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210: It's (Not Necessarily) Fair to Mock Apple's "Mother Nature" Video
Apple's showed a widely criticized video showing their efforts to fight climate change. Looking past the video is a significant and strategic set of initiatives worthy of praise.
Apple's 'Mother Nature' sketch was a complete dud, and didn't belong… // No, no. Issue is much more subtle and practical. Need to separate weird marketing from reality. This is greenwashing but the green is…profit. This isn't Bud Light. Or even "woke" 1/
Mother Nature sketch was a rare dud for the slick Apple launch videoApple paused its iPhone 15 launch for an awkward five-minute comedy sketch showing a personified Mother Nature being impressed by the firm's environmental work — and it didn't belong in the event at a…https://appleinsider.com/articles/23/09/13/apples-mother-nature-sketch-was-a-complete-dud-and-didnt-belong-in-the-iphone-15-event
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2/Sure the presentation might have been awkward or even a dud to some. A quasi-religious tone viz. Mother Nature isn't everyone's approach.
At the same time, every fact or position put forth is a strategic, margin-positive, and innovative effort from Apple. Super important.
3/ Start with packaging. Most people haven't thought much about packaging. Even most who have made something needing a package haven't thought about it. Packaging is *expensive* and necessary. It is also a whole discipline. How many knew you could get a PhD in packaging?
4/ Most companies needing a package go to a vendor. With that you get standard sized boxes, plastic inserts vacuum formed for your product, and then shipping boxes that require more plastic/foam in order to ship by boat or air. THAT is the cheap way to do it, or so you think.
5/ Apple's secret is its classic vertical integration. No vendors. It invents packaging. In reality every fraction of a dimension of volume, weight, and every square dimension of material is an opportunity to optimize. All balanced against transit.
Think of high school egg drop contest.
6/ Almost no one does that. Why? Because it is super difficult and expensive. Most also don't plan their products well enough to build in lead-time to make the package.
The result is not just a work of art and fantastic unboxing experience. IT IS PROFIT.
7/ There not just fewer materials, little->no plastic, but it's smaller, less prone to damage.
Few realize just how difficult it is to package something to ship. Apple said they will use ships more. That means dealing w/ weather extremes over 3 weeks bouncing around the ocean.
8/ Every little dimension shaved is dollars straight to bottom line. In 2023 A shipped 225M iPhones. The packaging step might be $1-2 all up. Shipping even more. If they save $0.50 on that it is $100M straight to bottom line. AND it is vastly better and review-worthy. And green.
9/ Plus, they are able to optimize the materials in creating the package to a high degree which enables further recycling and reuse.
This closed ecosystem is even more strategic when it comes to materials they use to make the phone. It isn't just fun to use recycled Aluminum.
10/ Apple famously bought up Aluminum prototyping machines to turn them into manufacturing machines for the MacBook Air, pioneering the field of machining parts for consumers.
At first this was a huge investment. No one followed. It was a huge topic when developing Surface!!!
11/ The upfront investment and costly material were strategic. Aluminum has many favorable properties, one of which is it is highly recyclable compared to plastic or carbon, how all other devices were made.
12/ But if you outsource this (not even possible) the cost to recycle is very high and unattractive. It is why recycled paper is actually more expensive. You have to capture the paper, transport it, then recycle it, then reuse it. Messy.
13/ Because of Apple's vertical integration they can do all those steps as part of the manufacturing process.
It means they capture the economics of using Aluminum not just once, but throughout the lifecycle of many devices. Across a product line. AMAZING!
14/ No one does this. It is tricky to even name a field where a company invests this much and then subsequently profits by doing so.
They have a *better* phone/laptop that is also more green. Their volumes amplify this.
This isn't just green for nature, it is green for dollars.
15/ If you make a device and need a part you go to the supply chain. The problem is you inherit their green profile and also their parts catalog. You can't dictate all the aspects because you're just one customer. You are stuck with whatever they are willing to sell.
16/ Sure Apple's volumes get respect and control but Apple also puts in their own engineering. They show how to make it with fewer materials. They find ways to get those parts to assembly with less packaging and transit. And so on. Vertical integration that no one does.
17/ You can even see this in accessories. Look at the packaging for cables compared to everyone else. The box is smaller. No plastic wrap around the cable. No metal/plastic twisties. Apple can charge a premium AND have more margin because of their quality and UX.
18/ And, all of this continues with transit. The reason you can get a device door to door next Friday is not because apple spends money others wouldn't. From the factory around the world the integration makes it far more economical.
19/ If you have a UPS subscription you can track your device at every step. You can see how they are made to order yet sorted and selected before leaving the factory. It is really insane. So more efficient, less energy, less moving around. Cheaper AND better AND greener.
20/ Finally, it is easy to see the whole video as sucking up to ESG/woke/green activists. Stuff like carbon credits are very controversial. No matter your view, this is the playing field Apple is part of. If you want permits to build offices or stores, you have to do this work.
21/ So you can just pay lip service or you can also do the work behind the scenes to make it valuable for you. That's also what apple does. Just as Google and Microsoft do, making data centers green is a strategic advantage and profitable. Getting credit is just marketing.
22/ It is easy to see the awkwardness of the video and easy to be annoyed with how CEOs need to do things unrelated to what they do.
Apple has brilliantly turned all of this into a money maker building on their many decades of how they approach manufacturing.
23/ If you haven't selected materials for a few million devices, made a box, built a factory or DC, or shipped units to individuals, then what Apple has done might not be readily apparent.
More here from when we first made Surface. // END