Now that the dust has settled, I thought I’d take a look at the rather chaotic introduction of the Apple Pro Stand. However, before we get started I want to issue a quick disclaimer: I am aware of the irony of writing this opinion piece about the Apple Pro Stand on a MacBook Pro.
A Closer Look at the Case of Apple’s $999 Pro Stand
However, are we really looking at this situation correctly? Yes, it’s completely bonkers of Apple to charge close to a thousand dollars for a well-shaped piece of aluminum. But is it really that crazy once we consider what they’re trying to achieve? That’s the real question.
While Apple has (maybe surprisingly) attempted to censor videos of its product unveiling on certain websites, the news spread fast nevertheless, and our collective judgment spread faster.
How on earth can Apple’s marketing machine ever sign off on a one thousand dollar monitor stand?
How could Apple stray so far from the old slogan “Does more, costs less. It’s that simple!”?
It’s positively laughable, right?
However, it’s also entertaining. It seems utterly far fetched that Apple has so completely lost touch with its core customer base. That they are so far attached from reality that they think most people will shell out almost 1K for the piece of equipment holding a monitor.
Yet, it’s that outlandishness in which the genius really lies.
In this article, I want to propose a theory and discuss why Apple’s $999 stand is indeed a brilliant marketing move. Not only that, I’ll argue that it will actually sell!
The absurdity of paying the equivalent of 2 months of groceries on a monitor stand
According to The Street, the average American household spends 7.7K annually, or 640 dollars a month, on groceries. It begs the question – does Apple actually think people will spend almost twice their monthly grocery budget on a stand?
It’s precisely this absurdity that makes this move such a brilliant marketing ploy.
We can’t help discussing it, making fun of the notion, harassing ardent Apple fans for considering purchasing it. Still, what we’ve inevitably ended up doing is galvanizing the hardcore Apple lovers.
The now infamous stand has spurred an almost unparalleled level of discussion online as people are continuously sharing images of it. Apple and its product are being discussed left, right, and center with heated online threads taking place everywhere.
Frankly, when it comes to a single, rather un-unique piece of equipment, the Apple Pro Stand has generated an incomparable level of engagement and buzz around the web.
Few can remember experiencing such fanfare for such a modest product (while the price is far from modest, the product certainly is). I can honestly say I can’t remember ever seeing anything like it.
All that said, what is this actually worth? After Google’s 2011 algorithm update promising not to reward products/services that garner a massive amount of references due to poor experiences, surely there are no benefits to this ridicule?
How you galvanize the core Apple fans and continue to encourage a unique status symbol
Through our utter disbelief, we laugh in the face of Apple for their hubris. In the narrative of a non-Apple fan, they see Apple issue new products time and time again, with little to no actual upgrade in terms of functionalities and features.
It’s serving as a continuous laughing stock for Android users, for example, when it comes to mobile phone features in particular.
Yet, we still continue to see the sale of Apple products continue to defy belief. Ok, they have hit some hurdles along the way, even in iPhone sales. However, by and large, their sales and stock figures are more than solid.
All this begs the question – what gives with this new, astonishingly priced, bare-bones product?
Two possible explanations to the product and it’s cost
Let’s assume for a second that the critics of Apple are right – the company is primarily run by marketing people, not product people, these days. If that is true, then surely the marketing people had a grander design other than making their product a laughing stock – right?
Alternatively, Apple fans are right, and the product people still have the deciding voice. In that case, there is reason behind the product and it’s cost.
As far as I can see, we either agree that #1, this is a measured marketing move that’s hard to distinguish, or #2, it’s a product provided to satisfy a specific need.
Explanation #1, the marketing angle
As we know, the Apple Pro Stand has been the talk of the town for what seems like ages. However, the marketing guys at Apple know what they’re on about. They’re not going to position a product that’s never going to sell.
One explanation is that it might very well play into the hands of a very old trick in the book: Divide and conquer.
By creating an absolutely clear divide between hardcore Apple fans and everyone else, all this recent debate and discussion makes it clear that Apple products are more than technology products. It’s a fashion statement – it’s a status symbol – it’s a declaration of identity.
Us vs them as a decisive aspect of the Pro Stand cost debate
In terms of marketing, the harder the border between “us” and “others” is drawn, the better.
However, using any type of “us vs them” or “divide and conquer” technique is not something I recommend. Done poorly, it’s predatory and borderline unethical. Even done right, it can still backfire – badly. You need several key factors and conditions to work in tandem before you even consider it.
In the case of the Apple Pro Stand, these conditions were already in place. This means that the more the “others” ridicule the product, the harder longtime fans will clamor to their long-cherished brand. Especially for a brand that’s become such a distinct icon and trendsetter – not only considering the image those products have been used to portray, but also the image of the personality they themselves portray to the world.
In essence, the fact that all the world now knows that this Apple stand costs a ridiculous $1K to own makes it is a power move for those who own one.
What is the Divide and Conquer move?
While the divide and conquer strategy is most often referred to in politics, history, and sociology, it’s just as relevant in the world of online marketing. The core of this strategy is to break down the opponent into more manageable pieces/a more manageable size. From there, you can move forward and take control of those pieces one by one.
