Managing Consumers’ ExpectationsMark Gallagher and Laura Savard
A brand is an experience that lives at the intersection of promise and expectation. That promise can either be overt (made by the organization) or implied (made by third party, such as the media). Both manage consumers’ expectations. When consumers’ expectations aren’t met, stocks go down, products sit on store shelves and the brand comes tumbling after. Such is the case with the launch of Apple’s iPhone 4s.
Apple makes outstanding products and has perhaps the world’s strongest brand. Competitors chase Apple’s innovative products and throughout the world people reference Apple as the poster child for Branding, Marketing, Innovation, Product Development, Pricing Strategy, etc… The list goes on and on. But the failure in the iPhone 4s isn’t an issue with Marketing, Innovation, Product Development or Pricing Strategy. It was a failure to meet consumers’ expectations.
This is the problem with brands. The truth is, brands can’t be managed. The only thing we can manage is consumers’ expectations. And this time Apple got it wrong.
We’re sure that Apple will do quite well in the long-run. They’ll likely sell a record number of iPhones. After all, FREE has historically been a great motivator! Everyone will update to the iOS5, many will sign up for iCloud and everyone will love Siri (we’ve been using the Siri app for some time. It’s great!).
But, what if the name and physical design were different? These would signal change, and in today’s technology obsessed world, they would signal “better.” Both the iPhone 4s’ name and physical design tell us that not much has changed. This is similar to the automotive industry where a new body style equates to a “new” car. We equate the new design with innovation. It triggers our mind to look for what’s new, better, more advanced. The same old name, the same old body style, these are signals that it’s the same old thing.
The issue here is that we, the consumers, expected the unexpected and we got what we deserved. There was a great weight on Apple’s now Chief Executive Officer, Tim Cook’s shoulder. To Impress this crowd he would have had to have introduced, not just something better, but something different. After all, we were expecting the unexpected and we got a better version of the same. This is the problem when “the consumer owns the brand.” We always seem to disappoint ourselves.