07 January 2011

Apple, iTunes, the Beatles, oh my!

Apple is not just a computer company.  They have their tentacles in software, hardware, pop culture, the Interweb, and it all comes down to their brilliant marketing.  Yes, Apple has engineers that are masters of industrial design, but if you don't find a way to cut through the noise your product will fail.

Billy Mays was always "shouting with a smile".   He cut through the noise, making you aware of some desire you didn't even know you had, and told you about some wonderful product that could fill the void in your soul. 

Back to Apple, Steve Jobs and company make great marketing materials.  The "I'm a PC I'm a Mac" commercials spawned a cottage industry of parodies.  The iconic "1984" Superbowl commercial is a touchstone of modern advertising, and the "Think Different" campaign got all the Grammar Nazis in a tizzy.

Here is the latest example of their genius.  I walked (as opposed to parachuting) into an Apple store for some gift cards to iTunes.  iTunes, another masterpiece of distribution and paying premium dollars for premium product, but we won't get into it here.  On the first table I found these brand new cards with pictures of the Beatles on them.

The gift card was really a little booklet that, one purchased, allowed a music fan to go online and download the entire Beatles catalogue from iTunes.  This was much more than I wanted to spend, but the package was simply phenomenal.  So clean in design, perfect images, excellent use of white space, even the card stock made the entire package feel great to hold, open, and flip through the trifold design.

I bought some other gift cards and asked the cashier if I could have one of these special Beatles packages, since they were worthless unless activated by the cashier.

She said no.

I asked if I could just buy one of the packages outright and she again said no.  She told me that people were coming in every day, seeing that packaging, and asking to take one just as I had done.  For some reason Apple does not want to let people have it, and the Apple store was on alert to make sure no one took one without activating the card!  I found this shocking, but she did give me the chance to take some terrible quality pictures on my non-iPhone.

So lets recap here:  I am not the biggest fan of the Beatles or Apple.  Apple released some 50 year old music, from a band that has not existed for 40 years, for download.  They made some fancy packaging for a plastic card that gives you the chance to get the music on your own and put it on your mobile device.  The plastic card which gives you easy access and makes the download procedure idiot proof is now a commodity.  The case for the plastic card itself is an object of desire.  If Apple chose to sell the trifold marketing pamphlet "as is" for $7.99 I bet you $7.49 would be pure profit and it would sell out in about a day! 

Is Apple scared that without these cards the sales of Beatles songs on iTunes would suffer?

Apple sold 2,000,000 individual  Beatles songs in the first week these files were available for download on iTunes. 

Apple, I bow to your greatness.


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