I’ve learned a hell of a lot from Seth Godin. He taught me about new media marketing, great business stories, about focus, and about writing. I rarely disagree with him, but in his latest piece on “Decoding Apple as a luxury tools company” he argues that Apple will lose their way on product efficacy and quality as they become a luxury brand. He says:
“The challenge they face, the challenge you’ll face if you choose to try to combine function with the top of the market, is that eventually, these two paths diverge. When Apple dumbs down Pages or Keynote or allows open bugs to fester for months or years, they’re taking the luxury path at the expense of the tools path.”
He argues that the path to luxury and the path to good tools are divergent. I just don’t agree with that premise. He uses Patagonia as an example early on. Exactly! A luxury brand that is still chosen by experts and professionals in the field. Are you telling me a Ferrari as a luxury car makes compromises on their engineering to stay luxury? Or Bugatti or Bentley or Aston Martin? He also mentions Honda. Part of this is also the perception in the mind of the prospective buyer. Honda or Toyota can aspire to Luxury but would find it difficult to sell against the regular utility they are known for, which is exactly why they created Acura and Lexus.
I just don’t see the tension that Seth highlights. I don’t see it as divergence where being on one path precludes the other. As a luxury watch brand, the utility of my watch has to come first. If I’m Tula making a brief case, it has to be a desirable brief case first. And if I’m Jimmy Choo making shoes, I’m definitely not designing them to run a marathon, I’m aiming at a different type of shoe utility and market. I so wish I could add comments to Seth’s post…..
Apple are heading in to a new market — the mid range and luxury end of the watch market. The Swiss industry is rightly worried. I just don’t believe that Apple’s products will lose utility on the journey in the way that Seth does.
Bob Warfield wrote a response to my post over at his SmoothSpan blog and we continued a healthy debate over there, although not seeing eye to eye at all. Go to SmoothSpan to see the rest of the conversation.
- Yes, In It’s Pursuit of Being a High-Margin Luxury Brand, Apple Must Eventually Be Less Functional (enterpriseirregulars.com)
(Cross-posted @ David Terrar on Medium)