Apple Gets It: Lessons from a Tech Giant

It’s no mystery that Apple is the ultimate tech giant. They solidified that position as their latest quarterly revenue came in at a record breaking $74.6 billion. These earnings were spread primarily across iPhone, MAC, and iPad products. The most impressive numbers came from their iPhone category with a reported 74.5 million units sold. While Apple doesn’t share a breakdown in sales between models of the iPhone, I’m willing to bet the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus definitely made its mark on Apple’s bottom line.

Being in the business of helping other businesses, I’m always in tune with the lessons we can learn from the example of other brands. When I read about Apple’s record breaking numbers I couldn’t help but use it as a teachable moment. Here are 5 take aways from the Apple brand that we can use to drive our own new product launches.

1. Check out your competition.
When you know what’s popular and profitable for your competitor you’re in a better position to compete. Everyone always wants to be the innovator. But innovation is often bred from what already exists. Using Apple as an example, the introduction of the iPhone 6 plus could be attributed to the success of its competitor the Samsung Galaxy. I’m willing to bet many Samsung users were converted (or reconverted) to iPhone because the 6 plus is the best of both worlds. Apple paid attention to the market and responded in a way that their target could enjoy. Whenever my clients are toying with the idea of releasing a new product, I urge them to find similar products that are already on the market. The purpose of this task is to find out what’s working and determine what can be done better so that the product they release is a few steps above the rest.

2. Keep your customers values top of the mind.
Your new product must tackle all of your customers’ pain points plus add value they didn’t even know they wanted. I have been an iPhone user for 3 years and up until a few weeks ago I had the same phone I started with. I’m sure that’s hard to believe for a lot of you. The thing is, I’m not a true techie. Technology is a means to an end for me. I need it to efficiently run my businesses and to communicate on a daily basis. As long as my phone is in good working order I don’t feel the need to replace it. But after 3 years of serving me well, I thought it was time to give my 4s a rest. I went in the AT&T store with the intention of purchasing the standard size iPhone 6. That was until I experienced the 6 Plus. I thought the size of the phone would be a nuisance; however, it has proven to be everything I never knew I wanted. How did Apple know? Because they know what their customers value. You need to be just as in tune with your following in order to have a successful product launch.

3. Pad your risk.
If you’re going to innovate or release something new there’s always the possibility that it may flop. Every business makes financial projections with the hope of actually meeting the mark. But what if you don’t? No decision comes without risk. The key is to adequately prepare and deliver in a way that minimizes your risk. There are many ways to do this, but you absolutely must have sufficient research, exhaustive testing and profit margin control. How did Apple pad their risk? They built in a higher profit margin. The average price per unit on the iPhone was up from $603 from the previous quarter to $687 in the most recent quarter. According to consumer reports, the iPhone 6 Plus wasn’t the popular choice in many regions. So how was Apple able to post its highest gains in history on the heels of this release? When you pad your risk even low performance results in a win.

4. Deliver to a captivated audience.
We have seen this in action since the release of the very first iPhone. The amount of effort Apple puts into promoting their product is to be applauded. With every new release there is a promotional build up. First the rumors and whispers start surrounding testing of a new product and the possible release date. Then someone “leaks” an image of the prototype and the tech blogs go wild. They start reporting what may be new features and what may be a new design. Nobody really knows, but everybody cares even when they don’t care. Then Apple makes the big announcement and they start trickling out information about the features, and the design and the improved functionality and… the pre-order date. Pre-ordering is a hugely successful marketing strategy that can be employed seamlessly when you’ve done your job to captivate your audience. Once those first purchasers start receiving their product in hand they want to brag. They take pretty pictures of their new product and post on all their social media accounts. Be jealous. And with that, the late comers wait on their chance to purchase the product to join the cool kids. This strategy works for any brand in any industry that does it right. And as long as you continue to deliver a new, high quality, high value product your captivated audience will continue to grow.

5. Worry about yourself.
No matter what your competition is doing, you have to be clear about the core values of your own brand. Chasing trends is the quickest way to stay behind the wave. Great brands, successful brands strive to stay in the forefront. If you are consistently good at selling lipstick, it’s not a good idea to jump over into the skin care industry if it doesn’t fit into your brand strategy. Before any new product release you have to show your customers that you can lead in that space. You do that by having a solid brand strategy in place before you ever get started. Your brand strategy acts as your guide to grabbing your piece of the pie- whether that piece has 4 slices or just one huge slice. It is up to you to set the stage and be consistent with your performance. Just make sure you build in a little wiggle room in the event that you need to pivot to meet the market. If you notice, Apple gradually increased the screen size of their iPhones in response to the demands of the market. The size increase has consistently been apart of the marketing and promotional strategy of each new release. Was that always in Apple’s plan? Who knows. The important thing here is that the iPhone has continued to deliver the type of design and functionality that fits the brand and consistently pleases their customer.

