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  • Subject area(s): Marketing
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  • Published on: 14th September 2019
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Executive Summary

Apple is a leading manufacturer of electronics across the globe for the last two decades. The company focuses on the high-end consumers in all its products as the prices offered by Apple is way above the rest of the companies. The firm does not offer any discounts to its customers and relies on their loyalty to make sales. This report outlines the integrated market communication strategy used by Apple in the UK and brand positioning strategies as implemented in the UK. The report first looks at the environmental analysis of the UK in regards to Apple while pointing out some of the environmental factors that the company should consider in all its attempts in the UK. The market trends in the UK favours Apple as its favours Apple as its sales are expected to continue rising regardless of sales declining in the other markets across the globe. The report analyses the communication mix channels us used by Apple paired with the brand positioning strategies that ensures Apple has a strong competitive advantage over its competitors despite its products having a higher price than the offers that competitors offered. The report also provides recommendations on what Apple can do to improve the efficiency of its integrative market communication.

Introduction

Apple is one of the leading companies in the design, production, and marketing of electronics. The company specialises in the computers, smartphone, iPods, iPads, watches and televisions. The company has been doing well in the UK although it faces much competition from other companies such as Samsung, Nokia, HTC and HP that produce products with the capacity of producing the same results as those of Apple products. In particular, Samsung provides Apple Inc. with much competition especially in the production of televisions, smartphone and computers. This intensity of competition means that Apple has to create an effective Integrated Marketing Communication strategy.

Literature Review

Researchers have defined integrated marketing communication (IMC) as that process where the organisation implements the strategic management of the audience-focused, result driven, and the channel centred brand communication programs over a certain period. This definition is more appropriate in the 21st century than it was in the 20th century when the term was first invented. Research shows that various attributes of IMC are important. The first attribute is that the communication efforts should be directed at the consumers as a way of ensuring that their behaviour is affected. The second attribute is that the IMC should take an outside-in approach. This means that the organisation should start with the customer first before there can be any development of the communication strategy. Thirdly, it is important for the IMC to ensure that there is a good relationship between the company and the customers (Dewhirst & Davis, 2005 page. 88). The other attribute is that the only way to be able to deliver the intended message correctly is through making sure that there are contact points that are integrated into the strategy. For a company to create a competitive brand, coordination between the communication disciplines is essential (Nguyen Thanh, 2014).

Researchers argue that an increase in competition, and the supply going way above the demand, means that in the developed countries, there is a shift in power towards the retailers and intermediaries. The implication is that organisation is left with no other option than to ensure that they retain a strong relationship with the customers (Dewhirst & Davis, 2005 page. 89). It is important to note that the relationship between retailers, intermediaries and manufacturers should be interdependent to ensure that the messages created are customer-oriented and that the products made by the manufacturer are customer-specific (Dewhirst & Davis 2005 page. 88). The outside-in approach in the IMC taxonomy means that the organisation should ensure that information about the customers that is including their wants and needs and other background knowledge should be obtained in the planning phase. All the communication mix tools should integrate and support each other leading to synergy effects (Kitchen & Burgmann, 2015 page. 35).

See Appendix: Marketing Communication mix

There are many benefits associated with the use of the IMC is that it aligns the short and the long-term marketing as a way of ensuring that conflicts are avoided in the organisation. The IMC approach is also a sound and clear one, and it considers all of the target audiences. Similarly, the approach encourages the one-to-one communication, which increase synergy and the company can gain results in financial benefits (Kitchen & Burgmann, 2015 page. 35).

Research shows that effective branding communication cannot occur unless there is a clearly identified brand. In this case, the brand can be said to be the factor that the firm uses as a way of differentiating itself from the competitor. The brand identity summarises what the company stands for and the position it has established in the market. On the other hand, the brand equity is made up of a set of characteristics that are unique to the brand. The value that the stakeholders assign to the brand over and above the value of that product is not branded by equivalent to the branded one. Experts define positioning as the process of creating a perception in the consumer’s mind in regards to the nature of a company and the products that it produces relative to the communication. There are two main elements of positioning, which are the position of the brand is established about the competition and that it exists in the minds of the consumer. Positioning can be achieved in some ways (Kitchen & Burgmann, 2015 page. 35).

i. The use of competitors to create a position in the mind of the consumer by first compare and contrasting one product to another.

ii. Application positioning means or involves the use of some of the memorable uses of the product when communicating with the customers.

iii. The price quality relationship helps firm create a position especially at the extremes of the price range.

iv. The product user positioning strategy creates a difference between one product and the others by pointing out the possible users of the products.

v. There are instances when companies try to position themselves based on a particular and specific product class.

vi. There are also instances when companies tend to identify their products with a cultural symbol to create a competitive advantage (Kitchen & Burgmann, 2015 page. 35)

vii. The use of attribute position is important in that it sets a product from the rest of the commodities.

