Do Consumers Really Care About Wow?

by Tim Bajarin   |   September 17th, 2012

I am fascinated by the amount of media and bloggers who said that what Apple introduced in the iPhone was incremental and did not have the “wow” factor”. They complained because they wanted support for NFC (not even close to being ready for prime time) and dissed it for its new connector, as if it would cause great harm to their lives.

Grow up people! From 30+ years of following Apple I have learned that when Apple designs a product, everything they do is related to how “they” want to use the products themselves. Every edge designed into the product and every component is done for a reason. They don’t listen to the media or rumor sites that say they want this or that feature. Instead, they create products they would love to use.

I remember talking to Steve Jobs about this on a couple of occasions and he made it clear to me that Apple is about creating great products and writing world class software and the motivation was always based on how he and the team would like the product and how they would use it. They don’t do focus groups. They don’t do consumer research and instead, they create products they would love and believe that in the end, consumers will love them too. Never once did he say to me “Apple is shooting for the wow factor.”

They also have to live with the laws of physics. Although I believe the iPhone is the most elegantly designed to date, everything they did to enhance it, whether it is to the case itself and all components inside, literally pushed the law of physics to the edge of what can be done. At the same time, they made sure it was recognizable as an iPhone. Keep in mind, Apple has spent the last 6 years branding its look and feel and to create a new design that maybe looked like a banana, wallet or any other form factor did not make sense.

Thankfully, consumers see past the drivel that comes from some media and bloggers who write about what “they” wanted Apple to do or why “they” are disappointed in Apple. In fact, Apple seems to get this right every time they introduce the new iPhone.

The major reason for this is that Apple does not develop products for the media and bloggers. That is a good thing. If they did, iPhones would have 30 i/o ports and look like a can of spray paint. And they seem to hit the right nerves with each new model.

While media and bloggers are complaining about the lack of wow, consumers who seem smarter then many of these writers, just go out and buy Apple products in huge numbers. Apple is the most profitable company in America and they did not get this way from listening to the media and bloggers.

But they did get to be this profitable by adhering to their core beliefs that is ingrained into the Apple DNA. They create products they themselves would like to buy and use and believe that consumers will buy them too.

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is the President of Creative Strategies, Inc. He is recognized as one of the leading industry consultants, analysts and futurists covering the field of personal computers and consumer technology. Mr. Bajarin has been with Creative Strategies since 1981 and has served as a consultant to most of the leading hardware and software vendors in the industry including IBM, Apple, Xerox, Compaq, Dell, AT&T, Microsoft, Polaroid, Lotus, Epson, Toshiba and numerous others.
  • FalKirk

    “consumers see past the drivel that comes from some media and bloggers”

    Good article.

    What’s ironic about all this is that the exact same thing happened just last year. The iPhone 4S was deemed a “disappointment” and “underwhelming”, yet it was the best selling iPhone ever, Not only did the iPhone 4S break all sales records but its sales numbers exceeded almost all analysts expectations.

    I take at least three lessons from this recurring drama. First, we have short memories. Second, the opinions of the media do not necessarily reflect those of the buying public. Third, the media is not as influential as they think. The media can opine that they are bored or that the iPhone is nothing new all they want. The buying public can, and does, make up its own mind.

    I’m sure that Apple would like for everyone – including the media – to love their products. But if Apple has to choose between impressing the media and impressing potential buyers, they’re going to choose the latter every single time.

    • benbajarin

      “Second, the opinions of the media do not necessarily reflect those of the buying public. ”

      They only represent a small fraction of the early adopter and techie buying public. They do not represent the voice of the mass market consumer. The larger two segments pointed out in the law of diffusion of innovation. The unfortunate thing is that no sites represent the voice of the real consumer.

      • Grwisher

        Except here.

  • Rich

    Apple’s stock of new iPhones pre-sold out in 1 hour! Doesn’t sound like consumers were unimpressed with them…

  • Grwisher

    IMHO, the absence of “Wow” is the new normal. Better get used to it.

    An example: IBM used to be the market leader in computers before they lost it to the PC (their own invention or innovation for those of you who think everything has already been invented). At first the IBM 360 (mainframe) was a tremendous success because it was revolutionary, just like the iPhone is a tremendous success because it has influenced most smart phone designs being sold today. The IBM 360 was highly “profitable”, just like the iPhone is today. As the years went by, the IBM’s computers entered an era where improvements were made and the buyers were impressed by those improvements but those improvements did not, and COULD NOT, be as impressive as the introduction of it or even the early years of the product’s development. In addition, as the years went by, IBM really did not come to market first with many of the improvements in computers. They were the market leader and didn’t have to do so. IBM’s goal was to maintain its market leadership and “profits”.