Of course Apple isn’t the only brand with a great marketing strategy and impressive numbers. There are plenty of brands achieving success. When you keep your eyes peeled and your mind open you can learn from everyone.

The Power of Packaging

So much effort goes into the development of an amazingly effective product.  You come up with an idea, research the heck out of it and team up with a rock star cosmetic chemist to get the job done.  The two of you work hand in hand, trial after trial, sample after sample until your product is just right.  Now what?

As important as it is to have a phenomenal product that your customers can’t live without, it’s kind of hard to get customers if they don’t even know you exist.  There is an unlimited supply of beauty products to choose from so you have to put just as much effort into your packaging as you did into your formula to get noticed.

Some of us are blessed with an extra dose of creativity that will serve you well in the visual branding of your product.  The majority of us are not so blessed.  Consult with a branding expert and/or graphic designer to help you develop the image of your product packaging.  These experts often spend their downtime staying on top of their niche and refining their skills.  That extra time they spend bettering themselves is a gold mine for you because what they create will be cutting edge, unique and perfect for your brand.  Just make sure you REALLY vet the creative that you partner with.  There is nothing worse than hiring a branding/design expert to guide your packaging design that doesn’t understand your vision or connect with your brand.  Ask me how I know.

Once you know who you’re going to work with to design the artwork for your packaging you can solicit their help with selecting the actual bottles, jars, tubes, etc.  It’s a good idea to have a general idea of the type of container you want to use before you get to this point.  The best way to find packaging suppliers is to search the buyer’s guides released by cosmetic industry trade publications.  My favorite place to look is HAPPI Magazine’s online directory.  Pack your patience when you’re on the hunt for new packaging options.  The search is a whole lot like digging through the racks at TJ Maxx especially if you’re looking for something specific.  You’re going to click a lot of links and go through a lot of pages on websites to find what you’re looking for.  Oh, but when you find it! It’s like a ray of sunshine, believe me.

If you’re on a budget you may consider using stock packaging that can take labels or hot stamp printing.  Stock packaging is generally more expensive per piece than custom, but you won’t be confined to high minimums.  So in the short term you’ll save some cash. Some stock packaging suppliers will allow you to order as little as 1 piece at a time.  Of course with that option you won’t be able to get the container printed, rather you would have to use labels for your artwork.  If you want your design printed directly on your stock packaging you may see minimums as high as 5,000 pieces.

Custom packaging options are typically more expensive to set up, but less expensive per piece.  You will also be required to order a set number of pieces at a time.  Typically the minimum order requirement for custom packaging is 10,000 units.  If what you want requires the supplier to use new equipment you will have to pay a tooling fee and you will be held to much higher minimums.  I’ve seen tooling fees come in at $30,000 with minimum order requirements of 100,000 units.  If those numbers scare you then go stock and pay for a killer graphic designer to make your packaging stand out among the giants.

Consider your budget and your ideal brand image before making a final decision about your packaging.  If you envision your brand in Sephora, Nordstrom, Bergdorf’s and the like then your packaging cannot be an afterthought.  If you need a little inspiration Marc Jacobs, Charlotte Tilbury and Christian Louboutin have all shown us how it’s done.

Here’s to the Glam Life!

Create Loyalty With Your Beauty Business Model

Last week the headline article in The Glam Scientist Report discussed 3 unique beauty brands that were changing the way we see beauty business. Two of those brands differentiated themselves directly through their products. But there was one brand that stood out as the true brand to watch because it went beyond the product and into the service.

Society Salon is a hair salon much like many others in their area with a chic décor and floorplan. But they set themselves apart with a business model that works far better in favor of their customers. Imagine paying an affordable monthly flat rate to get your hair done ANYTIME your want as many times as you want. That sounds like heaven to me! I could just see myself going in once a week for a shampoo and going midweek for a style change. How fabulous! I wouldn’t think twice about adding that luxury to my budget.

When it comes to the beauty business, branding experts will tell you to find your unique value proposition in the products. Maybe you decide your brand will be free of parabens. Maybe you build your brand on a specific ingredient like shea butter or argan oil. Whatever you decide I’m sure there will be an audience that desires it. But how can you improve your value and differentiation even more? You build it into the business model. What if you could develop a business that worked so well for your customers that they couldn’t imagine going anywhere else for their beauty needs? How can you make buying with you easier and more enjoyable?

