Apple’s Newest Strategy: Influential Bundling

Last week I went with my family to an Apple store, mostly because my daughter needed a new computer for school. There was no question that we were going to buy a Mac; she wouldn’t consider anything else! (Even though we’ve been buying Dells in our house for about 15 years, I’ve become an Apple convert).

The experience was great. We got assigned an Apple Genius as we walked into the store and he very effectively walked us through all of our options. We ended up with a MacBook, an iPod Touch, a printer, Microsoft Office, and an extended warranty. He brought all of the products to us and we handled the transaction on his portable device. The entire process took about 15 minutes, we only needed to speak with one person, and we spent a bundle of money. Win for Apple, and win for us.

As I mentioned, we left with an iPod Touch. It turns out that Apple is running a program where you get a free iPod Touch if you buy a Mac. That was great for me. I’ve wanted an iPod Touch for watching movies while sitting in airports and planes. This promotion (along with Massachusetts’ tax free day) sealed the deal. My daughter got what she needed, and I ended up with something that I’ve wanted. Win for my daughter, and win for me.

As I reflected back on this experience, I realized the brilliance of Apple’s strategy. By bundling an iPod Touch into the deal, there was something in it for the Mac user (my daughter) and the decision maker/buyer (me). We all win.

This strategy isn’t new. The same general concept exists in the travel industry. Companies pay for flights and lodging, but business travelers get the loyalty points. I’m an American Airlines/JetBlue, Starwood/Marriott guy. There’s something for everyone.

Although people use this strategy, I’ve never seen it given a formal name. But I think it’s important enough to have one. So I’m calling the strategy Influential Bundling, and defining it as:

Packaging products and services that deliver value for key influencers

How about Zales giving free football tickets with the purchase of a diamond ring? Think about how many new engagements that would generate. Or maybe The Gap could run a deal where you get $50 and free shipping from Piperlime on any purchase of $250 from The Gap or Old Navy. Parents can get some stylish shoes after helping their kids pick out their back to school wardrobes.

The bottom line: What decisions makers can you reach with Influential Bundling?

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I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey.

Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers.

I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

7 thoughts on “Apple’s Newest Strategy: Influential Bundling”

  1. Interestingthought on influential bundling. Just to play the devil’s advocate here, you could make a case that the iPod Touch wasn’t a play for the decision makers but rather a more traditional marketing play that affixed a “want” item to a “need” item to drive need item sales. The Macbooks have some degree of sexiness attached to them (because they *are* cool) however, because it is much more of a necessity in modern life than an iPod Touch. A person could make a case for needing a computer/laptop.

    In contrast, it’s hard to make a case for “needing” an iPod Touch. Instead, I’d argue that an iPod Touch is a much more ubiquitous fashion accessory than a MacBook. The chihuahua of the electronics world as it were.

    I think your case for influential bundling would be spot on if Apple launched a marketing campaign during back to school season that bundled a MacBook with a free copy of Quicken (so parents could more readily track their hemorrhaging money) or some video conferencing package that allowed parents to videoconf with their children while they were 1000 miles away at school. Both of those would be more along the lines of things influencers had been “meaning to buy” but hadn’t yet.

    In my opinion, the iPod Touch is too cool and appeals to too many people to show a clear targeting to influencers.

  2. Parker: Good point about the iPod Touch; which may only work on influencers in specific cases (like mine). I think that “Influencer Bundles” in whatever form are worthy of discussion, so thanks for adding to the conversation!

  3. Apple always does a back-to-school promotion where they bundle an iPod with a Mac purchase. They do this to clear out existing stock right before they announce the new models in September. But knowing Apple and their marketing prowess, they probably do take influential bundling into account!

  4. Bruce,

    Thanks, I enjoyed reading about your Apple Store experience. I feel influencer bundles are only going to increase in time – and that too more direct influencer bundling targeting the social influencers in decisions like this. The Quicken scenario that Parker mentioned is perfect example of how this could be brought to life. We encourage our clients to pay attention to this area and when it happens in the online domain – consider it social influence marketing.

  5. Agree and don’t agree to some extent. I hate sitting on the fence. I like the idea of Influential Bundling, its a neat concept and I can see the application in a number of fields. However, doesn’t the idea of Influential Bundling reflect the sell for the need. So in the case above, the iPod Touch is what the daughter would use to convince the Dad to buy. “See Dad, you even get an iPod Touch with it”.

    Do you think this can be applicable to all areas? Telecoms?

  6. Are the Zales and Apple example different concepts?

    I don’t think the Zales case would generate more engagements, but I do think it would cause football guys to shop at Zales instead of at a competitor.

    I think the Apple example is more likely to have more people make a computer purchase, and specifically Apple purchases.

    Taking more pie vs. making the pie larger.

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