In 1997 ‘The Crazy Ones’, a commercial made by Apple, aired with the slogan: Think different. Steve Jobs, co-founder of the company and former CEO, voiced the commercial, which contained a story that reflected the philosophy he thought Apple had to reinforce. In an interview for PBS, the American non-commercial educational television channel, Steve Jobs elaborated on the way he saw the future of consumers. He said: “Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use”.
Because of his eccentricity and revolutionary vision, Steve Jobs has become one of the most inspirational business men from the last decade. However, I especially found the interview for PBS a great example of his extraordinary insight in consumers. As the article by Franke, Keinz & Schreier, (2008) states: ‘Many companies in various industries have begun to offer their customers the opportunity to design their own products online’. Which for me is a direct translation of Steve Jobs insight, namely building your own things (also called customization). When surfing online you can find customization for brands like Nike (Sneakers), BMW (X3 model), IKEA (kitchens) and of course Apple (computers).
In Apple’s case, depending on which Mac you choose, you may have many configuration options or just a few. You can change or add hard drives, optical drives, workstation-grade graphics cards, screen size, memory etc. etc. However, if you are like me, you do not know what these options really do for your computer and are overwhelmed by these modules, as discussed in class. Fortunately Apple explains the meaning of their options for your computer, so that when customizing you know the effect of the levels you may or may not choose.
However, the utility gained from the mass customization depends on several interaction effects, as discussed in the article by Dellaert & Stremersch, (2005). In the basic model the product utility has a positive effect on the customization utility, whereas the process complexity has a negative effect on both the product and customization utility. It is therefore important that Apple does not overcomplicate the process of customization, since this will lower both the product and customization utility. As also discussed in the article by Huffman & Kahn, (1998): ‘Retailers who implement a high variety strategy need to ensure that customers are not confused with the complexity inherent in a wide assortment of options’.
I believe companies are reacting to the needs of consumers by offering this customization option. The search for individualism led to consumers wanting more personalized products, which they could not achieve in the current environment, with products pre-designed for them. And this is what Steve Jobs meant with the quote mentioned earlier. When consumers start realizing they are just as smart as the persons making their products, why not make it themselves? As the commercial of Apple in 1997 says: ‘The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do’. You just have to think differently.