Analysis: Apple swipes past price point talk in Malaysia to target Android-ers

Apple hopes to convert Android users in Malaysia with its latest campaign push which features video testimonials from supposedly satisfied customers in the form of Memoji. Memoji allows iPhone users to create avatars that track their facial movements.

"There are so many reasons to switch to iPhone," Apple said on its Malaysia website, citing stunning photos, fastest chips, and incredible battery life as the top three reasons. For Android users who are hesitant about making the switch because the transfer of data might seem too much of a hassle, Apple highlighted the Move to iOS app, which allows Android users to securely transfer their contacts, messages, photos and videos, mail accounts, as well as calendars to the iPhone. When asked on its marketing strategy for the Malaysia market, Apple declined to comment on A+M's queries. Globally, Apple works with TBWA\ Media Arts Lab.

apple switch to iphone2

According to Apple, the Memoji testimonials are representative of users experience on the iPhone 11, XR, X and 8. The testimonials share users' experiences with face ID, game performance and resale value. Besides the website, Apple has also been promoting the campaign on Twitter. Some Twitter users, however, have commented that the iPhone's exorbitant price is hindering consumers from switching to the iPhone.

(Read also: Why consumers find the iPhone irresistible despite its premium price)

Among the list of renowned smartphone brands worldwide - Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi and vivo, global market intelligence firm IDC said Samsung commanded 21.2% of market share during the first quarter of this year. Huawei was second with 17.8% of market share followed by Apple with 13.3% market share. According to IDC, Samsung's Galaxy A series continued to perform well while the launch of its premium 5G flagship, Galaxy S20, helped grow profits during the period. Meanwhile, despite the challenges it faced in foreign markets due to the uncertainties around the US trade ban and Google Mobile Services, IDC noted that Huawei still maintained top position in China. It also reduced the impact of downturn with early price cuts on Mate 30 and P30 series, as well as Honor's V30 and 9X series. According to IDC, Huawei's diversified online-offline channel mix helped reach consumers even during periods of hard lockdown.

For Apple, the iPhone 11 series was the driver of growth for the company, albeit coming in at third with 36.7 million iPhones. According to IDC, the launch of the SE 2020 targeting the lower-priced segment could work well for the vendor if consumers shift their buying preferences towards more budget-friendly devices in the uncertain economic climates of 2020. It is a well known fact that Android and Apple users have always poked fun at one another for being loyal to their phone brands. As such, it is possible that Apple faces an uphill task of getting Android users to jump ship, since personal preference plays a huge role when it comes to purchasing mobile phones. 

Departure from Apple's usual style

In a statement to A+M, DIA Brand Consultants MD, Tania Tai, said the campaign is a departure from Apple’s usual positioning and messaging style which traditionally emphasised on elegance and simplicity in form and function - even when communicating in specific markets. Hence, a campaign that boasts of the “many reasons to switch to iPhone” could potentially take a wrong turn.

"From the extra effort needed to remember the 10 reasons (which is one too many) to the self-lauding statements of 'world’s most popular camera, fastest chips and incredible battery life', any potential Android switcher will not be impressed, given iPhone’s recall/repair fiasco barely a year ago," she said.

She added:

Things to keep in mind when developing an impactful campaign: relevance, relatability, authenticity, and laser focus.

While consumers' brains are hardwired for familiarity, there is also an innate curiosity in all of us to try something new. Beyond offering a better price and a laundry list of better features, marketers should focus on outdoing their brand influence with stronger emotional capital to win in the battle of brands, Tai said. In these extraordinary times, empathy is everything.

"The more memorable, meaningful and useful the brand experiences are, the more likely customers will switch over. There is a difference in generating emotional content versus creating emotion-evoking content. The latter is the way to go!" Tai explained.

Likewise, Graham Hitchmough, regional chief operations officer at Bonsey Design, said the campaign does not feel very "Apple" nor is it very convincing. According to him, Apple has over the years become synonymous for the shock and awe of its combination of breakthrough products and creative brand communication. "The current dynamics in markets such as Malaysia may require something a little more tactical and pragmatic, but this kind of down-and-dirty messaging does not reflect a brand at the peak of its powers,"  he said, adding:

It lacks the gloss and confidence of previous hero-product-led communication and comes off as a little desperate.

