On June 15th, less than two weeks ago, the Apple Insider blog reported that Apple sales continued slipping in May. Mac sales were down, perhaps not as much as expected but still down, and more surprising, the previously recession-proof iPod sales were falling. Could it be that the economy was catching up with Apple?
But no, because that was May sales and as you no doubt know, Apple released a shiny upgrade to the iPhone called iPhone 3GS and sold a cool million of them in the first weekend. Talk about a quick rebound.
People Want These Things
One thing is clear, Apple still hasn't lost its touch (pun intended) when it comes to giving the people what they want. Three years after the launch of the original iPhone, people were still waiting in line outside Apple and AT&T stores to be among the first to get an iPhone 3GS. Ars Technica reports that analysts were predicting first weekend sales of between 500,000 and 700,000 units. Apple beat that and kept on running. It's not clear how Apple does it, but they have the most loyal group of enthusiasts round.
Author and marketing expert Seth Godin has said mass marketing is dead, that what you want is a core of enthusiastic true believers who carry the word about your product to the world. Apple actually encompasses both extremes, a mass market with a large core group of rabid fans.
One person wondered on Twitter why people would wait in line for a phone they could get in two weeks without a line. These people have to be there Day 1, and they carry the message for Apple better than any television ad ever could. Consider this: Could you picture people waiting in long lines for a Microsoft product? For any other piece of technology?
Timing is Everything
When I spoke to Jen Grant, VP of Marketing at Box.net this week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, we chatted about the new iPhone and she mentioned, Apple released the new iPhones to coincide with Father's Day and went so far as to guarantee delivery by the big day. Grant, who ordered one for her Dad, believes timing its release with the holiday weekend helped boost those initial sales and I'm inclined to agree. I doubt very much it was a coincidence.
Can They Keep it Going
It's hard to stay cool forever and you have to wonder when Apple will end its run, but for now they have a lock on this stuff. They know how to create it, to package it, to present it and bring it to market. They know how to keep improving it, to somehow make their legion of loyal users keep coming back for the upgrade. They are masters at this.
Who knows? There will probably come a time when Apple loses its iron grip on its market. Maybe it will piss off its base or just lose its touch, but for now they may stumble, but they get up again and again.