When Apple’s iPods, iPads and iPhones started showing up in Walmart a few years ago, the natural question was whether their availability at the place that promises low prices would hurt the Apple brand.
This is an even more relevant question with Walmart’s announcement that it has a no-contract, unlimited calling and texting plan in partnership with Straight Talk Wireless when customers purchase an iPhone.
Beyond that is the specialty vs. mass-market question. For premium brands, the medium is as important as the message. Logically, if products are sold at a place like Walmart, they are associated with low price and, probably, lower quality.
But Apple has two other things going for it:
First, Apple does not discount its pricing at Walmart.
Second, Apple did not launch its products at Walmart. The Apple Stores came first, which is an important distinction. Apple didn’t enter Walmart until it had already established itself as a powerful and premium brand.
In effect, Apple helped the Walmart brand, which now has permission to sell other premium products. It could now sell luxury furniture at a lower cost and the furniture would still be seen as high-end.
In this Apple-Walmart marriage, Apple got greater distribution and Walmart got the aroma of premium. It was the best of both worlds.