"At some point just about every marketer is bound to look at something that Apple is doing and wish they could have done it for their own brands," says Rohit Bhargava in a post at the Influential Marketing Blog. But, he argues, the company's success relies on more than the common attributes of innovative products and stylish marketing campaigns: "They do one thing that almost none of their competitors in any market can do … they control distribution."

Since Apple sells products and services directly to customers through its own stores and Web site, it has a number of inherent benefits:

  • Employees stay on message because they have only one story to tell, and work in a brand-centric retail environment.
  • In an Apple-only environment, a customer who goes into the store for a Mac won't leave with a Dell because they were distracted by promotions, sales pitches or packaging.
  • Upselling becomes easier without direct competition—customers are more likely to throw in a $45 connector cable that would cost $5 elsewhere because that's what the store offers, and it won't seem an onerous add-on to their $499 purchase.
  • Apple can control pricing and virtually eliminate discounts. "Not only does this allow for more consistency," he says, "it also gives you the ability to include pricing in your marketing materials and ads because you know it's the same price everywhere."

In a nifty bit of Marketing Inspiration, Rohit Bhargava reminds us to look beyond the obvious when analyzing a company's success, and invites us to reexamine our own distribution channels.

More Inspiration:
CK: Conventions '08: Round #2 with Brand McCain
Scott Monty: Spies Like Us
Michael Rubin: Social Media @Work: Home Depot and the Hurricanes

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