3 things entrepreneurs can learn from Apple’s keynote disaster

Apple iPhone 6, Apple, Keynote, Apple Watch
Apple – Bigger than Bigger?!

Despite reaction to the product announcements at Apple’s latest keynote have been, at best, lukewarm there’s not doubt both the iPhones and Apple Watch will sell.  So, what’s to worry about?  If you’re an Apple executive or investor the answer is lots.

By far the biggest loser from the event was Apple and its reputation.  Having hyped the keynote, according to media reports, far more than usual and with ABC positioning it as featuring a ‘historic’ announcement its failure to live up to top billing, the unveiling of solid, rather than revolutionary product point updates and a smartwatch that  has seriously underwhelmed fans that have waited years for a wearable device, it has seriously damaged the company’s brand.

Here are three mistakes Apple made and what you can learn from them to avoid damaging your reputation and the reputation of your business:

Apple over promised and under-delivered. With new product launches and media announcements there’s always the temptation to hype, hype, hype.  Traditionally understated, media reports suggest Apple got carried away in the weeks and days before the latest keynote and then failed to deliver on the raised expectations.

One of the central pieces of the Apple launch machine under Steve Jobs was that everything… OK, almost everything, was a surprise.  Watch any of the keynotes from Steve’s time at the company and watch audiences go crazy when there was ‘One More Thing’.  It’s always better to deliver something unexpected than fail to deliver what is expected.

 Apple now appears to be taking its customers for granted.  Two new, larger, iPhones that look similar to the handsets they’ve been selling for the last three years.  Yes, they are thinner, they have a few new bells and whistles [nothing that the competition hasn’t already launched] but they’re is little sign of the innovation that got customers standing in line for days ahead of launch.

The Apple Watch is another example of this complacency.  Having been rumoured for years the final [first generation] product was not what most had expected; it definitely wasn’t something that fits easily within the Apple product portfolio.

Apple now believes its own hype. It’s a dangerous position to be in and is the starting point for a fall from grace for Apple.  Whether the company believes it or just wants you to think that it does it sends out the wrong messages – internally and externally. Tim Cook’s over enthusiasm for what added up to less than historic… less than exciting product features and functions like the fact the iPhone 6 is 50% faster than the original [think of Moore’s law and the advances in processing power since the first iPhone was announced and then compare it with a 50% speed bump and tell me whether you’re still impressed] or the glee with which he announced it had trimmed a millimetre or two off of the height of the handset… Apple fanboys are starting to see through the reality distortion field.

The only people that don’t see through it appear to work for Apple.


3 Reasons You Should Copy Apple’s PR But NOT It’s Publicity Strategy

Apple, PR, Public Relations, Publicity
Ed Zitron says you shouldn’t copy Apple’s PR strategy. I disagree.

I read this article by Ed Zitron on the Inc website earlier and tried to comment.  When the comment wouldn’t load for technical reasons [I’m assuming] I thought the comment was worth turning it in to a short blog post.

The point Ed makes is that most  companies shouldn’t try to emulate Apple’s publicity strategy.  Ed calls it PR, but what he is describing is publicity.  Whatever he calls it, I agree.  Apple has a reputation for being media shy until it is ready to talk with the press and for early stage businesses this aloofness is definitely not a way to make friends and influence people.  Another reason I think trying to emulate Apple’s media strategy is wrong is because when the Cupertino-based company has something to announce it always – at least under Steve Jobs – had something worthy of media attention.  I’m not sure the majority of early-stage companies have anything as game-changing as the iPod, iPad, iMac or iPhone with which to tempt the media.

That said, I DO believe that early stage businesses should attempt to emulate Apple’s PR strategy.  Public relations is about building relationships – with the media, customers, prospects, influencers and people that might become customers.  For all it’s reluctance to talk with the media until it was ready, Apple had [and still has] some of the best media relationships of any tech company.  Scratch that… of any company.  

Apple – under Jobs – also had a way of communicating simply.  It understood the power of ‘less is more’ in communicating complex products, services and propositions.  It was an early  adopter of video in its PR – its 1984 and Think Different spots were both exercises in public relations, despite looking suspiciously like adverts.  They were predominantly about communicating values and building relationships, rather than promotion or marketing [getting the audience to take action on its behalf].

