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.


iFail – Apple’s ‘Historic’ Announcement Will Do Untold Damage

Hyped more than any Apple event that I can remember. Dubbed a ‘Historic Announcement’ by the media. Apple’s iPhone 6/Apple Pay/Apple Watch keynote will do untold damage to the company.  Here’s why.

First, the live stream was a disaster.  I failed to stream from the start; frequently displayed the test page; had simultaneous translation that competed with Tim Cook [on an already quiet audio stream]; returned to the start…  This is not the slick, composed and seamless company with an abnormal attention-to-detail that we’ve become accustomed to.

AppleLive, iWatch, iPhone6, Public Relations, iFail
We interrupt this historic event…

Second, the announcements.  A new iPhone that had been ‘leaked’ by just about every technology publication in the last month. Apple Pay, a contactless payment application [NFC and contactless payment have both been around for more than a decade] and the much anticipated Apple Watch that, well, let’s just say, it’s not pretty and, while it has some nice design tweaks and technology, it’s not exactly historic.  None of the announcements were exactly new [remember Galaxy Gear, Pebble, Android Wear?!]

Three all of the announcements were positioned as being Apple innovations.  Apple’s credibility starts to wear a little thin on this one.  It had a six and a half minute pseudo intellectual video about the iWatch and another [shorter] video about its Activity app.

But, and here is the real problem… Apple hyped this event to the point of calling it historic.  I’ll say it again… Apple claimed the event would include a historic announcement.  While it delivered some nice products to add to its portfolio it failed to deliver anything that could realistically be considered historic.  Not even close.

It’s not the first time. Apple has, in recent years, has been expected to deliver revolutionary new products but has failed.  It’s lost ground to the competition and, given its notoriously strict and predictable release cycle looks set to lose further ground.  This is not good news for the company or its investors.  It does not bode well for future events… how long will people believe the hype? How long will the fanboys and the media supporters be prepared to continue to support a company turning out what are “me-too” products [nice ones, admittedly] but not industry leading or historic.

This could do serious long-term damage to the relationships that Apple has built over the last decade with customers around the world as part of a relentless and meticulous public relations program. Apple has built relationships with customers based on trust – and over-hyping events like it did for today’s keynote will quickly erode it. Why does this matter? It is these relationships that have resulted in hundreds of millions of sales and record share prices.  Today’s event could be the first – and a major – backward step Apple has made in the last decade – likely undermining the trust the company has built in the its claims.

Once  this process starts, it’s almost impossible to recover.

The degree to which Apple is, I’d suggest, as much a victim of the reality distortion field as its loyal customers ever were, was Tim Cook’s claim, ‘Isn’t that the best single you’ve ever heard’ as U2 played. It was alright, but not that good! Certainly not the best I’ve ever heard. I suspect I wasn’t the only one.

[…and before you accuse me of being anti-Apple, this post was written on a Mac!]

Startup and PR marketing and PR tip: when you’re streaming video make sure you have the infrastructure that scales.

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. Greener.

Apple released a new video on its website today – called Better.  It sets out the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability and many believe it suggests Tim Cook’s vision for the company.  To that point it is voiced by Cook.

Watch Apple’s Better now.

Released for Earth Day the video suggests that Apple may be back in the game of value-based PR.  ‘Better’ has all the hallmarks of the THINK DIFFERENT video that many see as the start of the rise the company has been on for the last 15 years and is focuses on the values – what it stands for – as it looks to continue to dominate the mobile, post-PC and media distribution industries.

I’ve written about the importance of values to the foundation of Apple’s brand during the Steve Jobs era – and how they’ve moved away from them under Cook’s tenure.  ‘Better’ fits the THINK model of delivering the right message to the right audience, at the right time via the right channel – and appears to be a move in the right direction and could provide the company with a new point of differentiation over competitors like Google, Samsung and Motorola.

I hope it is the start of a trend where companies build relationships with their audiences based on values, not product specification.  Apple will ultimately lose a battle based on feature and function.  A battle based on values… a battle for hearts and minds, however… now that is a battle Apple could win.  Easily.  It is for that reason that ‘Better’ could be the most significant piece of communications the company has issued in the post Steve Jobs phase of the business.

Want to know why values are so important? This is why.

Do you want your business to be like Apple… or Rob Ford?

I wrote recently about the myth that all PR and publicity is good.  I couldn’t have hoped for a better example of this than Rob Ford on the Jimmy Kimmel show last night.  Far too often public relations companies sell only media coverage – often driven by their customers desire to be seen in the pages of every possible publication – in print and, increasingly, on line – without any consideration about whether this is the right strategy.

All too often much of the media coverage achieved by public relations companies goes to waste – either because it’s not read by the right audience, or because the interview fails to deliver the right message.  Sometimes, it’s opening up a can of worms that the customer doesn’t want opening but, because they’ve been told that all PR is good PR – people will see the brand or spokesperson name [called visibility or awareness] – they walk head-first in to an ambush, as Rob Ford did last night.  He appears to be the only person that didn’t see it coming!

I often talk to customers about Apple’s approach to PR, publicity and marketing.  The company is selective. Some would call them secretive.  It doesn’t talk to everybody and it doesn’t talk to the media until it has something to say.  It spends the majority of its time building strong and long-lasting relationships with the journalists, analysts and influencers that matter.  It invests in the people that can help it build relationships with a wider audience.

Most importantly, focusing on only a small number media opportunities – the right opportunities – and on building relationships rather than a steady stream of press hits – Apple gets the outcomes it wants.  It gets the adoration of the right media outlets when it has a new product to launch and doesn’t get battered by the media when things don’t go to plan.  Admittedly, the iPhone 5C and Antenna Gate aren’t on the same scale as smoking crack cocaine while in elected office or insulting the Chief of Police in Jamaican patois… but it could have been had Apple not built the right relationships, but spent time, money and energy chasing every media opportunity available.

