August 2007

iPod Ergo Sum

It’s Okay to Take a Bite

Creating Leverage


iPod Ergo Sum

Those of you who took Latin class in your school days will recognize the play on one of its most famous phrases, Cogito Ergo Sum. Written in 1637 by philosopher Descartes, I think, therefore I am became foundational to western thought and philosophy.

370 years later, a company called Apple is changing the way we think about goods and services for working (iMac and iBook), communicating (iPhone), lounging (Apple TV) and listening (iTunes). The largest driver of all these products is also the smallest in size: the iPod.

It’s Okay to Take a Bite

I featured Apple in my February 2007 column in CRSToday as one of my picks for companies that stage great customer experiences. Unlike the apples consumed by Eve and Snow White, this Apple has a lot to offer that can nourish how we think about our own businesses. I’ll highlight some of the best concepts here:

First, you’ll notice that the company is now called Apple. After thirty years as Apple Computer, Inc., they have redefined their business as much more than a computer company. They sell lifestyle as much as they sell any product or service.

Second, their stores draw you in with a “high tech, high touch” atmosphere that encourages you to come in and play with all the great looking gadgets. They’ve taken a big step in making technology less intimidating, as evidenced by the diversity of people you see shopping in their store: young and old, geek and non-geek, expert and novice.

Third, the staff is easily identifiable in their same color tee-shirts and strive to apple store business card educate rather than hard sell. The business card at right is what one fellow handed me to encourage me to learn more about switching over from PC to Mac platforms. On the back was an invitation to set up a dedicated appointment to learn more about the Mac, “no strings attached.”

Fourth, they have themed the entire store to reflect the cool rebel factor long associated with their company culture and core customers. Take, for example, the “Genius Bar”, where customers can queue up to get help with their products. How cool is that? I’d much rather visit a Genius Bar than get on the phone to talk to someone faraway in the land of technical support.

Think about your practice or business and take another read of the bolded phrases above. Just six years ago, Apple was computer company that had no retail stores. With creative intention and planning, how could you redefine your practice to make it significantly more attractive and appealing to potential customers?

Creating Leverage

Physicists define leverage as a factor that can multiply force. Apple has done a great job of creating business leverage, where sales of one product encourage sales of another. The iTunes music store led to market dominance for the iPod, in part because that online store was much easier to use and download than competing ones. The iPod created a whole new phrase in the Experience Economy: “podcasting.” With video capability, TV shows and movies can be watched where and when you want and programming off the PC can now be broadcast over the TV (Apple TV). See a pattern here?

Most important for Apple, the iPod revolution is causing a lot of folks, myself included, to take a closer look at the Mac platform for my basic computing needs. Financial statements indicate a clear increase in sales of the more-expensive and more profitable Macs (relative to PCs) as a direct result of the popularity of the iPod and iTunes.

Think Different

In your business, you should think about what services you can offer that are complementary to your existing or core services. Some will fit within your current framework, while others would require expanding that frame (reinvention) in order for you to be successful.

Apple serves as a reminder that we need to “think different” (the motto from an earlier ad campaign for the Mac) if we want different results. They did, and look what happened!

How fast a year goes by! Thanks to all of you for reading Ideas in Action, an e-letter devoted to helping you offer a better customer experience. Subscribers include doctors and other entrepreneurs who have a strong service component to their business. Please forward this to friends and colleagues who you think would benefit – they can easily sign up and get it directly.

And for those of you who missed earlier issues, we’ve provided a quick link below.



Shareef Mahdavi
President, SM2 Consulting

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