October 18, 2019

Liquid retina! The marketing genius of Apple Inc.*

If you were ever in doubt as to why Apple sells so much stuff, just ponder this marketing pitch–iPhone 10Xr with Liquid Retina Display! Sounds amazing doesn’t it? Ooh. Ah. The TV ads made even myself, a somewhat technically astute (I like to think) writer, curious about a possible new technology in the works.

Alas, though it took an embarrassing number of minutes to suss things out, it finally dawned on me that the display in question could also be called Crystal Retina, or even Diode Retina. Because, what it is, in fact, is a Liquid Crystal Diode Retina Display! LCD retina. Damn. LCD displays, while hardly bad technology, aren’t as visually stunning as the OLED displays found in the top-of-the-line 10X or 10Xs. It’s all about black, but that’s another story.

Apple probably (I don’t want a call) knows, that you probably know about this whole LCD versus OLED thing. Hence, they found a way to make it sound uber-appealing, as well as for you not to feel bad or envious for cheaping it out. It’s Liquid Retina!

Note that the display is called out as an LCD on the Apple Web site, but not on TV.

But wait! I’ve ignored the attached stroke of Apple marketing brilliance from yesteryear–retina. This use of the word is inspired by the density of the pixels in the display being greater than the density of the light receptors in your retina. Kudos. Everyone one else would simply call this a high-density or high-pixel-density display. Yawn. Apple makes you want to buy it even before you see it, because… It’s Retina!

Enough of the italics. (You’re welcome.) The truth is, while I’m often amazed by the Apple’s sheer gall, I am also in awe of its particular genius for not only making stuff appear emphatically must-have, but making people feel good about buying it.

Of course, hype is only one part of the formula. Wares must measure up to make the whole deal work. Fortunately for Apple, its products generally do. Like Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, Sidney Poitier, or Sir Alec Guinness–they look good and comport themselves with dignity. Now if only the company’s behavior would catch up.

Sorry, if those names mean nothing to you, but the only modern equivalent I can think of is perhaps Tom Hanks, and his last name is, well, Hanks.

Has Apple gone too far?

Alas, while the company’s computers get a bad rap as being dramatically over-priced when they’re in reality they’re only slightly so, Apple’s phones most definitely are priced in the stratosphere. Perhaps 10X is an inside joke referring to the company charging ten times what the device costs to make. I never said Apple didn’t have a sense of humor. Or maybe I did. I forget.

Regardless, superior design aesthetics propelled by an unparalleled genius for marketing have sold a lot of this latest iPhone–just not nearly as many as the company had hoped or predicted. Did Apple push the pricing envelope too far and let the magic smoke out of the money machine? Definitely a puff or two. Maybe more. We’ll see. Then again, they’re a media company now, aren’t they?

If you bought an iPhone 10X, bless you and life in the simply-must-have-it lane. The one paved by Apple. Me? The day Apple markets a $100 iPhone (maybe even $200), then perhaps I’ll buy.

But props man. Apple’s design and marketing technique really is the stuff of legend. As to its other corporate attributes? Let’s not spoil the party, eh?

Addendum 6/4/2019: Apple recently announced a 6K Pro Display XDR for only $5000. The stand is–$1000. The audience at the announcement was audibly stunned and the presenter stammered in response. What they should have done was announce the display as costing $6000 and you get $1000 off if you don’t get the stand. Genius slipping?