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How the Little Guys Can Win In Today’s David-and-Goliath Business World

23a1ca5Before the internet, small companies didn’t stand a chance against the Goliaths, says Corrine Sandler, a globally recognized leader in business intelligence and market research.

That’s because no war can be won without intelligence and, before the digital era, collecting actionable data and information about one’s competitors, market and customers cost a lot more than most small businesses – the Davids – could afford.

“But today, the Davids are taking down the Goliaths,” says Sandler, founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp., a global business intelligence company, and author of the new book, “Wake Up or Die” (www.wakeupordie.us), a comprehensive guide to the use of intelligence in the contemporary business environment.

“Thanks to the internet, the boutiques and startups have access to all kinds of free tools for gathering intelligence. They’re also much more agile than the big corporations; they can make a decision and act immediately. That’s essential in a marketplace where conditions change quickly.”

In “Wake Up or Die,” Sandler applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” – the 2,000-year-old military treatise penned by one of the greatest commanders in history – to the modern business economy. Sun Tzu held that the goal in any war is to win without ever entering into physical battle.

“By gathering actionable data and acting on it immediately, by using it to predict next moves and spot opportunities, small businesses can and are taking down the big ones without a drop of blood being shed,” Sandler says.

She offers smaller business owners these tips for acquiring and using intelligence:

• If you lack resources, make use of free or inexpensive intelligence-gathering tools. Visit competitors’ websites and collect data about them. Many businesses put a great deal of revealing information on their sites, which can benefit you. Also, make note of any changes on their sites. Google Alerts can tell you when they’re releasing new products or expanding. Use Google analytics tools such as Google Hot Trends to tell you what’s in the collective consciousness – potential consumer demand – at any given time. Google’s key word tool will give you ideas for powerful key words in search terms, and use the traffic tool to measure global volume on those key words.

• Make intelligence-gathering part of your company’s culture. From the manager who overhears a conversation in the grocery checkout line to the clerk obsessed with Twitter, every employee in your business is a potential intelligence resource. Encourage employees to pay attention as they interact with others outside the company. They may discover a nagging issue that no other company is addressing, allowing you to create uncontested market space. Or, you may learn critical information about a competitor that allows you to seize an advantage. Make intelligence gathering a company lifestyle.

• Appoint a Chief Intelligence Officer (CIO) to coordinate and analyze information from a variety of sources. In smaller companies, leaders tend to rely on pipelines of internal information provided by employees who don’t understand how to use intelligence to make empowering decisions. That can render important data inactionable (unusable or simply not used). A CIO can oversee and coordinate the collection and analysis of intelligence, and brief you – the business leader – daily so that all data is actionable.

“What enables you to make smart, timely decisions is access to precise intelligence,” Sandler says. “Your advantage, as a smaller business, is that you don’t have the corporate processes and protocols that inhibit fast action.

“As Sun Tzu wrote, ‘It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you can win 100 battles without a single loss.’ ”

About Corrine Sandler

Corrine Sandler is the founder and CEO of Fresh Intelligence Research Corp, a global market research agency; international professional speaker and author of  “Wake Up or Die,” (www.wakeupordie.us) a new book that applies lessons from Sun Tzu’s ancient classic, “The Art of War,” to contemporary businesses. Corrine’s company was ranked No. 2 on Profit Magazine’s list of top 50 fastest-growing companies, and Corrine has been on Profit’s top 100 Female Entrepreneurs list two years in a row. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has established a reputation for unparalleled consumer understanding and insight development working with Fortune 500 companies.

 

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If You Ask Siri About “Her,” She Throws Some Serious Shade – Try it!

The intelligence may be artificial, but the rivalry is very real.

Warner Bros.

In writer-director Spike Jonze new film Her, Joaquin Phoenix plays a depressed man named Theodore Twombly who falls in love with the disembodied voice of his new smart phone’s operating system. It’s a futuristic, top-of-the-line program that utilizes a special breed of artificial intelligence, with uncanny depth and an ever-increasing ability to experience and feel seemingly human emotion. The fact that it has the voice of Scarlett Johansson doesn’t hurt, either.

The general sentiment among moviegoers is that this is an uber-advanced version of the iPhone’s Siri, the virtual assistant that more often functions like a bumbling intern. Siri — or her programmers at Apple — clearly got wind of this comparison, and seemingly decided to have some fun with it. Or, Siri is actually really smart and is super mad about the bad publicity. Either way, her responses to questions about the movie Her are a real treat.