    The iPhone is the market leader in smart phones in terms of “profits” (over 70% of the profits of all phone makers). Apple doesn’t have to, and CANNOT, recreate that initial “Wow’ of the introduction or the early years of the iPhone’s development. Apple’s objective is, and should be, to protect those profits. It is like a football game where the score is Apple 70 something and all of the competitors is 20 something.

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow


      Apple doesn’t have to, and CANNOT, recreate that initial “Wow’ of the introduction or the early years of the iPhone’s development.

      Exactly. It will be necessary for Apple to create a new “Wow” in the form of a product that intends to replace the current paradigm in mobile at sometime in the future.

      This will become necessary right around the time that the last company mortally wounded by Apple’s last “Wow” has bled out and expired.

  • pawhite524

    As was, anecdotally, proven by the satirical website The Onion News, putting the name Apple in the title of a headline will result in twice as many page hits. That alone can contribute to many of the ridiculous articles about the iPhone or any other Apple product. And then there is the either-or/all or none of the pro-Apple or anti-Apple camps where any competitor is automatically crap. It is sad these individuals are the majority of readers to respond to these articles, present company excluded. This site has a remarkable number of level headed writers and responders.

  • jfutral

    Or it means the “wow” that the average person wants just isn’t the same thing the bloggers want.

    “They don’t do focus groups. They don’t do consumer research and instead, they create products they would love and believe that in the end, consumers will love them too.”

    Any smart business person should be pretty well “wowed” by this notion alone.

    Joe

  • Not one of the sheep

    While not an Apple fanboy, as it sounds like the author is, I do think their products are relatively decent and slightly innovative. Now, if only they weren’t completely overpriced. Overpriced and not having the same features of other phones that are already out. It seems like they are taking the Blizzard approach. Release product A, competitors product B comes out with options 1,2, and 3 which product A doesn’t have. Wait one year. Release product C with options 1,2, and 3 done a little better than product B did them last year. Problem is that the other company has now released product D with options 4,5, and 6. All that does it give Apple fans a year to look at it, dream about having it, and think about using it on their phone, all the while knowing they’ll have it, in a year. One thing though that they COULD do at the sametime next year….STANDARDIZE connectors. Charge with the same USB cable that every other device I have uses.

    Sheeple will always follow sheeple which is why they, iPhones, sell out so quickly, even once Apple finally flips the quality curve. Currently, you could spraypaint a turd white, slap an Apple symbol on it and millions of people will probably buy the great Apple iWeight. It’s just how the Apple society is.

    *ready to be flamed*

    • benbajarin

      We do our best to keep our comments civil, respectful, and intelligent. So if flaming happens and comes to name calling, insults, etc, we delete the comment. We simply have no time for stupidity. So hopefully the responses to your comment will be respectful and intelligent dialogue.

      I strongly disagree that the vast majority of consumers are sheep. Our firm does a large amount of consumer research for the industry and we spend time talking to consumers on every part of the adoption curve to understand their needs, wants, and desires.

      The bottom line is what the best technology product is, is entirely subjective. I think this point gets continually missed when it comes to defenders of a platform or product. What is the best for me may not be the best for you simply because we prioritize different things when it comes to our smart phone experience.

      We have learned from the vast consumer market analysis we do that consumers are smart and research quite a bit before they buy and they are making very intentional based on their needs, wants, and desires.

      Ultimately, however, I find it deeply disturbing from many commenters, particularly coming from the Android enthusiasts, as to why they feel the need to continually criticize people for their purchases of technology products. It is as stupid as people lambasting me because I like vanilla Ice Cream while they like chocolate, not understanding why I would make such a poor choice. Or why I choose a Kia while they choose a Toyota. It really is ridiculous.

    • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow


      Now, if only they weren’t completely overpriced.

      Apple sells their products as fast as they can make them. By definition, their products are not over priced. That’s how a free market works.

  • http://www.tumblr.com/blog/his-divine-shadow His Shadow

    Short answer? No.

    Long answer? Noooooooooooooooooo.

    With apologies to Zero Punctuation