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Why Apple get it right. Telling the customer what they want vs. Offering what they want

Ok, for some people who know me well, the choice of title will come as a shock. Yes, Apple do something right… There, I’ve admitted it!

I am known to be very critical of Apple’s products, specifically the MacBook Pro… Over £1000 for a device with similar, if not inferior, specifications to its rivals?! That’s ridiculous. However, as I spend more and more time with my iPad (yes I’m writing this article on it…) and compare it to my Android (Google’s mobile operating system) ran HTC Hero smartphone I am slowly noticing why so many people love Apple products.

Of course, there is the inevitably segment of the techie consumer market that Apple can always count on, the fanboys. But beyond that, why do people like Apple?

The answer my friends is simple. They give the consumer what they want. Sure, you’d say that is the basic concept of marketing but where Apple make a difference is in their total product offering. As any half decent marketer would do, they study what the customer wants, what they need from the product and how they intend to use it.

HOWEVER, yeh another one of those “and this is a big however…”, they don’t stop there. They take these ideas and build a product that TELLS the customer what they want. They have built a platform that is sturdy, works and gives consumers a total product and then says “this is what I do, you want to use me this way.”

I am a big fan of Google and firmly believe in their ethos of everything open and sharing the worlds information. It is similar to that of an an equally giant player, Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook with the intention to expand one’s social experience, open my life and social interaction to let it grow. I therefore admire Google for opening its mobile platform to manufactures around the globe to customise it, make it their own and essentially, deliver a variety of products for a variety of people. The ability to customise Android, use home screen widgets rather than just thumbnails to countless apps to display my meetings, weather or messages all on my home screen without having to open a single app is admirable.

But more often than not, when a consumer is faced with that ability to customise, change or alter the total product they find themselves clueless. You don’t sell a car without lights or doors and say “here are the keys, feel free to chose your favourite doors and lights you find attractive”… you just don’t. You don’t see Starbucks saying “sure we’ll put some hot water and coffee in a cup but feel free to take it home and add vanilla or caramel yourself!” Your total product offering should put what the customer wants straight in their hands.

Ok, so you’ll argue “Google’s Android total product is a totally customisable platform, they are putting the ability to change and be open in your hands” but does a consumer necessarily understand that and know HOW to customise it or even want openness? There is one player in the Android game who is truly showing they understand this. HTC. The Taiwanese manufacturer is taking the customisable Android platform and transforming it in to a fabulous total product with HTC Sense and putting it in the customers hands saying “here, we’ve taken Android and designed it to work for you.”

As this article has gone on to be a critique of the Android and iOS platforms (something I could debate either way for hours) I will bring it back to what it was about. Apple are successful because they design a total product that works and tells the consumer what it does and tells them how to use it. With the rapid increase in smartphones and tablets appearing in the market, manufacturers must understand that the operating system is key, specifications, size and functionality are pretty much identical across them all; it is how your total product is presented and that it directly tells me how it will improve my life.

Hence, this article comes to the conclusion of: Design a product/service that is built on your consumers needs and requirements BUT deliver it to them in a way “this is what we offer, it will improve your life.” Don’t offer the customer what they want, TELL them what it is and GIVE it to them.

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Twitter… To open or to close… That is the question.

It is undeniable that Twitter is an online, networking phenomenon. It breaks down the “friendship” boundaries of Facebook and just let’s you ‘follow’ anyone you want and build new relationships and networks.

This is the reason I love Twitter (as well as it’s another reason for me to play on my iPad!), the ability to simply tell people about my day and let them interact with it as they please. However, since joining the phenomena, I have doubts about it’s openness and availability to anyone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the underlying believes of Facebook and Google of openness to expand one’s social network. We can’t preach we’re willing to share our lives through social networks but then build a wall around it to restrict certain people.

To get to the point of this post, should my Twitter account be open or should I set it to private? I’d never considered the option of private for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, but now I’m employed and I know my colleagues/employer is on Twitter and I can’t help but feel them breathing down my neck. Should I tweet this? Ok, my student job isn’t my life career and I don’t risk compromising much, but I like my job and I don’t want to lose it by slipping up on a tweet about a night out or choosing to watch TV all day instead of working. What about my current placement applications? Potential employers are no doubt typing my name in just to see what comes up, what about what they read? Also, the vast amount of “followers” I gain only a daily basis who have either never tweeted or only ever tweet “win your free iPad now” or, more often than not, “horny girls waiting for you here”, just makes me wonder, who’s actually behind this account? A desperate marketer or a disgusting sex addict?

So I leave the debate open to you now… Twitter, to open or not to open? My heart tells me keep it open to keep building your network, but my rational mind tells me protect your employability and privacy…