Every year, Fortune magazine compiles a ranking of the world's most admired companies, based on a survey of 3,800 corporate executives, directors and analysts. Once again, Apple has topped the list - retaining a title it has now held for 14 consecutive years.
Apple is one of the most extraordinary success stories in the history of business, especially considering it was on the brink of bankruptcy in 1997. In August 2018, it became the first ever public company to achieve a market valuation of $1 trillion, beating rivals like Microsoft and Amazon to that historic milestone.
So what are the secrets behind the Silicon Valley giant's rise to the top, and what lessons could you learn from its story?
1. Simple but powerful marketing
Every business could learn some valuable marketing lessons from Apple and its iconic former CEO Steve Jobs, including the importance of keeping things simple.
Some of Apple's most effective and memorable marketing messages have also been the least complicated. Between 2006 and 2009, the company saw great success with an advertising campaign designed to drive Mac sales, which was titled simply 'Get a Mac'.
Simplicity was also a crucial element of Apple's famous 'Think Different' campaign, which played a key part in helping the business avoid financial ruin and return to profitability in the late 1990s.
2. Bold innovation
As the slogan of its late 90s ad campaign suggested, Apple has built its success on innovation and imagination, not only in its marketing but in the nature of its products.
In the early 2000s, smartphones were a relatively uncommon sight, but Apple changed that when it launched the iPhone in January 2007. The iPhone featured a number of innovations that distinguished it from competing products, including:
- Double the screen resolution of most smartphones at the time
- Multi-touch, to allow 'pinching' and zooming in and out
- A more powerful operating system enabling users to browse full websites not specifically designed for mobile devices
The iPhone became Apple's flagship product, going through various iterations over the years and selling nearly two billion units to date.
Not every innovation will pay off, but the ones that do could elevate your business to a new level of success.
3. Outstanding product quality and design
Apple products tend to be significantly more expensive than those available from their competitors, but the company's loyal customers are willing to pay this premium because they're confident they'll get something that's high-quality, well-designed and reliable.
The product design and build quality of the iPhone, for example, paved the way for countless smartphones that came after it and transformed not just mobile communications, but the wider tech industry and the entire world.
If you have the necessary financial capability, time and expertise to design and create a genuinely outstanding product - one that delivers real value to your customers and gets them coming back for more in the future - it’ll prove a worthwhile investment.
4. Next-level brand loyalty
Describing Apple's customers as loyal to the brand is a major understatement. It would be more accurate to say they have a deep and lasting commitment to buying the company's products, regardless of the alternatives available from other companies.
What's more, they're likely to evangelize about the benefits of Apple to their friends and family, generating the kind of brand awareness and word-of-mouth hype that most marketers can only dream about.
Achieving the sort of loyalty that has people waiting with bated breath for your next product launch isn't easy, but you can start with simple steps such as:
- Focusing on personalized, frequent communication with your audience
- Working to be proactive in anticipating customers' needs and asking for their feedback
- Making customer experience as big a priority as product and service quality
- Building a community based on shared pain points, interests and goals
Concentrating on objectives like these won't necessarily turn you into a $1 trillion business like Apple, but it could set you on your way to building a solid customer base, sustainable growth and long-term profitability.