Customer Relationship Management - Key Marketing Mantra, says Former Apple Executive

Written on 27 February 2013.

EDHEC Students

MSc in Marketing Management students had a unique opportunity to learn about customer relationship management (CRM) from former Apple executive Bruno Didier. CRM, noted Mr. Didier, made Apple what it is today. His talk, given to the programme’s ninety-two students of twenty different nationalities, was part of Jean-Pierre Dolait’s CRM course.

Didier highlighted Apple’s strategy during its revival and compared it with that of another industry leader, IBM. Although both Apple are IBM are in good shape, the pace of profits and sales growth at Apple underscores the different paths that the two companies have taken. Under Steve Jobs, Apple built itself into a profit machine through a string of hit consumer electronics products, starting with the iPod digital media player (in 2002), followed by the iPhone (2007) and the iPad (2010). He also noted that Apple achieved all this in a much shorter period, with just 1/7th of IBM’s headcount.

Didier attributed Apple’s market leadership to its size in absolute terms, saying, “Absolute size matters, not volume; Apple focuses on an insanely great customer experience with Apple products. The company has always been clear on this focus.” Didier also talked about how careful they are when it comes to managing perceptions of the brand. “At Apple,” he said, “we have always tried to ensure that people get the right image, the right definition of Apple—who Apple is, what it’s all about.”

He also discussed managing the company’s foreign suppliers and manufacturers. He said that Foxconn, for example, manufactures Apple products that are beautiful and that meet their needs. Apple trusts such suppliers, and relies on them heavily, and Apple as a company puts huge amounts of resources into such partners. He also referred to current Apple CEO Tim Cook’s efforts to ensure that such suppliers as Foxconn complied with rules and regulations after reports (later found to have been exaggerated) of poor working conditions at Foxconn’s Chinese factories.

Come back: From Apple Computer to Apple Inc.
Didier reiterated the essence of Apple’s core value, which relies on the phrase “People with passion can change the world.” He talked about Steve Jobs’clear objective to come up with a revival plan centred around the idea “Think Different” and make products “Better, and Simpler” for their users. “Steve Jobs, as a leader, was able to simplify the perception of the brand. He reduced the product lines to two market segments: the public and professionals, and to two ranges: desktop and laptop. It was clear to everyone—from top to lower-level management, from distributors to customers. For a high-tech enterprise to prosper, it always takes a charismatic leader, like Steve Jobs, who provides a focused vision and attracts new talent. He was extraordinarily creative and was both a technocrat and a manager,” said Didier.

Apple Inc—What lies ahead?
During Didier’s visit to EDHEC’s Lille campus, our in-house journalist had an opportunity to ask him about the road ahead, especially after Jobs' untimely death in October 2011. On the question of challenges facing Apple today, Didier acknowledged the tough competition from archrivals like Samsung that use Google’s Android platform, but expressed his belief in Apple’s ability to innovate, which would help Apple maintain its market leadership. When asked whether Apple now faces any sort of leadership crisis, Didier expressed confidence in Cook, the current CEO: “Although no one can take Jobs’s place, Tim knows how to carry forward with the legacy that Jobs has left. Tim is doing a great job.”

About Bruno Didier
Apple appointed Air France marketing head Bruno Didier as its vice-president of marketing for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa to replace Nigel Turner in July 1999. Didier took charge of all marketing communications, product marketing, and vertical marketing for the region. Before joining Air France, Didier was head of PC products for Compaq in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and vice-president of marketing for Compaq Europe.


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