Apple’s best marketing decision – ever.

David sent me an article that I almost completely disagreed with. It was about 10 marketing mistakes that Apple has made over the years. Maybe in some other post, I will describe why I disagree with his specific claims.  This post, however, is not about the worst marketing decisions, but the best. I think there is one decision that can be credited more than any other for the rise of Apple in the last few years.

In an earlier post, I showed a graph of Mac OS X’s growth speeding up. I think that one of the main factors that contributed to the growing popularity of the Mac is the iPod. I will illustrate this supposition with two badly superimposed graphs. The bar chart represents Mac unit sales, and the line represents iPod unit sales.

iPhone has been an undeniable success, with it’s speed of growth being even faster than iPod’s.

Credit: PED

And it looks like iPad is moving even faster (so far) than iPhone.

The point: Apple has a crazy amount of momentum, each product using its predecessor as an accelerant. The mystery: what put them on this path? The answer…

The learning curve for operating system switching is a significant barrier to entry for most users. Enough so that my wife doesn’t even want to learn, despite my obsession interest in Apple products. That barrier kept Mac in a niche for years and years. iPod gave people a taste of what Apple products are like, without the learning curve. The iPod embodied what Apple has always tried to create with their products: an experience that is pleasant with a product that doesn’t get in the way of the task at hand.

Many decisions about the iPod were made to help it be successful, such as good product design, easy music uploads, the introduction of the store etc. While these are all important features and benefits, there was one marketing decision that was more important than all of these factors.

In 2000, when I would listen to my Sony Discman, it would sit in my bag or my pocket. For that matter, when anybody listens to portable music, the device sits hidden in their pocket. How is anyone suppose to hear about this amazing device if it hangs out in your pants?

The single best marketing decision that Apple ever made was to make their iPod earbuds white. Unlike other mobile music players, you knew when someone was listening to an iPod. The iPod was a fabulous product, and very worth talking about, but the white headphone helped people to know how many people were using it. This product momentum is what started it all off. iPod led to iPhone which led to iPad, all of which are leading to more converts to the world of Apple. And once they have you, you can’t get away.