Read more about Rob Ford’s PR and Media ‘Strategies’

Apple Marketing: then and now

Apple, iPad, Fall Keynote

The difference between Apple marketing under Steve Jobs and with Tim Cook at the helm was encapsulated by two videos in Tuesday’s Fall event.  The first, demonstrating the impact that the iPad has had on the consumer electronics and computer industries since its launch, was typical Steve Jobs: it communicated the values of Apple and the value of the product without the need for a single word.

Apple, iPad, Fall Keynote
Apple Fall Keynote – the impact of the iPad

The second, a ‘design video’ for the new iPad Air highlights everything that is wrong about Apple marketing under Cook.  It focuses more on speeds and feeds and self-congratulatory back-slapping.

Jonny Ive, iPad Air, Design Video
The Apple iPad Air ‘Design’ Video

Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself.  The first video starts at 62′ 20″ in Apple’s keynote video and runs for 1′ 56″, posted on the Apple website; the second starts at 71′ 55″ and runs for a full 3′ 09″.

Due to copyright restrictions I’m not able to post the video here, but it’s worth spending 10 minutes to watch both Apple iPad videos.



Low cost iPhone changes perception of Apple

If, as is being widely reported, Apple launches a low cost iPhone and an update of the iPhone 5, rather than regaining leadership in the segment, it spells the end of the company that Steve Jobs grew from almost bankruptcy in to a technology leviathan. The company that was once a leader in innovating technology, feared by its competitors for the unbending loyalty of its customers and as a company that consumers aspired to own will have gone full circle – and be competing in a commodity market – where price is more of a differentiator than the product itself.

I’ve written about my concerns about Apple’s marketing in recent years. It has gone from being industry leading to being sugary-sweet, self-congratulatory, contrived and a parody of itself – and competitors, most recently Google – have taken delight in poking fun at the company.  This is a slippery slope – just ask BlackBerry.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company lost sight of what its loyal customers wanted and, as a result, lost many of them. It failed to innovate and the result is clear to anybody who has been following the fate of the company formally known as Research in Motion.  Without an insanely awesome announcement that changes the smartphone industry Apple runs the risk of befalling the same fate as its Canadian rival.

Apple needs to announce a $1000 iPhone, not a cheap handset for the masses in order to regain its market competitiveness and reestablish itself as an aspirational brand.  It runs the risk of becoming the Burberry of the mobile phone industry!

You can read more on some of these topics here: thinkdifferently.ca/differently/tag/apple/‎

Do you agree?  What’s your take on Apple’s latest announcements?  I’d love to hear your views in the comments section below.

Designed by Apple in California

Apple’s once legendary marketing has taken on a new look recently.  It’s cluttered. Wordy. Complicated.  This is not a good thing.

Designed by Apple in California
This is it… more evidence that Apple’s marketing and PR team is losing it!

Once the envy of product marketers around the world Apple’s team – both internal and external – appears to have lost their midas touch.  I’ve seen the company’s ‘Designed By Apple in California’ TV spots and winced at the sugary, self-congratulatory tone of the commentary.  As a self-confessed Apple fanboy [I own an original iPad, a Macbook Air and a Macbook Pro Retina] I’ve felt uncomfortable with the company’s design videos where Jonny Ive attempts to over-intellectualize the fact that the phone design hasn’t changed much – the company claims that they ‘now measure the variances from product  to product [they] now measure in microns’ – for those that aren’t familiar with the term, it’s a unit of measurement that is 1×10−6 of a metre or one-millionth of a metre, or one-thousandth of a millimetre.

Then I opened a recent copy of Wired and saw one of Apple’s iPad print adverts – and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  It’s an advert that falls in to all of the bad practices that the company’s competition has continued to make for years. It’s everything Apple’s competitors have been doing for years. Not running adverts like this was what set the brand apart.

The advert in Wired has 16 lines of copy, which, I admit, I couldn’t be bothered to read in full until I started writing this post.  The example, above, taken from the Apple website, for the iPhone has 28 lines of copy.  28 lines of copy?! On an advert.  Adverts talk about their passion for producing users’ experience, about focusing on a few great things and about how ‘Designed by Apple in California’ is its signature.

I can’t stand the latest campaign – it’s not an advert that Apple runs!  What happened to, ‘The iPhone you’ve been waiting for’ or ‘This Changes Everything. Again.’ or ‘Get the web delivered. Like you never have before.’ adverts?  ‘Designed by Apple in California’ would be enough to deliver the message – nothing of value is added by 16 or 28 lines of copy! I doubt anybody reads them anyway!

We’ll have to wait until September 10 to see what direction the iPhone is heading, but on the evidence of its current advertising campaign Apple’s signature marketing is heading in the wrong direction!  As product failures of a long list of companies – from $BBRY’s BlackBerry 10 and $MSFT’s Windows 8 – illustrate a good product can fail because of bad marketing and PR.

For Apple this latest change of marketing direction could prove to be disaster. What do you think to the company’s departure from its enigmatic minimalist adverts? Is less more?

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

Apple has lost its competitive advantage

Back in June I asked the question ‘Is Apple losing it’s competitive advantage?”.  After watching the iPhone 5 launch, I’m sad to say that I believe the answer is an unequivocal “Yes!”  [And I’m not the only one, even ‘Fake Steve’ thinks so!] http://ow.ly/dHp7L]

Heres’s my original post:

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