Shots fired!

Shots fired!

Existential burn!

Existential burn!

Awkward…

Awkward...

Maybe this is where that jealousy comes from?

Awards season slam

Awards season slam

Clealry, Siri agrees with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association that Scarlett Johansson shouldn’t be eligible for a Golden Globe for her performance in Her.

For now, anyway…

For now, anyway...

 

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Reduce Your Stress in 2 Minutes a Day

Bill Rielly had it all: a degree from West Point, an executive position at Microsoft, strong faith, a great family life and plenty of money. He even got along well with his in-laws! So why did he have so much stress and anxiety that he could barely sleep at night? I have worked with Bill for several years now and we both believe his experience could be useful for other capable, driven individuals.

At one time no level of success seemed enough for Bill. He learned at West Point that the way to solve problems was to persevere through any pain. But this approach didn’t seem to work with reducing his stress. When he finished his second marathon a few minutes slower than his goal, he felt he had failed. So to make things “right” he ran another marathon just five weeks later. His body rejected this idea, and he finished anhour slower than before. Finally, his wife convinced him to figure out what was really driving his stress. He spent the next several years searching for ways to find more joy in the journey. In the process he found five tools. Each was ordinary enough but together they proved life-changing and enabled his later success as an Apple executive.

Breathing. He started small by taking three deep breaths each time he sat down at his desk. He found it helped him relax. After three breaths became a habit, he expanded to a few minutes a day. He found he was more patient, calmer, more in the moment. Now he does 30 minutes a day. It restores his perspective while enabling him to take a fresh look at a question or problem and come up with new solutions. Deep breathing exercises have been part of yoga practices for thousands of years, but recentresearch done at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital document the positive impact deep breathing has on your body’s ability to deal with stress.

Meditating. When Bill first heard about meditation, he figured it was for hippies. But he was surprised to find meditators he recognized: Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Marc Benioff and Russell Simmons among them. Encouraged, he started with a minute a day. His meditation consisted of “body scanning” which involved focusing his mind and energy on each section of the body from head to toe. Recent research at Harvard has shown meditating for as little as 8 weeks can actually increase the grey matter in the parts of the brain responsible for emotional regulation and learning. In other words, the meditators had increased their emotional control and brain power!

Listening. Bill found if he concentrated on listening to other people the way he focused when he meditated his interaction immediately became richer. The other person could feel he was listening, almost physically. And when they knew he was listening they formed a bond with him faster. Life almost immediately felt richer and more meaningful. As professor Graham Bodie has empirically noted, listening is the quintessential positive interpersonal communication behavior.

Questioning. This tool isn’t about asking other people questions, it’s about questioning the thoughts your mind creates. Just because your mind creates a thought doesn’t make it true. Bill got in the habit of asking himself “Is that thought true?” And if he wasn’t absolutely certain it was, he just let it go. He said: “Thank your mind for coming up with the thought and move on. I found this liberating because it gave me an outlet for negative thoughts, a relief valve I didn’t have before.” The technique of questioning your thoughts has been popularized by Byron Katie who advocates what she calls “the great undoing.” Her experience and research show there is power in acknowledging rather than repressing negative thoughts. Instead of trying to ignore something we believe to be true, questioning allows us to see our thoughts “face to face” so to speak and to discredit them because they are untrue.

Purpose. Bill committed to living with purpose. Not so much his life’s purpose. It was easier than that. He committed to purposefully doing whatever he was doing. To be doing it and only it. If he decided to watch TV he really watched it. If he was having a meal he took the time to enjoy the meal. There is research to support Bill’s experience. In “A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons: An Empirical Study of Work Without Email” Gloria Mark and Armand Cardello cite evidence to suggest knowledge workers check email as much as 36 times an hour. The result is increased stress. Giving each activity your undivided attention ensures you’re in the moment and fully living that experience.

An important key for Bill in all of this was starting small—very small. It’s important because you can’t take on stress in a stressful way. Often we try to bring about change through sheer effort and we put all of our energy into a new initiative. But you can’t beat stress using the same techniques that created the stress in the first place.

Instead, the key is to do less than you feel you want to. If you feel like breathing for two minutes, do it for just one minute. If you are up for a day of really listening to people deeply, do it for the next meeting only. Leave yourself eager to try it again. What you want is to develop a sustainable habit: a stress-free approach to reducing your stress.

