localization Case Study: Apple


Apple’s product strategy has three main features:

● Owning and controlling the primary technologies behind it’s product.

● Giving Importance to user experience.

● Tightly focused product portfolio.


Apple created a successful advertising campaign in America that was designed to highlight the differences between PCs and Macs. The adverts featured a cool, laid-back hipster-type representing the Mac and a staid, nerdy-looking actor to represent PCs. The two highlighted features in a series of commercials that emphasized how much “cooler” Mac’s were than PCs.

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How this Ad worked in Japan

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Source: scottkelby.com

When it was time to expand this campaign to Japan, Apple carefully examined the cultural aspects of Japanese society and concluded that the previous ads would work for consumers in Japan. In Japan, directly criticzising one’s rivals is seen as offensive as well as derogatory, which was not the message Apple wanted to convey.

The Japanese version of these ads employed a duo from the established Japanese comedy troupe, Rahmens, which focused on the idea that Mac’s were more for personal, weekend use, while PCs were primarily for office use. This resulted in Apple winning over the Japanese Consumer Market with its localised advertising strategy.

How Apple Localised for CHINA

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Source: 9to5mac

In line with Apple’s general product strategy, Apple largely provides the same software experience to Chinese users. For instance, the layout of Apple’s mainland Chinese website is consistent with its English language website, instead of following the more “cluttered” philosophy of Chinese website design. Chinese versions of iOS and Mac OS are largely the same.

● OS — level integration with Chinese Internet services ( Baidu, Weibu Youku, Tudou) allowed Chinese iPhone users to sign into Chinese social networking services more easily in order to share content using an operating system-level user interface.

● Baidu was made the default search engine for searches carried out using the default Safari browser.

Another important product strategy that Apple used to capture the Chinese Market was changing the colour it used in the industrial design of its products, to suit China’s Consumer Behaviour (More on this — https://www.locnapps.com/china-consumer-behaviour/). This is an apt example of Chinese preferences impacting Apple’s product strategy. It is also important to note that in the beginning of 2018, Apple sold China-specific iPhones’ with two nano-SIM cards, instead of the Dual SIM with an email version sold in the rest of the world .

The gold version of the iPhone 5s sold out most quickly and earned the moniker of tuhaojin in China. This same phenomenon occurred with the rose gold version of the iPhone 5s and the gold Apple Watch Edition, which sold out within its first hour in China(Hein, 2015) This strategy was less successful in 2018, by which time the smartphone market in China had become saturated.

At this point , it is worth observing that Apple has a significantly weaker lock-in in China compared to other countries, thus consumer’s switch away from the iPhone more easily and are more sensitive to the iPhone’s industrial design. This is in part caused by Apple’s services being less popular compared to cross-platform Chinese Internet services (most notably WeChat). It is a compromise Apple made at the request of the Chinese carriers.

Apple has only made very minimal product localizations for the Chinese market. This is the natural consequence of its product strategy and functional organisational structure.

By Umadevi
Team Loc-N-Apps

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