See Appendix: Positioning

Brand positioning has an impact on the IMC plan that is made by the organisation. Research shows that a creative consistency in the IMC plans can help the organisation in saving money (Kitchen & Burgmann, 2015 page.35). This means that by using the same images while adapting the same copies for the different Medias the company can reduce copywriting and the design costs. An IMC integrated with brand positioning helps in providing the customers with the information that they need and in the specific format that they prefer. There are different avenues that are by the firms to communicate information to the customers. The art of integration ensures that the customers can get the same information in all the communication avenues present (Kitchen & Burgmann, 2015 page. 36).

Apple Environmental Analysis in the UK

Apple has been the leading company when it comes to electronic consumption in the United Kingdom. The company operates around 29 retail stores paired with the online store in the United Kingdom. Apple being a multi-international company is found in many countries across the globe. However, in the United Kingdom, Apple faces much competition especially when it comes to the iPhones and the personal computers. Some of the main competitors with Apple in this kind of business can be said to be Nokia, Samsung, Blackberry and HP. These companies have already been in the United Kingdom for a long time. It is for this reason that Apple as a company has seen much competition coming from these companies as well. Technology is one of the elements that contribute to the competition that exists between the organisations. For example, despite Samsung using a different operating system can create a product that can be able to perform the same function as those products produced by Apple. The Galaxy model produced by Samsung is a practical example of how competition has led to companies investing heavily in innovation that ensure that they can produce products similar to those produced by Apple.

According to the PESTLE analysis of Apple, it is evident that power that buyers have is high. The company has many competitors who tend to sell their products at lowered prices. Therefore, Apple has to ensure that it remains vibrant and justify its prices in the market if it has to maintain its competitive advantage. Another environmental factor that Apple should considers the high threat of new entrants based on the high competition between Apple and the other electronic companies in the market. Some of the competitors such as HTC and Samsung have in the recent past been involved in the development of Research and Development department (R&D department) in order to oversee innovation and upgrading of the products. Production of products that can perform the same function as that produced by Apple means that customers may tend to lean towards the substitute that sometimes costs lower than the Apple products.

The legal part of the Pestle Analysis is also something that Apple has to consider to ensure that it can do business in the United Kingdom. Labour laws differ significantly when it comes to the countries making up the United Kingdom, which means Apple has to equip itself with laws about employment and health and changes implemented by the regulatory bodies on trading policies. The economic factor also has to be analysed by Apple to make sure that positioning is done in a way that it will help the organisation. The economic situation, the inflation, the interest rates and the spending power of the customers must be analysed as they have an impact on the profit made by the company. This is because when the economic situation is not favourable, then customer or consumers tend to spend less. The population demographics such as the lifestyle, the age shift in the population and their needs means that the social factor is also important and has to be considered as it determines the market trends shortly (Khan, Alam, and Alam, 2015 page. 956).

Market Trends

The trends in the market in the United Kingdom look to favour Apple in one way or another. According to analysts, it has been established that most of the people in the United Kingdom have a desire for Smartphone in the recent past, which means that the number of sales made by the phone producing companies such as Apple in the United Kingdom will be higher as compared to the other countries. Analysis also indicate that the number of Smartphone sold across the globe have declined in the recent past because of the declining economy of the world and the valuation of different currencies. The United State has seen an economic upsurge in the first quarter of the year, which means that it will lead the other market when it comes to the number of sales made in the country. It is forecasted that 24 million unit sales in the United Kingdom in 2016 showing an increase from the 23.7 million sales made in 2015. This figure may rise by two in the next eighteen months. It means that Apple has a chance to grow its sales shortly in the country and continue cementing its competitive advantage.

