iPhone Sales Stay Strong Thanks to Our Emotions, But Will it Last?

4 minute read
Jason Munson avatar

Why do we all want the iPhone despite its obvious problems? It's an emotion driven purchase. But that may only get Apple so far.

Emotions Matter in Sales and Marketing

If you disagree, you’ve probably already entered into a defensive mind-set with regard to this article. This too is an emotion, so get-over-it and keep an open mind. If you agree, you’ve probably already decided to read the entire article and are even thinking of tweeting this to your friends and professional network (which I thank you for).

There are plenty of folks that think emotions and feelings should not be in the workplace. These individuals usually boil everything down to time and/or money, and they think everyone will just “deal” with product flaws, poor design and bad corporate communications/marketing.

While that may be true, it is important to realize that if people are continuing to purchase your product even with a major flaw, it’s likely because you’re living on previous product successes and because your Marketing team has earned enough “emotional credits” with consumers to permit it.

Equally as important to note is that these credits can be pulled completely with a single failure -- if it’s big enough. So, beware of letting yourself think of poor product, design and communication as acceptable in the long run or you’ll find yourself with too many burned bridges to make a come-back.  If you need to delay a release (other market variables permitting) to fix a critical flaw -- do it.

Emotion Driven Purchases Like the iPhone

We’ve seen a few high profile brands go though product failures lately – Apple is probably one of the best examples of this. Apple’s iPhone4 antenna fiasco is pretty serious. I mean you can drop a call by simply holding your phone. This is a HUGE product flaw that Apple was quick to point-out also manifests itself in other mobile phones. But as we all learned when we were children, just because the kid down the street went bumper hitching in the snow, it doesn’t mean you should do it too. Especially, if like Apple, you are perceived by many as the category leader in innovation and quality. 

Yet, even with this highly publicized critical design flaw, Apple’s iPhone sales don’t seem to have been impacted and customers seem to be willing to live with the reception problems. As an indicator, I invite you to go to an Apple store tonight where you’ll likely still find a line of people waiting to purchase the iPhone4.

This observation could of course be a fluke, so if we look at sales numbers as another indicator we can find that so far Apple has sold more than 3 million iPhone4 units and has only seen a 1.7% return rate.  These numbers show strength and solid product sales trajectories -- but why? It doesn’t make sense.  If these 3 million consumers thought about it from a logical point of view, they would not have made the purchase. I mean, reception is probably the single most important feature for a mobile phone? Right? 

Learning Opportunities

These are clearly emotion driven purchases, not logic driven purchases. The iPhone4 is a status symbol of sorts. You might not be able to afford the Porsche -- but no one knows what you drive while you’re in a meeting or at the restaurant or sitting and having coffee at your high-end coffee shop. The mobile phone is the most personal piece of technology you own and we all want to feel good about ourselves.

Because of this, Apple knows it has enough currency in the bank to see little impact on sales in the US. But the question in my mind comes back to the emotion credits Apple has in the bank. How many is Apple planning to burn and when will it start getting push-back? Today Apple went back to claim more credits and showed a lot of confidence in its brand strength in 17 more markets with the official announcement that international sales will be kicked-off on July 30th. 

I hope Apple avoids this slippery slope, and that Steve Jobs decides to delay the white iPhone4 until the antenna issue is fixed with more than a plastic case.  

Until then, I’ll be the guy at the dinner table that is continuously sneaking looks at the iPhone4 everyone has proudly on display, while I pontificate on why Apple should tread carefully (and keep my 3GS hidden in my jacket pocket).

Editor's Note: Read more from Jason Munson starting with: Why Mobile Websites Are Better than Mobile Applications


About the author

Jason Munson

General Manager at Siteworx, Inc., an award-winning interactive agency with deep Web content management (WCM) roots and a proven track record helping clients achieve business results.While iphone/mobile websites, complex enterprise search and analytics integrations and social media strategies are tools of the trade, the singular focus at Siteworx is designing and building elegant, addictive and enduring Web interfaces.