Friday, January 11, 2008

iPod earphones - marketing tool?

I remember when the Apple iPod first hit the shelves and started becoming THE must have item in Ireland. In my secondary school days I remember people would stride down the corridor with the distinctive white headphones on show and people would know exactly what they had in their pocket, and as an obvious result how unbelievably cool, hip, with-it etc they were. Eventually everyone wanted an iPod and saved up their money to buy one, soon the earphones could be seen everywhere, even those who didn’t have an iPod would try and procure themselves a set.

It is a little known fact that the iPod earphones that Apple so kindly provide “rely on Neodymium transducers, a rare earth magnet that significantly enhances frequency response and overall sound quality”, but this is not why people wanted iPod earphones. In my opinion primarily the earphones served as a means to show off that you were one of the few who had an iPod, and later became a symbol of being part of the group. A side effect of this and more importantly to Apple in the long term it acted as a marketing tool.

Marketer extraordinaire Seth Godin speaks of the “purple cow” his belief in the concept of making succeeding by making your product as remarkable as a purple cow. Prior to the iPod earphone colour followed the Henry Ford motto of "You can have any colour you want, as long as it's black.", Apple’s WHITE product changed all this and created a trend and a signature that would allow essentially free indirect advertising of their mp3 player.

Seeing as the white earphones have become so synonymous with the iPod brand I find it odd that they are so poorly constructed and seem to break after what many would consider fairly minimal use. Without fail every iPod user I know has not retained their original pair of earphones, instead replacing their easily broken pair with another manufacturers product.
There is a reason why there is a Dell logo on the back of my laptop screen, and a badge on the front of a BMW and it isn’t to remind the owner of what he or she owns, its is a means to advertise the product and brand to OTHERS, and this is exactly what the unique Apple earphones did. However with such a short lifespan I believe that Apple forgoe the opportunity to benefit from the meaning that they communicate to others, and what is more annoy the heck out of current iPod owners that they have to go and pay for new ones.

I understand that as we stand today post-iPhone and iPod touch the threat of diminishing uniqueness and market share is not currently an issue for Apple, however it is marketing laziness as seen here that could see them lose their leader position in the face of fiercer competition.

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