Of course, we all know what happened next. Google Glass flopped because nobody wanted to look like a cyborg.
This example makes you wonder how a product like Google Glass could ever get off the ground. It was extremely expensive, highly technically sophisticated, and yet hated so much by the public the company had to discontinue it after just a few months.
The same has not happened with Apple products. Over the last twenty years, nothing has flopped, and only a few lines have been unsuccessful.
So what’s going on here? What’s the difference between these two firms?
Perhaps the first reason why Apple’s products never flop in the consumer space is its brand reputation. People love the company and simply assume it sells high-quality products based on their experiences in the past. It’s hard to convince anyone nowadays that the company doesn’t achieve excellence in everything it does.
This effect can be self-fulfilling. Unlike Google, Apple is able to start new trends in consumer markets. The brand’s value is so extraordinary that it can introduce entirely new device categories, and people will buy them.
But Apple never becomes complacent. Instead, it uses a suite of consumer insights tools to figure out precisely what it is that consumers want. The goal is to gain as much knowledge as possible to predict which products will succeed.
For example, Apple uses conjoint analysis tools to work out how much demand there will be for products it launches in the future. Sophisticated data insights based on survey responses let it model to a high degree of accuracy how many units it should ship.
Apple also uses feedback from consumers on its existing products to work out whether its new ones will have similar success. Again, it relies on feedback on what is working, and what’s not.
Unlike many other companies, Apple also has a fleshed-out ecosystem that lets it charge higher prices and almost assumes that people will buy its products. For instance, it offers music streaming services, TV, operating systems, numerous apps, and support for the devices it sells.
The effect is similar to the impact of the internet on personal computer demand in the late 1990s. People don’t buy Apple devices solely because they offer high quality. Instead, they purchase them because it means they can plug into the wider ecosystem of products and experience more benefits.
Finally, Apple gets confidence from its design philosophy and pedigree. Over the years, it’s developed a formula that works, allowing it to sell beautiful products that consumers love.
The iPod was perhaps the first example of this in the modern era for the company, but there have been many others.