With another classic Steve Jobs performance, Apple announced a spate of new product offerings yesterday (read Mike Hofman's take here). These include a tiny iPod Shuffle, a video device that plugs into your TV, downloadable movies from Disney, and an ever so slightly redesigned iPod Nano. That last item hasn't received much attention, but I'd argue that it illustrates why the company has been so successful over the past few years.
In Inc.'s September issue, I write that increasingly popular secondary markets like eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon are a serious threat to anyone who makes or sells consumer goods. Why should I buy a new Motorola RAZR or a Fendi handbag or a Trek bicycle when I can cop a nearly new one on eBay for a fraction of the price? Some companies are now starting to address this issue, introducing trade-in-trade-up programs (Callaway) or creating their own secondary marketplaces (Ticketmaster).
Apple started its own trade-in program last year, but that's only a small part of its secondary market strategy. Steve Jobs and company are masters of repackaging. (To see what I mean, check out this Saturday Night Live sketch.) The ubiquitous iPod has been around for five years and sold 60 million units, and yet every year or so the company touts some new design innovation that causes consumers and journalists to swoon with delight—and buy new iPods.
Remember when Apple pulled the iPod Mini—the top selling MP3 player of all time—off the market at the height of its popularity and replaced it with the Nano? It seemed a strange thing to do (and Apple was roundly criticized), but it worked. Released yesterday, the "completely remastered" Nano is basically the old Nano with a metallic finish. That hardly seems like an innovation, but I bet it'll be enough to entice current iPod users to trade up, while making last year's model seem utterly unhip (and unattractive to eBay shoppers).
Of course, it's easy to constantly introduce new (or new-seeming) products when you're Apple, but not so if you're a small manufacturer. I offer a few examples of secondary market strategies in my story, but I wonder what other companies are doing. What's your secondary market strategy?