After a lot hype, it now seems that the iPhone is, in fact, coming to Walmart around December 28. While customers won’t be able to pick one up for 99 bucks, Apple’s presence in Walmart will be a huge move for Apple in increasing its distribution.
But some are claiming that an Apple/Walmart mix might not be good for Apple. Some are claiming selling the iPhone at Walmart will take away from the Apple “mystique” and might hurt its brand.
An article on Mashable today noted:
Although a broad generalization, the stereotype of Apple users (as captured so well recently by The Simpsons) is that of left-leaning elitists, who will pay anything to be associated with the brand and its trendy products. On the other hand, Wal-Mart’s brand is often generalized as having unfair labor practices, being willfully ignorant of dismal factory conditions overseas, and using brutally competitive tactics to wipe out local business when it comes to town.
Wow. It’s hard to know where to even begin. Well, for starters, Apple products were popular long before hipsters in skinny jeans started toting around their MacBooks from coffee shop to coffee shop. And second, you can already find a slew of iPods at Walmart, so its puzzling why the presence of the iPhone would all of a sudden affect the Apple brand. But the underlying fallacy with the above-mentioned excerpt is that it shows that people still don’t have a realistic grasp on who the stereotypical Apple user really is.
It’s common these days to see a lot of Apple-bashing on the web, and generalizing Apple users as fickle consumers who purchase iPods and MacBooks to be cool. While those types of people definitely exist, the majority of consumers who purchase Apple products do so because they like the value they get from the product. Anyone who claims that selling the iPhone at Walmart cheapens the brand, or makes them not want to get one, is probably not the type of person who sees any real value in Apple products in the first place. If they did, then they wouldn’t care. Ironically, people who wouldn’t buy an iPhone because it’s sold at Walmart fit more into the Apple stereotype of the “blind consumer” than most Apple consumers themselves.
Apple has engineered a smartphone that turned the cellphone industry on its head, and even some of the bigger cellphone companies are still trying to figure out how to recover and be competitive with the increasingly popular iPhone. Currently, users can only purchase an iPhone at an Apple Store, an AT&T Store, or Best Buy. That said, selling the iPhone at Walmart is a huge step in creating a larger distribution channel for the device. And again, if people had a realistic understanding on who the majority of Apple consumers are, they wouldn’t assume for a second that a relationship with Walmart would hurt the Apple brand.
Apple prides itself on producing premium products that are worth the extra money compared to similar products from competing companies. It prides itself on producing products with value. Apple’s products have been so successful because consumers feel that they’re getting an extra bang for that extra buck. So while it might be “cool” to currently be seen with a Mac, who knows what tomorrows trend will be. For all we know, Apple products are becoming so ubiquitous that it soon might become “uncool” to be seen with one. But it doesn’t matter one bit, because Apple isn’t in the business of being cool. Sure, it might market itself that way to an extent, but what really drives Apple’s success is the simple fact that users enjoy Apple products and feel that they get something out of them. If I could pick up a new iPhone for 30 bucks at a flea market, I’d be there faster than Steve Jobs running to a Gap with a sale on black turtlenecks. Because when it comes down to it, it’s not about the perception of the product, it’s about what I can do with the product. That’s what Apple thrives on. The D.J. you see at a club with a MacBook Pro, for example, isn’t likely to switch to a PC when Dell’s all of a sudden become all the rage (it’s a hypothetical mind you).
People tend to forget that for the longest time, it was markedly uncool to own a Mac. Even up until recently, mac users had to defend their OS of choice when the other 97% of the world was using Windows. “You use a Mac?! What for? They suck.” is probably something that sounds familiar to anyone who used a Mac in the 90’s. But it never mattered, because Apple has typically succeeded, more often than not, in creating products that help people be productive, increase efficiency, and generally go about their daily business with fewer headaches than their PC counterparts. So it’s not about being cool at all. It’s about getting your shit done without having to fiddle with drivers or call tech-support every week. That’s why the notion of the Apple fanboy, or the liberal elite MacBook user is more humorous than it is relevant. And that’s why the stereotypical Apple user in actuality couldn’t care less about being cool. And that’s why the iPhone at Walmart is really no big deal at all.