Apple's Polishing Cloth is All About Branding and Perception
The company's $19 cleaning cloth is much more than just an overpriced accessory, it is about re-enforcing its status in the minds of its customers
Do you remember when Lady Gaga first rose to prominence? In her lead single that skyrocketed her popularity, “Just Dance”, we are presented with a dance-ready track with an artist with extravagant makeup and outfits. What many people often forget about her is that she learned to play piano at age 4 and was engrossed in the creative arts throughout her whole life. But what got her popular was the sex appeal, the danceability, and in a certain way the shock value.
Shock value gets people talking, more than quiet excellence every will. Generally speaking, people like to have something to talk about. This is why shock value can be so valuable. This is why I always thought that HTC’s tagline of “Quietly Brilliant” was a kind of setup for failure. A company that has been able to tiptoe the line of shock value and excellent innovation masterfully has been Apple. For every innovative and category-shifting product, there is a release of a product that makes people scratch their heads as to why it exists. For every new MacBook Pro, there are the $700 wheels for the Mac Pro for instance. And now Apple has released another overpriced product that has caused the conversation to erupt. That product is the official Apple polishing cloth that the company is selling for $19.
The Marketing Machine
Here in the United States, no tech company is more identifiable than Apple. The company has done a masterful job of its products becoming synonymous with quality. Take a product like the iPhone SE as a perfect example of this. In reality, the SE is a $400 rebrand of a design that was first introduced 4 years ago. But instead of most people calling it dated it was instead heralded as a great value. This is because the company is well aware of what its consumers like and can deliver it effectively.
This proficiency also enables the company to make decisions that will blindly be followed. All the current leaks currently point to an iPhone that will eventually be without any ports. And despite many people understanding where this design decision could be impractical from a repairability and planned obsolescence perspective, many Apple fans will support it because they support Apple. This is a similar feeling that I get when looking at something like a $19 Apple-branded polishing cloth.
And as expected the polishing cloth has proven popular and sold out nearly instantly. This product showcases the marketing might of Apple. A company that can and will take every opportunity to flex its marketing muscle to brand itself as a leader in quality products and manufacturing. This release is a perfect way to keep Apple in the minds of consumers and pundits at all times.
Crafting an Image
Apple’s accessories have always felt a bit overpriced. The company charges $50 for a silicone phone case, $100 for a battery pack, and $130 for a wireless charger. These products are priced this way to reach a perception. This perception is that Apple makes quality accessories and that you get what you pay for as the old saying goes. This polishing cloth is further service to this idea. Apple is saying here that sure you could buy a 6 pack of microfiber cleaning cloths from Amazon for less than the cost of the Apple one but the quality will be less. In the same way that you could buy a wireless charger from Anker from much less, but Apple is leveraging its mind share as a manufacturer of quality products here.
Beyond this, Apple’s reliance on branding to sell its accessories speaks to its very deep understanding of the Western religion of brand worship. The company knows how people view them favorably and will continue to leverage this positive viewing as a reason to emphasize its branding to sell products.
Think no further than its emphasis on showing its logo on its accessories. Apple understood long ago that being humble or a quiet innovator like HTC will never lead to long-term success. In this industry, it is all about being loud and flashing the branding of your product as much as possible. The Apple polishing cloth is not simply an overpriced piece of fabric, it is a showcase of Apple’s commitment to relevance and its brand. Because at the end of the day, Apple knows that if people go out their way to talk about you for whatever reason, then you must be doing something right.