More like this? Get a free excerpt from Greg’s upcoming book, “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by subscribing here.

 

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The Case For Deleting All Your Apps

I beg you. It will change your life.

You are a hoarder, and it’s a problem.

You probably hide it well — there are no rooms with old newspapers stacked to the ceilings, and no freezers full of dead cats — but your phone’s home screen, which is quickly and eerily becoming one of the most telling expressions of one’s true personality, gives you away. It’s a mess, and so are you. I know because I was one, too.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, there’s an easy trick that can improve your smartphone enormously. It’s easy to do and remarkably painless: delete your apps. All of them. Every last one that you’re allowed to delete.

This sounds crazier than it actually is, so hear me out. A few weeks ago, I was running a developer version of iOS 7 that expired, causing my phone (as well as many others across the country) to deactivate without warning. Impatiently — ever the hoarder, a true addict — I decided to wipe my phone, start from scratch and restore my apps and contacts from a previous backup, a month or so old.

But before I restored my phone I glanced down at my clean default home screen. No Twitter. No email. No contacts. So I delayed. A few hours passed without a single push notification or alert. It was, for lack of a better word, kind of tranquil.

My current home screen.

Then reality set in. Not only do I not have the luxury of ignoring my email, or the news, it’s not something I want to completely distance myself from. So instead of restoring, I started to rebuild.

Twitter is, without question, the most-used app on my phone, followed by Gmail. So I went to the App Store and downloaded both. A few hours later, I had to go meet some friends at a place I’d never been to. I downloaded Google Maps. I wanted to listen to some music on the way, so I picked up Spotify, a service I pay $10 a month to use offline. A couple hours after that I got the urge to post some dumb picture to Instagram so I caved and downloaded that as well.

At first this felt like a useful, but temporary, exercise — I could see, at least, which apps are truly most important to me. But as I lived with my new, lean homescreen for a while, something started to change. Fewer apps meant fewer distractions; I found myself checking my phone less frequently.

That’s not to say it turned my phone into a brick. By downloading only the apps I use regularly or rely on the most (Pocket for ‘read it later’ things, Simplenote for interview transcription and to-do lists, and Chromecast to watch videos on my TV) I felt like I wasn’t shutting out technology, but maximizing efficiency. More importantly, I was enjoying using my phone more.

This past Sunday, while watching football with a group of friends, I found myself more engrossed in the actual games. I was looking at my phone far less than anyone in the room, and I wasn’t jealous.

Of course there’s no right or wrong way to use your phone, which you bought and you spend hundreds of dollars to maintain. But I hope my case can be instructive. Before deleting my apps, I would listlessly swipe and unlock and tap and lock, mostly out of habit and with no real intent or purpose, whenever I felt the slightest onset of boredom. Notifications from apps I’d opened once, months ago, would routinely distract me from something I was doing.

Taken individually these are not serious problems — more like occasional nuisances and inefficiencies. But they add up. My less cluttered phone feels both essential and less demanding.

The best case scenario is that you delete your apps and feel relief, increase your efficiency, and de-clutter the most important device in your life. Worst case, you merely come to think more clearly about how you use technology. And it’s no major inconvenience — this isn’t some digital detox fad diet, and you’re not really giving up anything but a few minutes of your time. It’s as simple as this: an app that you might only idly check isn’t necessarily an app that you’d re-download.

It’s also changed how I see iOS. For example, I’ve come to realize that Apple’s expanded folders are, it turns out, just a somewhat convenient way to solve one of iOS’s biggest problems, by allowing you to quarantine all of Apple’s terrible stock apps into their own trash bin folder. I call mine ‘Apple Crap.’

Any risk is both mild and avoidable: If you back up your phone you can always get your apps back. They’ll be free to re-download in the App Store and Google Play, and both Apple and Android are pretty good about saving your settings — still, be careful and make sure important data and media is backed up.

Anyway, do this. The cost is nil and the potential payoff is huge. Nuke your homescreen. Cleanse your phone. Save yourself. It’s worth it.

 

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Can Angela and Tim Create Apple 3.0 — Or Not?

by Steve Tappin -

 

 

Since the sad passing of the visionary Steve Jobs, Apple seems to be losing its magic. Today it made a bold and eye-catching appointment by poaching Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry.

