   The Tesla Roadster gained attention by being the first fully electric sports car.  It is in the final stages of developing a second model, The Tesla Model S, to be released in the near future.  This will also be an electric car similar to the coupe-class Roadster, though it will be classified as a luxury sedan.  These two models are marketed to similar demographics.  Tesla doesn’t attempt to sequester more market share by releasing a wide variety of vehicle classes as do most of its competitors in the automotive industry.  In contrast, Ford Motor Company released thirteen new vehicle models for the 2012 year.  These range from compact cars to SUVs to pickup trucks.  Ford markets its products across a variety of demographics, hoping to offer a class of vehicle to satisfy the needs of a variety of consumers.  This diversification business model makes Ford better able to satisfy the individualized needs of its consumers.

Posted by Tommasina, Trevor, Brian and Tim (Section 4)


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