What Interests You? Gruber: Pricing and Profit Consistency and the Halo Effect

John Gruber:

“The ‘halo effect’ — the theory that Apple can get a new customer to buy one Apple product, that customer, if happy with their purchase, is likely to start buying other Apple products — strikes me as only likely to be effective if all those products are consistently priced and marketed. Industry observers break out PCs, tablets, smartphones, and media players into discrete product categories, but Apple, from a consumer branding perspective, does not. Macs, iPads, iPhones, and iPods are all just Apple products, and they’re all priced and designed the same way: seldom the cheapest, but usually the best.

It’s their consistency in that regard across all products that drives the halo effect, turning someone who never bought an Apple product in their life into someone with an iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.”

That described me to a tee. I was a Windows guy for twenty-plus years, building my machines from parts, before getting my first Apple product. It was an iPod Shuffle, for running, a gift from Kelly. It was arguably the least Apply of their product line with no user interface to speak of, but it had Apple’s minimalist design going for it. And I could drop it, sweat on it and otherwise abuse it to no end without ill effect. It worked well, and I liked it for that as much as its simplicity.

The Shuffle was eventually followed by an iPod Classic for Kelly. I bought it on Apple’s web site, opted for free engraving on the back and 48-hours later it was in her hand. Customized. From China. I was intrigued. Opening the packaging was like opening a jewel box, a special gift. Apple’s deft touch didn’t end with a shapely music player or its simple clickwheel interface, it extended to the first glimpse the customer had of their effort: the box.

A MacBook Pro for Kelly followed a while later, then iPhone 3GSs for both of us. I liked her laptop so much I cut short the three-year replacement cycle on my Lenovo Thinkpad laptop and bought a MacBook Pro for myself. An iPad for me from Kelly followed, then an iPad for her. A Mac mini replaced an old Windows server for our movie library. iPhone 5s replaced our two-year old 3GSs as their batteries waned. Sprinkled in there were Apple TVs and an Airport Extreme router.

Re-equipping our home took a handful of years, but Apple products slowly spread everywhere.

What’s so special about these gadgets? What prods a new customer to his second purchase, third, and onward? They’re mainly composed of off-the-shelf, commodity parts, after all, the same components found in many Dell, HP and Lenovo machines.

Their uniqueness is two-fold. First, the software that bridges hardware to user is designed with the general populace in mind, not the geek fringe. It provides a refined, simplified means of operating the equipment. It’s comfortable for newbie and power user alike.

Switching from Windows to OS X was easy. Figuring out how to operate an iPhone was fun. Replacing paper books and magazines with an iPad was a one-way trip. I’ve never looked back.

Second, the industrial hardware design pays attention to the smallest detail. Hinges don’t loosen with use leaving the owner with a wiggly laptop display. Keyboards retain consistent key bounce over time. Phones are of a single physical design per product cycle, and each has the feel of a cut gem. The product line’s appearance is elegant and consistent.

As a bonus, product packaging is like a Christmas gift in white.

Yes, they generally cost more. And they’re worth every last cent.