The major problem for most companies trying to use Apple’s publicity strategy is that it takes discipline, focus and an awful lot of work.  It requires commitment and patience – and, most importantly, it requires that when you do have something you want coverage for you hit it out of the park.  Apple repeatedly managed to do this with the iMac, iPod, iPhone, Macs and iPad.

Very few other companies – even highly successful ones – will ever come close to emulating what Apple did. Want to know why?  Read Ken Segall’s book Insanely Simple

Apple Will Be The Next BlackBerry!

Maybe not today; maybe not tomorrow; but one day and for the rest of it’s life…

Apple is another BlackBerry just waiting to happen.

Before you say it, yes, I know that the iPhone 5 sold in record numbers. I know that Apple’s stock price recently hit record highs and is currently anywhere between $650 and $700 a share. My view is also not based on high profile problem with Apple maps, or the fact that the iPhone 5 sales fell short of expectations. I’m saying it because a company that, under Steve Jobs, knew how to market – under Tim Cook seems to have forgotten everything it knew.

It started with the marketing of the iPhone 4, didn’t improve with the 4S and with the 5 – well, let’s not talk about the marketing for the iPhone 5!  If you don’t believe me, here are just a few examples:

  • Apple posted a 6 minute video making the point that the iPhone 5 has been ‘completely redesigned’, even though it looks exactly like the iPhone 4/4S – just a bit longer and thinner.
  • The Apple “design” video seems more like a parody than many of the parody videos out there!
  • Apple is now using phrases like “cross-collaborative effort”, “seamless integration between hardware and software”, “manufacturing processes that are our most complex and ambitious” and “the variances between products we now measure in microns” that justify the process rather than explain why consumers should buy its products.
  • The iPhone 5 TV adverts are awful!
  • “Our all new maps application is fantastic.” Really?! Are you sure about that?! – Actually, they were not… Tim Cook now suggests you download another maps app until they sort theirs out!
  • Apple’s response to the maps disaster was a shambles. Tim Cook’s apology was too little, too late, and the message – see point above – was pitiful.
  • Steve Jobs would never have apologized for the Apple maps disaster. Steve Jobs would have never shipped Apple Maps until it was ready.
  • Apple claims Siri can do more… that is, I assume, if it can understand you!
  • The iPhone 5 was, if we believe the rumours, two years in the making. Two years, and the best they could come up with as reasons to buy were changes measured in microns?!
  • What happened to the legendary Apple secrecy around new products.  Anybody would think that the marketing team had been spending too much time in bars these days.
  • Apple is using the same excuses in response to complaints about purple flares that it did about the antenna problems on the 4. Telling consumers “you’re holding it wrong” every time there’s a problem just won’t wash.

Apple can, and I suspect, will continue to develop products that people want to buy for the foreseeable future. How much longer they’ll be able to persuade consumers that their products are superior to those of their competitors is another thing entirely. While this won’t matter in the short term – hundreds of millions of consumers are paid up members of the Apple ecosystem and will find it incredibly difficult to leave any time soon. But, unless the company rediscovers its marketing magic – and quickly – many will do so, albeit grudgingly. Just ask my wife. Disquiet and dis-satisfaction with the brand will grow, moving it slowly towards a tipping point that will result in a sudden and very dramatic collapse.

For a company that used marketing so effectively to create a “Reality Distortion Field” that could persuade people they needed products they didn’t realize they needed, this is serious. When people start to see behind the distortion field – think about the Wizard of Oz – the magic evaporates very quickly. For a business like Apple, that sells on magic, it’s a precarious position to be in. When consumers stop ‘buying’ the magic, they stop purchasing the products. If, or more likely, when that happens, Apple is toast!

Other posts you might enjoy:

Apple iPhone Design Videos, Side-by-Side

Apple HAS lost it’s competitive advantage

RIM: It was ALWAYS going to come to this

Is Apple starting to lose its competitive advantage?

Apple’s #WWDC is upon us again and consumers are waiting with baited breath, hoping for something new and shiny.  But, if this article from Business Insider is anything to go on, they might feel more than slightly disappointed come the end of Tim Cook’s opening keynote.  The most exciting announcement according to the report, is likely to be the launch of iOS 6.

Which begs the question, if the reports are correct, is Apple starting to lose its competitive advantage? Will a company notorious for the legendary marketing of its latest products be able to convince an audience anxiously waiting for the iPhone 5 and mythical Apple TV set, that it’s worth spending thousands of dollars for evolutionary improvements to existing hardware?