Strategies used by Apple

Brand Positioning

As seen from Apple’s evolution, it is important to note that the brand position has evolved although most of the initial promises are still consistent with the current brand. The core competence adopted by Apple is that of delivering as exceptional customer experience through the creation of user interfaces that are superb. This can be seen from the distinctive features of the Apple Pay and the Apply Watch that are the ease of use. Since the release of the iPod in 2001, Apple as accompany has been involved in the migration of its brand and the product strategy in a way that is in harmony with today’s position (Khan, Alam, and Alam, 2015 page. 957).

Apple has a brand personality as one of the branding strategies. The brand personality is about lifestyle, imagination, innovation, passing, hopes and dreams and giving power to the people through technology. The brand personality is concerned with simplicity and getting rid of some of the complications from people’s lives and the production of products that are people-driven to create a genuine connection with its clients across the globe. The implication is that the branding strategy used by Apple is one that focuses not only on the products but also on the need of every person. Currently, Apple provides what is known as the synchronized, harmonized and integrated experience to the consumer across all the devices of the company. These devices include the Mac, iPhone, iPad and the iPod. The brand customer experience is also a used in positioning the product in the market. The promise made in the design of Apple products is that they will be innovative, beautifully designed and technology leading and Apple is committed to ensuring that it delivers products meet the promise to fulfil the needs of the customer.

Integrated Marketing Communication

In the recent past, Apple has used both the pull and the push strategy when it comes to its communication with the customer. One of the strategies used by the company has been the advertising that is promoting all its products by itself through the channels used in the communication mix. Another strategy has been the relying on the distributors to advertise the phone. The implication of this push and pull strategy is that the customer is approached from two different sources in a way that creates a differentiation from the competitors and ensuring that product message is delivered in a way that adds value service. The pre-launch strategy used by Apple has always involved the use of the PR, the blogs, buzz and viral marketing and the R&D information (Khan, Alam, and Alam, 2015 page. 959). On the other hand, the launch strategy in the United Kingdom has been using the company’s website, the printed media, the television, outdoor media and the social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The post-launch strategy has been implemented using the carrier handled advertisement, the company’s website, digital campaigns, and through independent review websites. The digital marketing of Apple products has been using the email marketing where the customers are provided with a message a few weeks before that products is launched. The other part of the digital marketing is the use of display ads that include the banner ads and the interactive ads that increase the awareness of the public towards the products. The third part of the digital marketing is the social media advertisement in which Apple uses Facebook and MySpace to reach customers across the United Kingdom. The blogs is the fourth part of the digital marketing strategy that include the industry blogs, the forums, and the discussion boards. Since 2012, the advertising budget used by the company has never been lower than £1 billion and mainly goes towards television ads, print media and the use of billboards.

Sales promotion is another venture that Apple uses although this is not the case at all times.  Apple as a company sometimes lowers the prices of the commodities to increase the sales of the products. However, it is important to note that Apple using this strategy sparingly as it was only in 2014 when the company offered the back to school offer for a reduced price of its products. The venture was successful in ensuring that Apple increased their sales by a considerable margin during the period when the promotion was ongoing (Khan, Alam, Alam, 2015 page. 959).

Online shopping for the company‘s products is easy via the App Store, the iTunes, and the Apple website. The direct marketing approach ensures that Apple can focus on brand loyalty. It is important to note that Apple products focus on the high-end population regarding income, which means that most of its retail shops in the United Kingdom are found or located in the malls and the high-end shopping centres where most of the people can access them.

Recommendations and conclusion

Based on the analysis provided above, it is evident that despite the extensive marketing done by Apple, competition is still the main problem that it faces in the United Kingdom. This means that there should be a change in the IMC strategy to accommodate the loopholes that prevent it from gaining a maximum competitive advantage over its competitors. One of things that the company should do is to employ the digital marketing option heavily. This means that Apple should foster viral campaigning should be divided into two with one of the promotions running from June to August when most of the students are enjoying their summer and the other running for November to December when most of the people are planning for their Christmas. The digital form of communicating with the potential customer requires Apple to embrace the use of the new platforms that include Yahoo, Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as these will increase the chances of the company reaching as many customers as possible in the United Kingdom.

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