Few iPhone users would identify “hedonism” (or the pursuit of pleasure) as a core value in their lives, but when you look at the sentiments behind Apple’s marketing strategy for the past 30 years, you might not be so quick to disagree. This extremely human core value is a key factor in Apple’s success today, despite the fact that the company based its marketing on entirely different values when it first began.
The unmitigated success of Apple’s products and its ability to shift values over the years are clear indicators of what we already know to be true: Apple lives and breathes values-based marketing, and so should your business.
Irresistible Marketing Speaks to Values
If you’re new to values-based marketing, you should familiarize yourself with Schwartz’s circumplex model of values. This model organizes human values into one system that can help you pinpoint the most effective way to market your products. The values outlined in the Schwartz model, such as hedonism, stimulation, and self-direction, make up a new wave of suspiciously successful values-based marketing.
This approach has been adopted by several major brands. Microsoft’s recent “Empowering” campaign tugs at our heartstrings, while Amazon’s promo for the new Kindle Unlimited service appeals to readers’ desire for instant gratification.
Values-based marketing is so effective because values, unlike beliefs, are not just static ideas. Rather, when values are activated, they become infused with deep feeling. Marketing that taps into this relationship between belief and action ignites a powerful desire to act within consumers.
How to Activate Consumers Through Values-based Marketing
Long-lasting, high-profile success isn’t just a matter of creating the perfect product. It’s a matter of speaking to the right values from the get-go and then allowing those values to shift as your target market and company’s products mature.
Here are three powerful lessons from Apple on values-based marketing:
1. Make the unnecessary necessary
What are the top five apps on your iPhone? They aren’t saving lives, that’s for sure. Yet people like you and I account for 150 million iPhones sold in 2013 alone. You don’t need the iPhone 6, but you want it—desperately.
Selling a product that people want is as simple as providing an opportunity for your customers to fulfill their need for stimulation, power, self-direction, or another dominant value. Tap into these values with your branding and advertising, and your market’s “want” for the product will bubble uncontrollably.
2. Make your product a values statement
How you appeal to your target market through values must align with that target market at the right time of your company’s lifecycle. In 1984, Apple believed that non-conformist messages would appeal to its target market. Once Apple’s products were more accepted by the mainstream, the marketing message shifted to more hedonistic values.
This shift in values can be risky. You have to recognize your competition’s approach and comprehensively analyze the macroeconomic environment to be successful.
3. Shift your offering as values shift
Despite its runaway success, there’s a reason Apple isn’t still playing that old “1984” commercial. Today, consumer values are rapidly shifting toward hedonism and stimulation.
Instead of gathering around the table, my family often eats dinner in front of a laptop or tablet, taking the latest BuzzFeed quiz or binge-watching “The Walking Dead” on Netflix. Those who value tradition over non-conformism and hedonism would be horrified, but they aren’t Apple’s target market.
Think about the pleasure you get from downloading a new app or hearing a great new song (curated by Apple’s recent acquisition, Beats Music). Apple’s obsession with hardware, visual design, and simplicity reinforces its dedication to make its product and presentation beautiful to use, look at, and hold, which appeals to the values of its current market.
What do you think are some of the most important consumer values?
What do you think of Apple’s approach?
Who else echoes consumer values?