Bringing the power of knowledge to students

This case dates a few years back, but since it was the starting point for many of the ideas behind what we do today, we feel that the story needs to be told. We also know from experience that many of the challenges we faced at that time are still relevant for many businesses.

We were approached by Apple to create a campaign targeting university students in Norway. The assignment was to promote the range of Mac products Apple was offering with a special student discount so that Apple would be top of mind when it was time to consider a computer. At that time, tablets and smartphones had yet to be invented, and Macs were considered a luxury item by many, especially among students. However, the education market was and has always been important to Apple, since most people form their first professional relationship with computers, tablets and other educational tools and software during their school years.

Insight – what we found out

The first questions we asked ourselves was: what is it that students really need and what would motivate them to buy a Mac?  We soon discovered that there wasn’t much research done in this field. Most manufacturers just sold their computers to Education resellers and marketed them with a student discount. There was no real collaboration going on between manufacturers, resellers and third party developers and if you needed financing, you had go to the bank yourself. So unless you were a computer nerd, were studying to become a software developer or getting a degree in economics, most students were faced with quite a few obstacles.

So we asked Apple if we could use a small part of the budget to do a GAP-analysis.

After asking both students and resellers about their needs and wants we came up with the following list of challenges that needed to be addressed by Apple:

  • There was a reluctancy within Apple to give resellers influence over the value adding process.
  • The business model they used in the consumer market attracted resellers with little or no interest in building the Apple brand.
  • Apples sales force focused on selling Mac models according to categories defined by the distribution channel, rather than by the demands of the market and customer,
  • It was difficult to make changes within the existing regime.

At the same time, the distribution channels had their own challenges with too much emphasis on logistics and traditional promotion plans, defining product categories according to their internal business role rather than their role in the market. They also made little use of the knowledge generated through their own information systems to create new offers tailored to different customer segments. Any proposed changes would have to involve a low level of risk and a high level of revenue.

Focus – what we proposed

Or conclusion was that Apple needed to shift their focus from just building the brand and selling the hardware, to solving problems and providing solutions that would help students become better students. Resellers needed to shift focus from transactions and price points, to an appropriate mix of hardware, software and tools tailored for students.

All in all this would mean a shift from focusing on product benefits and pricing to usability and the superior user experience that has always been the trademark of Apple.

To accomplish this, we focused on three areas:

  • Define the important role that Apple could play for students.
  • Create a differentiated, relevant and valuable offer.
  • Ensure that this would be implemented within the existing budget.

Action – what we did

So we created StudMac, a concept for students including an editorial magazine and website with tips and tricks, testimonials and an online forum, to on-campus support and training, social gatherings, hardware/software solutions and financing. This was also accompanied by a set of marketing activities and marketing support for resellers.

A StudMac team was recruited and trained to helps students on campus to choose the right hardware/software solution offered at the nearest Education reseller.

A magazine and website with testimonials, tips and tricks, FAQ and an online forum was launched.

The unique role that Apple could play for students was advertised in media and promoted in-store at Education resellers all over Norway.

Result – how it all turned out

34 % sales increase the first year within the existing marketing budget.