Where Apple stole a march on the mobile market with the launch of the original iPhone, the 3G and 4, the competition has made significant inroads into Apple’s market leadership in recent months:

Google’s Android OS is now the leading smartphone platform in the US.  Devices from the likes of HTC, Motorola and Samsung offer consumers 4G wireless internet speeds.  Samsung is also making a strong play for consumers wanting a larger screen than the 3.5″ offered by Apple.  There appears to be growing support amongst consumers for a larger screen iPhone, but this Tim Cook appeared to rule it for the iPhone at the recent All Things Digital D10 conference.  Without a revolutionary new iPhone will Apple still be able to claim to be at the cutting edge of mobile device innovation?

The competition is also getting smart about how it markets its new devices. A failure by Apple to deliver substantial updates to its mobile and personal computing lines at today’s WWDC will, undoubtedly, provide fodder for competitor marketing campaigns and bolster the competition – although I hope that they do a better job than RIM did recently.  Consumers are also starting to see through Apple’s ‘distortion field’ – as widespread reports of Siri’s lacklustre performance have grown.

So, is Apple starting to lose its competitive advantage?  How long can it maintain the reality distortion field without new products? What do you expect Tim Cook will unveil later today?

Other posts about Apple:

Why Apple’s ‘TV Dream’ may become a nightmare!

Why Apple Will Acquire RIM

How Apple will spend it billions

The new iPad is another step in Apple’s bid to change the face of TV

Why Apple’s ‘TV Dream’ may become a nightmare!

I was catching up on some reading this week and came across a story by Business Insider that just left me speechless. ”Apple’s TV Dream Revealed” claims to have an inside track on Apple’s much rumoured television strategy.  As a long time broadcast industry PR, I had to read it.

Aside from the many flaws in the supposed strategy, like no mention of broadcast in Apple’s plans to take over the TV industry – despite reports of growing OTT and on-demand video consumption, live broadcast television is still a pretty big deal – the abiding question I kept coming back to was, ‘Why?’. Why would a company that is the darling of the consumer experience want to risk its reputation taking on the role of a PayTV operator?

Pay TV operators are, apparently, amongst the worst at satisfying their customers.  In a recent study, reported in Business Insider, Apple ranks #9 in the most loved companies in the United States.  In contrast, cable operators make up 5 of the 19 most hated companies [with three featuring in the ‘top’ 5].  I think that operators’ reputations are misplaced, but consumers have an intimate relationship with their TVs and anything that stops them from accessing the content they want, when they want it, makes them mad. When things go wrong, and that stops them from watching television, they’re mad – and it’s all their PayTV provider’s fault.

One of the biggest challenges any organization faces is perception. In the communications industry there’s a mantra, ‘perception is reality’ and many organizations, including PayTV providers, suffer as a result. Are you trying to tell me that a company like Apple, regarded by many as one of the most savvy marketeers in the industry, plans to put its reputation on the line trying to impose a new way of watching television on viewers?

Personally, I think it’s unlikely! Sometimes even the Apples of the world have to accept that if you’re crazy enough to think you can change the world… you’re just plain crazy!

Why Apple will acquire BlackBerry

After another dire quarter, a clear out of top executives and an acceptance that partnership, licensing or sale were all possible paths for RIM make it almost inevitable – in my opinion – that RIM will be acquired.  In a report I heard new CEO Thorsten Heins seemed to suggest that, while a sale was not an option at the moment, it may be in the future.

I’ve been saying it for a while that I  believe we’ll see Apple acquiring the IP and assets of the company.  After today’s earnings announcement, the corporate reshuffle and the likely impact on the company’s share price, it’ll probably happen sooner than we think too.

Here’s a few reasons why:

  • RIM can’t survive many more quarters like this one.  It has to find a buyer sooner rather than later
  • Apple has huge cash reserves that mean it could outbid any of its competitors should RIM become the subject of a bidding war
  • Apple has the most to gain from adding secure email to its armoury.  It would add the most sought after business tool to its portfolio and stop the likes of Microsoft/Nokia, Samsung, LG etc. acquiring it for their handsets
  • Apple could become the darling of the Enterprise with BES running on iOS devices.  Corporate BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] strategies have grown in organizations because they reduce capital expense: basically, iPhones and iPads have been tolerated by corporate IT because users already own them. With BES on iOS devices Enterprise could build a device strategy around a single platform [iOS], rather than Windows, Android and iOS.
  • Corporate device strategies around a single platform would offer significant capital and operational economies of scale. The result of this would be large volumes of iPhones and iPads by corporate IT department
  • BES + iCloud would bring the benefits of secure email to consumers and smaller organizations.  While not a huge money-maker, it would give Apple something to beat its opponents with.

