Apple’s Untapped Marketing Tool: Price

apple_priceApple’s advertising is clever, visually attractive, hip, and funny. It does a great job of showing off what its products can do, and how your life could change as a result. What Apple ads don’t talk about is money. As someone who’s already more than willing to part with my little disposable income in order to nab Apple gear, I’m fine with that. But what about everyone else?

There are no doubt reasons Apple doesn’t talk about price. I’ll mention a few of them later on in this post. The thing is, especially at the low end of its product line, Apple stands to gain a lot by trumpeting its price tags to the masses.

Why People Are Switching

In the past three months, I’ve seen three friends buy their first Mac computer. None of them purchased the 13-inch MacBook Pro that Apple has been so lauded for online and by the tech journalism community. Instead, all three bought either a Mac mini or a white plastic MacBook, and all three did so because these machines represent the lowest cost of entry into Apple’s Mac lineup.

That’s great news for Apple. Its low-end computers are doing their job, and bringing people in who otherwise might not have looked at a Mac. The problem is that none of those three people would’ve considered a Mac if I hadn’t recommended them. The reason? They all perceived Macs as too expensive.

I know this evidence is anecdotal at best, and doesn’t mean this is the case for the general computer-buying population, but everyday I meet people who just weren’t aware that there existed such a thing as a Mac that costs less than $1,500 or $1,600. Some used to use them for work in the eighties, when it would cost you $1,800 to get one for home use, but speak with fond longing about the user experience they remember.

When I tell these people that they can get back into Mac for as little as $600, they are completely flabbergasted. As in, never even conceived such a thing was possible, totally unaware. To me, that means that Apple isn’t doing its job right on the marketing side of things. Of course, word of mouth is probably part of the company’s marketing plan, but why depend on individual evangelists like me to spread pricing info when televised media is so much more efficient?

The Great Unmentionable

Apple has some very good reasons not to talk about price. For one, they can’t beat PC manufacturers in that area. There will always be a cheaper PC with better specs on paper out there. But talking to PC users, that isn’t as big of an issue as I thought it was. People who remember Macs from times past don’t care that you could get a better spec’d PC for the same price or better as the Mac mini. They care that Macs are so affordable as compared to their precursors from 20 years ago.

Another reason Apple might not want to talk about price is that it would be inconsistent with its branding to date. Apple’s computer products are targeted at a demographic that doesn’t list price as its top priority. The average Apple consumer is financially comfortable, and willing to pay for a quality product that sets them apart. “Think Different” really means “Buy Different.”

Getting Past Taboos

The fact is, Apple’s changed its pricing policy to target new growth and new demographics, and it should change its marketing strategy to be more in line with those new sales goals. A Mac mini commercial, done with all the usual Apple visual appeal, with a simple “Starting at $599″ at the end would do wonders for raising consumer awareness regarding pricing without diluting the strong brand Cupertino’s worked so hard to establish.

You can talk about features and reliability till you’re blue in the face, but if you want price-conscious consumers to listen, you’ve also got to talk about cost. If Apple really wants to convert new pricing structure into an exponential increase in sales, it would do well to make sure people know about it.

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