Beauty is an experience that speaks to the whole of a woman. You build loyalty in your beauty brand when your products are amazing and the experience you provide is ah-mazing. I challenge you to take a look at various business models that lay just outside the box. Look to different industries to see how they create a user experience that is unmatched and determine how you can remix that for your beauty brand. That’s where the greatness lies.

Need help creating a business model that gets the job done?   There’s a Glam Biz Intensive for that 😉

Here’s to the Glam Life!

Beauty Consumers Aren’t Loyal

I’m willing to bet every beauty brand owner in the world has daydreamed about having droves of raving fans clamoring over their products. The harsh reality is beauty consumers just are not loyal.  Use yourself as an example.  Do you have just one beauty brand that you go to for all of your vanity needs?  Probably not.

I recently read an article that outlined this truth-

Latest US cosmetic market research points to lack of brand loyalty

By Simon Pitman+, 08-Jan-2015

New research suggests that cosmetic consumers in the US purchase a wide variety of brands and often show no or very little brand loyalty.

While this may seem disheartening, new beauty brands have no need to worry. What I’ve found in my experience as a formulator (and as a consumer) is consumers aren’t loyal to brands; but they are loyal to products they love.

Most women usually have several different lip products in their purse at a time. And those products likely represent at least three different brands. It’s safe to say that each of those brands has something special to offer the her and there’s a good chance she will buy from them again.

The key to battling the lack of consumer loyalty is to consistently deliver products that work for your target customer. Before you decide on the first set of products for your brand or plan your next product launch find out what your customer’s needs are. How you can deliver a product that surpasses her expectations?

Your target customer may not come to your brand for her every need, but she most certainly will keep buying the product that rocked her beauty world.

Here’s to the Glam Life!

Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better

*This is Part 3 of a 3 part series to help you get started on your beauty product idea.*

Now that you’ve gotten knee deep into the research, I’m going to ask you to dig a touch deeper. Sure, now you know what makes the existing product tick. But how can you make yours even better? Products compete on efficacy, price, branding and marketing.

Making the product effective is both a skill and an art. It is a balancing act between the key ingredients, an appropriate delivery system, and sensory perception. If you get it wrong your chances of survival are slim.

I can never stress the importance of brilliant branding enough. We’ve become a more entrepreneurial economy so people are familiar with the concept of branding now more than ever. The presence of a cohesive brand can be all it takes to turn a potential customer into a loyal customer.

You know what your product does, you know how it does it and you still think it’s pretty amazing. So now you just need to craft a marketing message to share with the world that will compel your customer to buy. Sounds easy right? Just remember, there’s more than one way to market a beauty product so get creative and try a few different things to get your point across.

Regarding price. Some brands live to compete on price. I say, why waste your time? You don’t have to compete on price if your product looks great, has a good marketing drive behind it and actually performs the way you say it will. Nobody will even care about the price if the value is there.

And the recurring theme in this entire series….Just get it done.

Here’s to the Glam Life!

Hey! That Was My Cosmetic Product Idea!

*This is the second post in a 3 part series to help you flush out your cosmetic product ideas.*

So you thought you had the best idea in the world for a cosmetic product. An idea that nobody else has ever thought of and thus couldn’t possibly exist. Until you punched a few keywords in Google and found a product strikingly similar to what you had in mind. It’s cool. No sweat. Finding that your brilliant idea already has a step-sister is a good indicator that there are people out the ready and willing to buy the product you create. It also puts you in perfect position to be the best to ever do it. That’s what we really want, right? First is cool, but you only get one reward for that.

*Have you ever seen people post on Instagram “First comment!”? What is that about?* I digress.

Being the best also puts you in line for being the classic. The one that never goes out of style. The legend. The legacy. That’s who you really want to be. So how do you get there?

  • Pick that step-sister apart. What claims are they making about the product? What does the ingredients list look like? Can you find any reviews on the product? How much is it selling for?
  • Decide on how you should brand your product. I’ve had clients come to me with great ideas that I’ve found dupes for in the marketplace. More often than not, the branding on the product is sub-par. When you’re a customer you don’t consciously realize how important packaging colors are. Or how you really feel about the fonts used on the bottle. But as a brand owner you know those details matter to customers even if they can’t articulate that to you. You’d hate to be the brand with a grand idea and sucky packaging. Think about it, that’s probably the reason why you had no idea this product already existed in the first place.
  • Buy the product. How can you know if it works if you don’t try it for yourself? Get up close and personal with your product experience. Be a hater. What would you say about this product if you wanted to convince someone not to buy it? Write that down. You’re going to need it.
  • Do your research. Find out what it’s going to take to make this product successful.  Take note of the details you want to infuse in the product, the visual branding, the marketing story, the packaging.  Find the resources to help you make it happen.
  • Make a plan and hop to it!

Here’s to the Glam Life!