If You Really Want to Be More Remarkable Take a Page from Apple’s Playbook

Posted on by in Branding/Differentiation, Business, Creativity/Innovation, Marketing, Planning, Remarkability, Strategy

Fortune magazine recently came out with their listing of the Fortune 500 (and 1000). A quick survey of the Fortune 500 shows that the company with the best performing stock return over the past decade has been . . . Apple–at an impressive 50.7% return per year. 180pxapplelogo
So, how did they do that? From my perspective, they did it by living at the intersection of the four keys to true remarkability.

1. Differentiation – In order for anything to be remarkable, it has to be different (even in the case where different is consistency, as in the case of Cal Ripkin). No one I’ve ever met has ever mistaken any Apple product for someone else’s. No one picks up an iPhone and says, "Looks like a Nokia product." Or an iMac and says, "Looks like a Dell." Or an iPod and says, "Looks like a Sony mp3 player." Or at iTunes and says, "Looks like Walmart." Everything Apple does is different–and clearly different.

2. Innovation – Since the natural drift of life is from remarkable to ordinary to death, every company that wants to be remarkable has to continually innovate their products and services. And no company does this better than Apple. As long as I live, I’ll never forget Steve Jobs’ speech a few years ago when he stood up on stage and said, "The iPod mini has been the most successful product launch in the history of Apple (with a huge graph showing accelerating sales behind him), Ipodnano3_wideweb__430x366_2
which is why today we’re killing it (pregnant pause) . . . and introducing the iPod nano." Who else on planet earth would do that? Who else would kill a successful product that had been out for less than a year and was selling like hot cakes–other than Apple? Then again, maybe that’s why Apple was once again recently named the Most Innovative Company on the planet by Business Week.

3. Positioning – In order for customers to believe that something is remarkable, it has to be positioned correctly. For example, Cirque du Soleil is clearly positioned to be a theatrical circus for adults vs. the traditional circus like Ringling Brothers. In the case of Apple, they’ve been able to pull off an Avis or 7-up strategy of positioning themselves against the dominant player. Even better, with the Mac vs. PC ads, they’ve been able to make the dominate player look like a Dilbert character–and who would want that? No one wants to remark to their friends, "Hey, I just bought a PC," (makes them look like "cubicle man"). But everyone I know loves to remark, "I just bought a Mac," (i.e. I’m now cool–and not a cubicle slave anymore).

4. Excellence – In order for something to be remarkable, it has to be executed with excellence. Just having a remarkable idea is not enough. For example, last fall when Michael Dell introduced a PC tablet with multi-touch (the thing that the iPhone made popular so you can expand and contract a picture by pinching or expanding two fingers) it sounded and looked remarkable except that what he demonstrated on stage and what you can actually do are two different things (i.e. the laptop you can actually buy doesn’t work with multi-touch, only single touch). No excellence. No remarkability. On the other hand, even though Apple has had it’s share of problems, there is no question that the products they produce are always done with excellence. In fact, the other day I picked up my first MacBook Air Macbook_air_back_440
and just drooled for a moment (then I remembered I was supposed to be shopping for Mother’s Day). However, I’ve never ever seen anyone drool over a Dell or HP or . . .

So as you take a look at your own company or organization, where can you find the place of intersection at the cross roads of differentiation, innovation, positioning and excellence? How can you make sure that no one confuses what you do with what anyone else does? Or how can you innovate what you’re doing to introduce version 4.2? Or how can you better position what you do so you’re the obvious choice? Or how can you do what you do so well that it elicits a "WOW!"?

It’s worth wrestling with these questions because if you find that place of intersection, then, like Apple, you’ll not only be more remarkable, you’ll also be putting away some serious cash (e.g. Apple is currently stashing away around a billion dollars per quarter). So don’t let anyone ever tell you remarkable isn’t marketable. It is. It really is.

P.S. A simple staff discussion might be to take each of your competitors and their main products. Then ask of each, "How can we do this differently than they do?" And, "Is that different something our customers would want?" Finally, "And is that different so clearly different that it would move our customers to tell their friends, ‘You’ve got to check this out?’"

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