It’s amazing to watch the wonderful marketing job executed by Apple a couple week’s ago with the launch of their new phone. They are not only a great brand, and company with highly in-demand products, but what most people overlook is just how good they are at marketing, especially with new product launches. The release of the new iPhone 5 is another marketing clinic in-action and serves as the genesis and inspiration for this month’s Marketing Spotlight.

Tony note: I do not own shares of Apple, but I am a fan of many of their products. And, before you ask or send me emails, I do not own an iPhone.

Okay, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and prepare yourself as I reveal three key marketing lessons from Apple that we can all learn and benefit from.

#1. They are masters at engaging their customers. This is so hard to find, especially within big companies. Often times large firms become prisoners of politics and ‘company policy’ when it comes to making customers ‘Raving Fans’ as leadership guru Ken Blanchard would say. Apple has been masterful at tuning into the pulse of its loyal customers and internal team members to identify entirely new markets that have made them a fortune. This almost, “cult-like” fanaticism by both customers and staff is rarely seen and often the standard that many large firms shoot to model and replicate. Conceptually this sounds easy, but in the real-world it’s often difficult to pull off.

In the age of massive choice, advertising overload, and instant communication, Apple clearly has its ear to the ground to gather customer feedback –good and bad- to help them distance themselves from any competition. While listening to customers should be common sense and a top priority, for far too many businesses of all shapes and sizes it’s not the case. Apple knows, and leverages the power of true customer engagement. I have a quote to sum up this point: “Don’t tell people what you intend to do. Show up each day and prove to them that you walk your talk!”

#2. They create cool products that get people talking. It seems that almost everything Apple touches turns to gold. They design not only great products but they understand how to design and make products cool to be seen with. From the iPod to the iPhone, they have a decided edge in this area that gets people talking and the cash register ringing and their merchant account singing with incredible sales and profits.

Here’s another overlooked example of what Apple does better than most that so few people really grasp and see the massive value contained: their retail stores. For example, I was amazed by what I witnessed when walking by their Spokane, Washington store a few months ago near closing time. As the doors were being closed I noticed a couple of rent-a-cops clearly positioned near the front store entrance. My mental perception and first reactions were, this place is valuable, what’s going on here, and step back from the entrance right now. I was floored and made a mental marketing note and here’s why: It demonstrated not only a posture of importance, but it also showed that this store takes its image and reputation to a whole different level.

Having a retail location is no cake walk. It’s a tough business to compete in –especially for small retailers- and every little edge or unique idea can make or break the bottom line. It’s easy to see that Apple understands this and the design, feel, and look of their stores screams of uniqueness and style. If I owned a retail store, I’d make it a point to mystery shop an Apple store with my staff and observe the many things they do well, that we could borrow and adapt for our in-store experience. In marketing circles we call this S&D which stands for Swipe and Deploy. Again, so few businesses understand this powerful strategy, yet alone employ it on a regular basis.

#3. They are masters at leveraging free publicity. I’ve sometimes wondered if Apple secretly pays off the global press for the amazing hype and coverage they receive before, during and after they launch a new product? I pose this question, because any other large, publicly traded company would trip over themselves and consider offering up their first born child as a sacrifice, if they could achieve even a fraction of the free publicity and positive press Apple gets time and time again. Like clockwork, you can almost set it to the day that when they ‘leak’ to the global and industry press they’re working on something new or an upgrade, and then watch the free media frenzy begin.

Why do I bring this up you might be thinking? It’s simple: what’s the marketing lesson to be learned here. I’m a student of persuasion and marketing and again the quote “Success leaves clues” as Tony Robbins famously coined, years ago, and here’s why: I love to learn from good marketing and see what steps my clients, associates, and my own business can glean and use from it.

Apple not only has a great reputation but a smart marketing plan for attracting media coverage. It’s not an accident folks, but a clear, well executed and deliberate marketing plan. From well timed media releases, product release dates (can you see the people lined up outside the stores already?), to well-staged product release announcements and events, no PR stone goes unturned. I occasionally am brought into a client to advise on media strategy and I often look at what Apple does as they ‘gold standard’ for optimizing media coverage.

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