February 17, 2019

Helping PR pros make smarter decisions

The Apple Secret

The Apple Secret

To read the coverage of last week’s MacWorld, one might get the impression that only two things happened: 1) Steve Jobs gave a speech and 2) Apple released a really skinny laptop.
No, they can’t release the iPod every year. But don’t be fooled, the marketing coup that is at the heart of Apple’s success rages on. How does it work?
Apple is about simplifying personal technology for all. That’s how they win. They make products that are intuitive. And Apple stays far enough ahead of the pack that they overtake a market before the people figure out what’s going on. But the marketing is more than just the products, it’s the way their release pipeline fits together.
For example, the iTunes PC release set up the iPod to easily overthrow all other mp3 players. Was there an mp3 player before the iPod? Yes. Do we remember it as anything except what came before the iPod? No.
So this year, Apple takes iTunes to iRental. And between Apple TV and iTunes rentals, Apple is making a move into the temporary content space that Comcast and Netflix ought to keep an eye on. Apple has taken on the giants in foreign territory before, leaping into mp3 devices and recently into smart-phones. No one can say whether the Jobs marketing blitz will be as successful here, but it wouldn’t be without precedent.
The iPod Touch is another example of readying a market for future toys. The Touch is just an iPhone without the phone. It’s something to play with and get familiar with until the iPhone gets other wireless carriers or the price of network support goes down or until the little guy’s old enough to have a cell phone. The iPod Touch could be the perfect place to test all the upcoming apps for the iPhone, though Apple seems to be keeping the software for both on the same release schedule.
Now, let’s talk about the Macbook Air. It is the thinnest laptop on the market. It fits in a manila envelope–so it comes complete with a very clever ad campaign, which Jobs was nice enough to demo at MacWorld (a point I’ll be returning to momentarily). The laptop itself has some flaws; it comes without an optical drive or a firewire port, and the battery is not removable, as it is in other Macbooks.
The removable battery is likely to cause the most problems. An iPod with crummy battery life becomes the sound system in your car, but what do you do with a laptop once the battery has crapped out? Being chained to a power adapter defeats the point of a highly compact and portable machine. But we shall see.
Returning to the issue of Mac advertising, Apple is often described as the one exception to the transparency rule that proves it. Somehow, the hush-hush aura that surrounds Apple has resulted in knowledge vacuum and feeding frenzy when the slightest bit is available. The audience at Macworld actually applauded at the commercials that Jobs screened. Of course, Apple has witty ads that people do find amusing, but they also make the Mac users feel smug (especially those Mac vs. PC guy ads), sophisticated, and elite.
How does Apple do it? How does Apple manage to espouse simplicity both in design and ease of use while also conveying this elite status to its users? Those little white ear buds have become a symbol of the Mac lifestyle that is somehow unique and customizable, yet pre-fit for the masses.
How is this transferred to other tech companies? How was this achieved? A tech savvy and super knowledgeable fan base from very early on in the company’s history; a product line that continues to build on itself… Jobs began his keynote with Leopard, the continuation of the operating system that established the Mac brand. But ultimately, most companies do not have that much clarity. Lacking that vision, it might be better to conduct transparent business relations and listen to your consumers, then to attempt a slow crawl into pervasive technology under a tight leashed press policy.
*Sandy Kalik works at [Topaz Partners](http://topazpartners.com), a public relations firm specializing in technology clients in the Web 2.0, mobile, online marketing and networking industries. She blogs at [Sandying](http://sandying.blogspot.com) and at [Tech PR Gems](http://topazpartners.blogspot.com), and is a frequent female voice on Topaz Partner’s weekly PRobecast. Sandy can be reached at skalik@topazpartners.com.*

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