For me this raises three fundamental questions:

  • Can she really make an impact?
  • What does this mean for CEO Tim Cook and can they work successfully together?
  • What does this mean for the future of Apple?

From my work as a CEO confidant and author of ‘The Secrets of CEOs’, I have met with thousands of different business leaders. I realized that there was not one way of being a CEO but seven different types in the Western world. Each typically has different motives, strengths and challenges.

Steve Jobs was a corporate entrepreneur. He was driven by the obsession and love that he had for his products, and his personal mission to put a dent in the universe. He achieved this through relentless determination, and the support of his trusted lieutenants.

Angela Ahrendts and Tim Cook are both very different characters from both Steve Jobs and each other, and have different CEO types. It is important to understand these types and that Angela and Tim will have different ways of working:

Tim Cook

Tim came from a logistics background and is a professional manager operator:

 

Angela Ahrendts

Angela is a combination of two types of CEO, which we typically don’t see in one individual leader:

Angela is unique in drawing on her strengths to put both customers and people at the heart of a business. At Burberry she was able to create value on a global basis, by focusing the Burberry brand in on the millennials and creating a connected culture that also joined employees together.

In addition to her CEO type, she has a reputation for being an outstanding personal leader with strong values and beliefs. She is global in outlook and able to blend well with different cultures. Her experience of harnessing beauty and style from the fashion industry could be invaluable.

In some ways Angela and Tim can complement each other. She is likely to bring a fresh customer, brand and leadership focus to Apple, assuming they can work well together. An obvious tension is that she is clearly a potential CEO succession candidate and is likely to have strong views that will challenge traditional Apple conventions. So it will be critical for them to build trust – which is a strength of hers – and for Tim to work with her to harness her contribution rather than exert his authority.

How Could They Best Work Together?

 

 

 

They have the potential to build a close partnership. However the technological breakthroughs and new product categories that Apple fans crave are not likely to be their particular strength. They’ll need to rely on harnessing the guardians of innovation, especially Jony Ive, to invent the pioneering products and technology thatTim can mass-produce and Angela can market.

The key will be to create a close-knit fellowship where each of them can harness their strengths. This will give them the best chance of adding value together as they find the key to positioning Apple within a global multi-channel customer world.

What Could Be The Future For Apple?

I can see three scenarios for Apple.

Dream Scenario: Apple 3.0

“Apple 2.0″ saw the return of Steve Jobs and the amazing home run of the iPod, iPhone & iPad. It became the most valuable company in the world because it created breakthrough innovative products which were simply and beautifully designed, operating within connected ecosystems that positively impacted many of our lives. Apple also created flagship cool retail environments where we could get a physical taste of the Apple experience.

In Apple 3.0, TimAngela and Jony work in fellowship and rediscover the old Apple cool and excitement. They find breakthroughs in products and services, with new categories such as TVs and watches, and again dream up things we never even knew we needed… not just cheap plastic color iPhones. Together they innovate the next generation of cool customer experiences, with Angela helping to bridge the digital and technological world with the latest real-world developments in music and fashion. As the Apple brand evolves, it finds a way to be both aspirational and accessible in the emerging markets. Apple goes on to be the outstanding company of the next decade and create the most value by far again.

Second Scenario: Apple The Customer Experience Company

Steve Jobs’s “reality distortion field” fades and Apple stops being the product-breakthrough company that its diehard fans fell in love with. Instead, we see decent products and services, that are then beautifully packaged and styled and integrated into great customer experiences.

A bit like a Virgin, the company takes a solid product offering that is the same or slightly better than the competition, and then adds sizzle.

In this situation, Angela is best placed to be the CEO who makes this future real. Maybe most of the value of the company is sustained. However, in the long-term, the risk is that Apple fans see this aas too much style and not enough substance.

Third Scenario: Apple Becomes Just Another Company

Not my preference but we see slippage and erosion of the brand. Management isn’t able to work together and there are boardroom battles and churn at the top. The leadership team is never able to recapture or reinvent the Jobs gene and magic. Apple gradually gets incremental while SamsungGoogleTencent et al gradually overtake them.

People are so emotionally attached to Apple that nothing but the dream scenario will do for most investors and fans of the company. However, the arrival of Angela Ahrendts increases the chances of that dream scenario Apple 3.0 happening, as well as other valuable futures for Apple too.

Steve Jobs is a tough act to follow for any CEO, and Tim and Angela have their work cut out. However, I believe that this appointment is one of Tim Cook’s best decisions so far, and definitely increases the chances of success.

