For a product to be a market differentiator it needs to set itself apart from the rest of the competition. There needs to be a maverick quality about it. One of the Apple iPod’s key differentiators, which is often overlooked, are the included white earbuds. While competitors often use dark-colored headphones, the iPod’s design stands out from the crowd.
When iPods first crossed over the tipping point and became a sensation, you could look out into a crowd and without actually seeing the iPod know who had one. Earbuds are an extremely, low-cost differentiator, but they make a significant difference. They are instantly recognizable.
When Apple iPod commercials came out, you saw dark silhouettes dancing with contrasting, white earbuds. Thus, the advertisement focuses on the iPod, the listening device. Even with movement and flashy colors during the commercials, attention is clearly drawn to the device itself.
Apple has always kept an image of thinking different. They make devices, which are tools, an expression of art. In doing so, they do not shy away from taking huge risks to be different. If the iPod became a success everyone would know who owned one by the white earbuds, if the iPod was a failure, everyone would know who owned one by the white earbuds. This is the chance Apple takes by being original. But this also leaves them on the cutting-edge. This is market differentiation at its finest.