McApple

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25 years ago I had an opportunity to meet with some executives at McDonald’s. They took me to the employee lunchroom. What impressed me most was a mural that went from one end of the lunch room to the other. Once I realized what it was, I almost cried from the emotional power of its message.

This mural started on the left side showing some toddlers holding a happy meal. It ended on the right side with a senior citizen greeting people in a store, so that he would have an opportunity to get out of the house and feel valuable. In between were phases of human life. A child’s birthday party. A first date. I first job. Saturday afternoon with lots of friends. A second job to make ends meet. Food on the go for a person who didn’t have much time in the middle of the workday. Every scene on this Mural was staged inside of a McDonald’s restaurant.

I get very emotional and tear up when a revelation is expressed eloquently. The executive I was pointed at the mural and said: At McDonald’s we try to look at every aspect of the human experience and think about how we fit in.

At that time, McDonald’s thought deeply about their role as a retailer, as an employer, as a member of the community, and as a customer. At that time, they were the largest recycler of post consumer waste products in the world. They were a profoundly managed company.

So I will put forth to Apple…

Apple needs to stop viewing its customers as “wallets”. It needs to look at each group of people that use its products, and target products for the needs of that user. We are not all corporate executives and fashion models who want a svelte telephone.

There’s a huge market selling iPhones to five-year-old kids. There’s another big market selling them to teenage girls. There is the taxi driver, the refuse collector, the housewife, and the senior citizen who needs bigger print.

Apple should not have 17 versions of the same svelte fashion model executive telephone. They should quit thinking about their customers generically and impersonally. The path to doing this is that Mural in the lunchroom at McDonald’s.

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I’m going to digress for a moment and talk about my days working at AT&T. I worked in an organization called “Administration D”. One of the perks was we got to bring in anybody we wanted to teach us something. One of the people that got brought in was Peter Drucker. He was probably the one of the most famous management consultants in the world at that time.

The future of mass production meant that it may no longer be necessary to stock a single model of telephone in five standard colors. It might be possible to offer a variety of models, and to let the customer make custom selections, and the factory could produce it on demand using mass production efficiencies.

I’m not saying that Apple can mass-produce highly personalized telephones. But I think the economies of scale are big enough that Apple could produce a dozen models of telephones that were actually different, and that targeted different groups of customers.

So I think of McDonalds and that meeting with Peter Drucker at AT&T, and I think there is an opportunity that Apple is missing.

Colin Berkshire