Good luck Angela.

 

 

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How a Blank Piece of Paper Can be the Best Tool for Your Small Business

8089254-girl-is-holding-a-blank-paper-sheetStatistically, new small businesses have the odds against them, with more than half failing within the first five years, according to the Small Business Administration.

They’ve hamstrung themselves even more recently with their reluctance to hire new employees. Almost 80 percent of small businesses did little to no hiring this summer, according to the National Federation of Independent Business.

“No new employees, no new ideas, no new projects – too many entrepreneurs have become paralyzed by fear and uncertainty,” says Michael E. Gerber, http://tinyurl.com/DreamingRoom, best-selling author of “The E-Myth: Why Most Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It” and creator of the world’s first incubator for entrepreneurs, The Dreaming Room.

Instead of operating out of a place of extreme caution, essentially treading water and just waiting for something good to happen, Gerber says small business owners should sit down with a blank piece of paper and a “beginner’s mind.”

“With that paper in front of you, open your mind to all you’ve never thought of and  create something that doesn’t exist: a product, a service, a system,” he says. “That will awaken your creativity and inspire innovation. Create something new!”

Gerber cites the general lack of consumer excitement over Apple’s newest iPhones, the 5S and 5C.

“They’re not new!” he says. “People have come to expect something truly new every time Apple comes out with something, so they’re disappointed.”

How else can small-business owners reframe their thinking and tap into that spark that initially set them on their course?

• Don’t be so mired in today that you don’t lay the groundwork for infinite possibilities tomorrow. Modesty is often seen as a virtue, but if you’re an entrepreneur, it’s a tragic flaw. What if Steve Jobs’ ambition was to make electronics “a little bit better?” What would the world look like today without iTunes, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Jobs started out with only $5,000 – but also a grand vision that he believed in. Thousands of entrepreneurs see their business as a means of doing their work autonomously; they get by and see this as a win. But that modest success may be a tragic handicap.

• Self-employment is one thing; a thriving business is something altogether different. A small business starts with an idea, but too often the idea is: “I have a talent (or technical skill); I’ll build my business around my execution of that talent.” While this may create the means for self-employment, it closes off the avenues for growth. When a business owner trusts no one else to get the work done, he or she can’t pull away enough to develop new ideas, new products and new opportunities to grow. Find people who can replicate the technical aspects of what you do so that you’re free to explore, experiment and test.

• Make sure everyone is working toward the same goal. A small business is a system in which all parts contribute to the success or failure of the whole. A human body cannot move forward unless all parts cooperate. If your employees are working toward different goals, they’re not only not moving the business forward, they’re not playing as a team. Foster creativity, enthusiasm and energy by clearly communicating the dream and the importance and value of each person’s contribution toward it.

 

 

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The Cheap iPhone That Wasn’t

Apple still won’t compete for price-conscious consumers. That’s an increasingly risky strategy.

By  -

Apple employees walk towards the Apple Headquarters to attend Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' memorial service in Cupertino, California, on October 19, 2011.

The new iPhone 5C is definitely colorful. But is it a good deal?

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

For the last six years, Apple has had a simple, increasingly risky plan for selling the iPhone. Every year, the company makes only one new model, a phone that represents Apple’s platonic ideal—the one phone it thinks everybody ought to have. Apple usually sells the new phone for around $650, and wireless carriers sell it to customers for $199 with a two-year plan. To hedge its bets against low-priced competitors, Apple also keeps selling its previous models, reducing the price of each by $100. Last year, when Apple unveiled the iPhone 5, it kept selling 2011’s iPhone 4S for $550 ($99 with a contract), and the 2010 iPhone 4 sold for $450 (free with a contract).

The advantage of this strategy is clear. Unlike its competitors, which make dozens of phones every year, Apple can focus its design and manufacturing energies on a single new model, and it can push customers to purchase its highest-end, highest-margin device. But the downside is clear, too. The iPhone is Apple’s biggest business, accounting for two-thirds of its profits. By releasing only one new phone every year, Apple keeps putting more and more of its eggs in a single basket. What if that basket has a buggy antenna? What if it doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade? What if its screen isn’t big enough for some customers? What if it’s just too expensive?

