Apple grows its bling ring

Angela Ahrendts, Apple
Pictured: Angela Ahrendts, Apple



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7 July 2014 | 0

There are more signs that Apple is continuing its shift from a technology to a lifestyle brand after an interview with Jean-Claude Biver of LVMH, owner of TAG Heuer, revealed that one of the company’s sales directors has been poached by Tim Cook’s Cupertino-based operation. The reason is obvious: Apple is launching a smartwatch later this year, so who better to manage is than someone with a background in the industry.

Apple-watchers have taken the news as a sign that preparations for the long-awaited ‘iWatch’ are at an advanced stage – creating a story about a device that hasn’t been announced but has already put pressure on Samsung and LG to get their competing devices to market with the right design, at the right price and with enough developers on board to keep the apps coming. Small ask, really.

If Google I/O taught us anything it’s that watches are the new mobile battleground but Samsung’s mis-step with the first generation Galaxy Gear showed consumers need persuading that a smartphone peripheral can be their next status symbol. You won’t get users to trade in their Rolexes until they see better value or greater status in a smartwatch. Getting that across requires not just an understanding of the technology behind an iWatch but also the people Apple wants to wear it.

That second issue – the people Apple wants to see using their wares – is central to a successful retail strategy. Under Tim Cook we have seen two approaches to retail, one of which lasted just nine months. Hired for his experience with electronics retailer Dixons and, John Browett’s short tenure was defined by unrest at Apple’s retail outlets after he cut hours after raising wages. Speaking at the Retail Week Live conference in March 2013, Browett said his departure was likely caused by a “poor fit, rather than competency”. He’s now working as CEO of budget fashion retailer Monsoon Accessorise.

Fitting people
Given Browett is now heading up a cut-price fashion chain it’s interesting to note that his successor is coming from the same sector, albeit from a more upmarket brand. Last October Apple took on former Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts as senior vice president of retail and online stores. Under Ahrendts tenure, Burberry tripled its revenues and stock price and she was listed at #49 in Forbes’ list of the world’s 100 most powerful women. With retail sales up and further expansion into China planned, Ahrendts’ arrival also brought brand value in its own right – a trick Tim Cook will be looking to repeat with his new, as yet unnamed, recruit.

With rapper-turned-entrepreneur Dr Dre also joining the Apple Board after the successful acquisition of Beats Audio, Tim Cook is going to have an eclectic expert group to work with that will help Apple grow its appeal without sacrificing its premium image. It will also compliment Cook’s own image as a capable ‘details man’ lacking his predecessor’s vision for product development.

We’ll know more about the iWatch over the coming months. If you really want one, now would be a good time to start saving. You can be sure the Apple fanboys have been for months.

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