Samsung and Microsoft/Nokia have also been suggested as possible bidders for RIM… who else could you see throwing their hat into the ring?


RIMs hard choices: Five ways to rescue Canada’s tech icon‘ is an excellent article by Iain Marlow and Omar Elakkad for The Globe and Mail.  While I still believe that a sale is the most likely outcome, I hope that I’m wrong and that via a combination of 5 and 4 the company can find success.  Part of returning RIM to its former glory will require the development and execution of a complex communications strategy that is difficult to do successfully at the best of times… that said, with the vision and the will [both of which I believe the company has in abundance] to succeed, anything is possible.

Update – July 12 2012

I came across this great Infographic created by Firmex that looks at who might acquire RIM. I’ve posted it here

Update – Feb 21 2013

With both companies floundering – RIM’s stock is volatile and, if reports of lacklustre sales of the Z10 and carrier issues in the US are accurate, BlackBerry10 will have failed to turn the companies fortunes around.  Apple needs a clear differentiator to fight off the Android assault and with a new Samsung Galaxy S4 being slated to launch in March, adding secure email would give it a clear advantage at companies implementing BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] strategies AND give it a strong play in regulated industries like finance and government.  An Apple acquisition of BlackBerry’s mobile business, leaving the Waterloo company clear to focus on developing QNX, appears to make more sense than ever.

How will Apple spend its billions

It’s a question that everybody in the tech world has been asking for many years… what will Apple do with its insanely large amount of cash in the bank.  Tomorrow at 6am PT|9am ET we’ll get some answers from CEO Tim Cook and CFO Peter Oppenheimer.

We thought we’d enter into the fun with a few of our own predictions, before the announcement is made, so here goes:

  • Launch an X-Prize-like competition designed to inspire the next generation of technology entrepreneurs.
  • Establish a Steve Jobs Centre of Excellence, to be built as part of the new Apple campus, designed to develop the U.S.’ next generation of technology inventors
  • Apple announce that it will acquire Canadian Enterprise email experts Research in Motion for $1 billion
  • Create its own mobile carrier – called Apple Telephone and Telegraph [AT&T for short!!]
  • Apple will launch an airline – called iFly – intended to revolutionize the air travel industry
  • Launch iHotels – perhaps located at airports around the world.  They could be known as AirPort Hotels, if you like!  They would come with a tech-enabled shuttle service – perhaps known as the AirPort Express.
  • Buy an island and declare its independence create its own state… Apple iLand anybody?
  • Purchase RIM and run it as an Enterprise division of the company

Tim Cook might even do something even more insanely awesome – for shareholders, at least – and pay a dividend to its common stock holders.  What ever the plans are, we’ll know more at 6am PT [9am ET] tomorrow.

New iPad is another piece in Apple’s bid to change the face of TV

What do you think to the new iPad announced yesterday?  What about the updates to Apple TV?  For those wanting an Apple television and a revolutionary new iPad the announcement was, perhaps, an anti-climax but it was another marketing masterclass from the Cupertino-based company.  Yesterday’s announcements were, I believe, more about Apple putting the final pieces of its strategy in place for its attempt, later in the year, to revolutionize the television industry.

In recent years TV Everywhere – all your content on every device, when you want it – has become the latest service for Pay TV operators and telecommunications service providers looking to reduce churn and increase revenues.  Increasingly consumers are demanding 1080p [true HD] as the default resolution.  Apple’s iPad and TV updates yesterday play to  the launch of its own TV Everywhere later in the year… and yes, it’s likely that there’ll also be an Apple television before the end of the year.

HD video on Apple TV + a second 1080p resolution companion screen + Apple TV HD + iCloud + a revolutionary Siri-powered EPG + a large screen Apple television = an insanely awesome TV service?  The creation of an ecosystem that makes it easy to store content between pre-integrated devices is a critical part of Apple’s desires on the TV industry.  Oh, and there’s also likely to be some smart marketing!