This year was supposed to be different. For months now, analysts have speculated that Apple would finally do what many observers (including yours truly) have long called on it to do—to diversify its iPhone lineup. The logic seemed obvious. Samsung, Apple’s fiercest rival, has been cleaning up in developing markets like India and China by offering models that cater to every market niche, from the low end to the high end. By making a new phone that sold for around $300 to $400 without a carrier subsidy—which is how many people in developing markets buy phones—Apple would be able to compete for price-conscious phone buyers, creating a whole new class of iPhone users who currently can’t afford Apple’s shiny baubles.

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But today, Apple whiffed. At the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., CEO Tim Cook did unveil two new iPhones rather than just one. But neither of these phones is the cheap iPhone that people had been predicting. Indeed, Apple didn’t really change its pricing strategy in any meaningful way. Across the globe, it will still be charging the same for its phones as it always has. It’s not a stretch to say that instead of a good price, Apple is now offering budget-conscious consumers around the world a strange deal: OK, the iPhone isn’t any cheaper than it used to be. But hey, look, it comes in lots of colors! Colors! Even pink! How will you be paying?

The new top-of-the-line model—called the iPhone 5S—looks the same as today’s iPhone 5, but it’s got a faster processor, a better camera, and a fingerprint scanner that lets you unlock your phone much quicker than with a password. (I tried it out at Apple’s demo area and found it very easy to set up and speedy to use.) The 5S—which comes in black, white, and gold—will sell for $650, or $199 with a contract, the same as last year’s iPhone 5.

Then there’s the iPhone 5C—the long-rumored cheap iPhone that isn’t. It’s made of plastic instead of the aluminum found on the bigger iPhone. It comes in five colors: green, blue, yellow, pink, and white. Other than that, it’s got the same internals as the iPhone 5: same camera, same processor, same capabilities. And same price. Indeed, the 5C is so similar to the 5 that Apple is discontinuing that model. The 5C will sell for $550, or $99 with a contract. This isn’t a cheap phone. And if the 5C is cheaper for Apple to produce than the 5 would have been—which seems plausible given its plastic body—it might even be a way for Apple to boost its profit margins rather than scale them back.

This is a bold move. In the tech business, it’s rare—and perhaps even unprecedented—for a product to keep its prices steady year after year after year. By holding the line against lower-priced phones, Apple will be able to keep its profit margins high—and at Apple, profits are sacrosanct, considered more important than sales and market share. But refusing to give an inch on prices is also extremely risky. The next big phase of growth in the smartphone market is going to occur in places around the world where people don’t have a lot of money. What’s more, the utility of a $200 phone is quickly approaching that of a $550 phone. If you live in India and you’ve got only $300 or $400 to spend on a phone, the only iPhone you might be able to afford is the iPhone 4S—a 3-year-old device with a tiny screen. Or you can choose Google’s Nexus 4, which sells for $200, and is pretty fantastic in every way. In other words, at that price, you’d be a fool to get an iPhone.

But if the 5C is not any cheaper than the 5 would have been, why did Apple go to all the trouble to make it? Why depart from the just-sell-last-year’s-model plan if the new device is pretty much the same as last year’s, only dressed up in a colorful new shell? I suspect it’s because Apple believes the colors will prove an important selling point. Yes, really.

Two years ago, I argued that one of Apple’s underappreciated skills is the way it cunningly plays with the colors of its devices in order to make old things look new. “Apple makes us covet certain colors today, while also making us scoff at the colors it convinced us to covet yesterday,” I wrote. “Every few years, it cycles through a new palette for its gadgets—it goes from white to black to multicolor to silver and back again. As it shifts, the whole gadget world moves along, too.” I ended that piece with a prediction. Because it would become increasingly difficult for Apple to change the design of the iPhone—you can’t do much with a slab of rectangular glass—the only element left to play with was the color. “A new color, for Apple, can represent as much of a reason to upgrade as a new processor,” I wrote, predicting that we’d soon see the iPhone come in a variety of colors.

And that’s what’s happening now. The iPhone 5C doesn’t do anything different from the iPhone 5. But because it looks different—because it comes in colors—Apple believes it can sell it as something new, something worthier of your attention than last year’s model. In India and China, Apple devices are often considered to be “Veblen goods,” meaning that they are attractive precisely because they are more expensive than rivals. Part of their appeal is the fact that you can’t afford them. The 5C’s colors make that exclusivity part of the sales plan: Here’s the new iPhone. Sure, it’s just out of your price range. But it’s colorful. Everyone will notice it. Surely you can save up for blue.

 

 

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