Yesterday, Apple announced the hiring of Angela Ahrendts to head up its Retail division, which recently reported a decline in performance for the first time in four years. Interestingly, Ahrendts, the former CEO of high-end apparel company Burberry, will be in charge of both the online and physical retail presence, the first time the company’s merged the two aspects of the retail division, in fact.
While the hiring of Ahrendts may not make much of an impact on the daily life of the average Apple customer, it’ll be interesting to see the ways in which the digital and physical retail locations for the company shift and change under her direction. Moreover, the fact that Burberry is the kind of store that only fancy people go to—which is why, as an official non-fancy, I had to Google it to make sure I knew just what, exactly, it was—further reveals what Apple thinks of its own products. In short: it doesn’t make gadgets or electronics, rather, Apple creates fashionable items that reflect a certain kind of status.
That distinction is important, too, as it anyone could easily make an argument that Apple products’ significance as status symbols is a large part of why the company’s been so successful against its competitors. Time for some generalizations! Here we go.
Microsoft and its line of Windows-based products are geared towards folks who want to get stuff done—or, in other words, nerds (like me!). Focusing on productivity means that you’re going for substance first, style second. While that isn’t always true for every product the company makes, it took a long, long while for Microsoft to figure out the role aesthetics play in getting a customer interested. Even now, the company’s still refining its line of Surface products, and until recently, PCs were beige bricks of boring. This guy knows what I’m talking about:
Not that Jeff Goldblum is the authority on what’s cool, but he is a chaos scientist. So there’s that.
To get back on subject, Android has managed to carve a niche for itself as a kind of hip, DIY alternative to the Apple’s i-line. A lot of people who get Android products do so because of the emphasis on openness and customizability that comes with the operating system. And there’s also something to be said for being the anti-Apple…that functions in mostly all the same ways as Apple. Those two notes are all that this ad relies on to make meaning:
But Apple’s ads ever since the debut of the iPhone have been about one thing: how great Apple products are. Bringing Ahrendts on board to shape the way the company sells its products to customers will only continue on its path of focusing on how owning an Apple product is both the means and the end: you’re cool if you own one, and if you own one, you’re cool. I’m keen to see what changes, if any, Ahrendts brings to Apple’s storefronts now that she’s minding the store.