For Apple, the divide and conquer strategy in this instance is based on putting the faith/loyalty of their supporters to the test. As a consequence, anyone not unconditionally dedicated to Apple will break off and take a dig at their pricing. In return, their more staunch supporters will come to their aid, support them, and carry their sales.
It all goes back to the identity and personality that Apple has managed to cultivate over the years – particularly during the years when Steve Jobs revolutionized the company for the second time in the early-mid 2000s.
Why the divide and conquer strategy works for Apple’s Pro Stand in 2019
Using a divide and conquer approach to online marketing is bold – especially considering the tech-obsessed world we live in today, and the ease with which we can share information and insights.
Employing any kind of aggressive or predatory marketing strategy can backfire dramatically as people constantly spread their stories and experiences online. While the divide and conquer strategy isn’t predatory per se, it’s not an approach you’ll want to gamble on. Certain conditions need to be met if you are to successfully divide and conquer. We’ll get back to this point in a second.
I’d like to propose that this strategy will work for Apple in the case of the Mac Pro Stand. Of course, we won’t really know until the next quarter’s sales figures are in. Still, I strongly believe that this strategy will work for Apple for a few particular reasons: Identity, branding, and status.
Explanation #2, the product angle
Our other alternative to understanding how the Mac Pro Stand and its price is to try to understand who it’s for. After all, this product is a stand-alone product at a rather high cost. It needs to meet someones need, surely.
I read an article a little while ago, and I must admit I forgot to bookmark it for this article here so I could properly reference it. However, the author proposed a counter-argument for why the stand is in-fact useful. That it has a market that would love to have it for its integration and smooth functions. That market being professional graphic designers and other creative professionals who use Apple’s products in their day-to-day work.
The article continued saying that if the monitor with the stand came out at $5,999.00, but you could buy the monitor alone for a discounted price of $5k. It concludes that there wouldn’t be any uproar or outcry – let alone the magnitude of which we’ve seen.
I believe that is quite true, really. I’m sure quite a few professionals out there who want the stand for their monitor. If you’re able to write it off as a business expense as well, then suddenly it’s a little more approachable.
But that doesn’t explain why Apple’s marketing department would go the route that doesn’t make sense? Why wouldn’t you present it as a discount? That you’re giving the customer the option to save money – rather than giving the customer the option to pay more? It’s simple – Apple isn’t a discount company. They’re a powerful brand that looks to be more than a technology company. They’re a brand and a fashion statement, and few things tarnish the lavish polish of a lifestyle and high-end brand than offering discounts when unveiling a product.
The identity, branding, and status power of Apple
Apple has managed to carve out a unique market position when it comes to computer technology and gadgets. Their power lies in decades of identity shaping, revolutionary technology, and reconfiguring how we consume entertainment and use technology in our day to day lives.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an Android fan or Apple fan. you can’t deny the absolutely astonishing impact Apple has had on our daily lives since the iPhone, iPod, iTunes, etc.
While other companies have started to catch up in terms of branding prowess, Apple still holds a unique market position as a result of its unique and innovative stance and impact between 2000 and 2010. They are the creatives, they are the revolutionaries, they are the market disruptors and the epitome of the Silicon Valley tech-growth company.
It doesn’t matter how well Microsoft has done similar things, or how well Bill Gates competed with the Steve Jobs persona. Apple is the firebrand that attracts the big investors – Microsoft is the slow and steady bet. Apple is the fashionable choice – Android is the PC of smartphones. Apple is the free spirit – the rest are the corporate old guard.
This thoroughly embedded branding makes Apple unique in its positioning in the market. It allows them to take advantage of the divide and conquer strategy to a much greater effect than other companies could ever dream of.
What can we make of all this buzz about the Pro Stand?
It’s hard to justify spending one thousand dollars for a piece of aluminum. Yet, it’s still (somehow) very feasible that Apple will be able to sell a whole bunch of these overpriced, aesthetically pleasing aluminum stands.
For one, those who have been emotionally invested in Apple products since the beginning are now at the point (statistically and demographically) where they have the disposable income to purchase these products.
Secondly, and maybe more importantly, they’re very loyal.
Thirdly, the next wave following these early adopters and brand promoters are those who love Apple from a brand point of view. Apple products serve as an identity enforcer – a clear route to making sure people know who you are.
When you buy the Pro Stand, you don’t have to say anything. The fact that you own this product says plenty in the eyes of a fan. It says: I have enough money to spend this much on a stand. I’m an Apple fan. I know who I am. I can, and will, be different.
In their mind (if I may paraphrase), “I’m a Mac, and you’re a PC”, as the old ads once triumphed.
What do you think about Apple’s astonishing Pro Stand price?
Join in on the comments below. I look forward to seeing whether anyone else is thinking along the same lines. Maybe you believe this is simply a massive marketing mistake. Or maybe you agree that this was simply a poor product launch and presentation – a missed opportunity. Get in touch!
Christoffer is the CEO and Founder of Virtual Visibility Media. It’s our goal to make SEO and digital marketing affordable and easy enough for anyone to have a fantastic website – while making it the easiest task on the local business owner’s to-do list.