According to him, Apple also had to sidestep the biggest challenge in Malaysia, which is pricing and perceived value, even since the introduction of the new SE model. "Apple used to be able to strongly leverage its new iPhone launches to stimulate sales and customer loyalty, but as the wow factor of these launches has subsided recently, it has had to rely more on the security and encryption story and the stickiness of the overall Apple product and service ecosystem," he explained.

With Android's share of the market sitting at nearly 80%, the biggest challenge for Apple is how to jolt people out of an ecosystem that is dominant and serving its customers increasingly well. The days of Apple’s clear operating system superiority seem long gone as Android and iOS continue to borrow innovation from one another and close any experience and processing gaps.

Strong customer advocacy for one operating system over another will of course remain, but Hitchmough said resistance to switching is now based on attachment to increasingly narrow feature and functional differences, overall price and value perception and general reluctance to take on the hassle of changing. Therefore, Apple is now resorting to functional product comparison and customer testimonials in Malaysia to encourage switching. 

Security and user interface still triumph

While the new campaign is certainly a shift from Apple's usual brand positioning and messaging, there are still two strengths that the smartphone maker can leverage on for the switch. Lim Sue-Anne, MD of Clear Kuala Lumpur, said the two areas are security and intuitive user interface. As data privacy becomes increasingly important, Apple is perfectly poised because it does not sell customer data to advertisers. A quick check by A+M found that Apple Search Ads does not use customers' data from any other Apple services such as Maps, Siri, Messages, and iCloud, or from your device through services and functionality such as Health, HomeKit, email, contacts, and call history.

Its website added that it does not sell personal information, and personal information will never be shared with third parties for their marketing purposes. That said, at times, Apple may provide third parties with certain personal information to provide or improve its products and services, including to help Apple market to consumers. When it does, Apple said on its website that it requires those third parties to handle it in accordance with relevant laws. The type of information Apple collects include personal information such as date of birth, and non-personal information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, referrer URL, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used.

Apple is apparently not the only company that has claimed to not sell personal information. Google's website said that it uses data to serve consumers relevant ads in Google products, on partner websites and in mobile apps. Advertisers are given data about their ads' performance, but Google said it does not reveal any personal information. "While these ads help fund our services and make them free for everyone, your personal information is not for sale. And we also provide you with powerful ad settings so that you can better control what ads you see," it added.

On the other hand, a quick search by A+M found that Samsung might have sold consumers data, especially those in California. During the 12-month period prior to the effective date of this California Consumer Privacy Statement which went into effect on 1 January, Samsung said on its US website that "[it] may have sold the following categories of personal information" including identifiers such as a unique personal identifier, online identifier, commercial information such as records of products or services purchased, Internet and other electronic network activity information.

Aside from the data privacy aspect, Lim said:

Apple's strength also lies in the easy and intuitive user interface, which offers lower barriers to entry for the older consumers.

"I believe if Apple were to leverage these two propositions, it can acquire more Android users. But of course, not everyone picks a phone because of its operating system (OS). Android users have more flexibility to pick the phone of their choice so Apple has to fight not just an OS brand but also handset brands," Lim explained.

Separately, Apple has been actively showcasing its camera capabilities. Earlier this year, it released a Chinese New Year film shot entirely on the iPhone 11 Pro which showcased a story between three generations of women uniting during the festive season. Titled "Daughter", the film drew inspiration from true stories and was directed by director Theodore Melfi and cinematographer Lawrence Sher.

Meanwhile last year, it selected Singaporean photographer, Darren Soh, as the winner of the #ShotOniPhone challenge which was created to promote the camera capabilities on its phones. He was one of the 10 winners, whose winning shots were featured on billboards in selected cities, Apple retail stores and online. Apple kicked off 2019 by launching a #ShotOniPhone challenge, where iPhone users were invited to submit creative photographs between 22 January to 7 February last year, through Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag.

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