advertising and other stuff. no, really.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

How to win shares and influence the press.

“Q: How’s your health? How are you doing?” Aka, Apple pwns the press—again. So after a week of the tech equivalent of LeBron’s media hype run-up to his primetime special, iGod came out Friday and basically passed out iCondoms—careful how you hold it gang. It highlights one annoying thing about Apple beyond this snafu though.

It doesn’t keep me up at night or anything, certainly not like the commenter to this post, but since I’ve purchased and used Apple its its entire brand life, I may be entitled to rant. (The only other brand I have more life history with is Pepsi.)

It’s this sense of hubris they have relative to media and consumers, especially when they need to reach out to the public as they did Friday. Except, it wasn’t to the public. It was to a select group of reporters. At Apple HQ.

No live streaming. No audio. Only bloggers furiously transcribing the event once again. From a PR crisis perspective alone, there’s more power in watching Steve admit they’re human rather than reading about him saying it. You could, but only after the event later.

At the risk of coming off as the Angry Blogger Guy™over this shit, I’m not. It just seems their push is to move beyond niche status to become a household consumer brand that your mom knows about and uses, one that’s adopted by more than the early-adopter tech set, is at odds with how the leadership of household brands typically reach a wider audience.*

A 24/7 audience too. We want that news now, not later after you finished writing it up for us. Certainly not some interpretation of what you thought you heard, typos and all. Tell you what, go get a courtroom steno then if you’re going to pull that crap. They can at least keep up.

Apparently Apple doesn’t feel the same way. Heh.

Jobs came out with a well-rehearsed presentation, one that said all the right things and hit all the right Apple notes, thanks in no small part to his love of rehearsal until things are perfect.

Hey, nothing wrong with perfect. It’s helped Apple engineer cool unlike any other brand. Their products meld the geek mindset with everyday life in an organic way, and it shows in his speeches.

But it’s like he’s Spock. That if he just lays out his case a sentence at a time simply and logically, like a perfectly written line of PR code, that the only conclusion he can see you reaching is the one where he’s right and you’re not. No other conclusion computes with him.

As someone who considers myself a member of both the adopter and general consumer camps, it’s frustrating though to see Jobs use that perfection to try and control everything. Like their product releases, Friday was another anticipatory event that only the tech press attended. Softball coverage for two, your table is ready. (Think I’m wrong? The first questions asked were the ones up top.)

When a reporter decided to pull a Jennie Finch and blow one by, Steve took his ball and went home. Again.
    Q: Let me rephrase... is there a software fix for attenuation problems?
    A: Let me replay your question back to you. Is there a software fix for signal attenuation that is seen in nearly every smartphone? I’d love that!

    Q: I’m citing a NYT article

    A: You guys talk to yourselves a lot; I’d recommend you ask them.
While not exactly a Bill Parcells post-game press conference, that’s thinner skin than the bumper Steve is offering. I guess full-page takeovers in the Times are okay for Apple’s advertising as long you watch what you write.

Of course the tech press will do their part in the food chain to make sure Apple info gets gobbled up by their followers, I’m not saying they won’t. But household brands talk to everyone in times of trouble, not a select few.

Did Toyota have just the automotive press cover their mea culpa? Did Domino’s only invite restaurant industry people to announce their recipe change or employee PR disaster? Did ESPN only invite Jim Gray to live blog LeBron’s event?

Obviously this isn’t about some big investigation into political corruption; it’s a damn phone. But whether it’s the NYT or some random tech blogger, they all serve as a system of checks and balances for consumers.

As that Slideshow on his presentation style shows, he likes to create an antagonist. In this case, he’s made the erroneous iPhone 4 reports and the publications behind them the villain. (It’s okay Steve, premature speculation happens to a lot of reporters.)

Except, the press he’s invited, the ones he views as friends sitting in front of him, are also the press. I guess the Times didn’t get their invite. So much for fair and balanced.

On the flip side, I understand that Steve is just using the press brilliantly to spin a potential PR slash stock price disaster, knowing they’ll feel disarmed if they’re invited to a nice event, and knowing how in turn, their adopter audience will help spread the word for Apple. It’s the basic premise behind hitting up any brand’s influencers, no?

As a household brand, I don’t see a need to play them that way. I think Jobs believes Apple will lose its niche status if he opens up the message to everyone, even though I disagree. As soon as you hit WalMart, that cover was blown. Compare this also to the way Sam Adams went from local homespun and handcrafted microbrew to become the largest American brewer, yet still wants to be perceived as small.

Speaking of, Walmart carrying your products is one thing, but you have to move out of the media and consumer fish bowl you’re in if you want flyover country to really adopt you. Otherwise, enjoy the elitist tag they’ve slapped on your ass.

Apple’s ‘computer for everyone’ message aside, it was always the brand used by people in the creative arts as a tool exclusive to their/our industry. This past decade though has seen Apple offer products that transcend this sector, yes?

As such, the iPod and iPhone grew to include teens and dads and whoever. iEverything made life so simple that your moms could edit a movie, even if her son actually worked in a post-production house editing the latest Apple spot.

Circle of ironic tech life now complete.

All I’m saying is that maybe the geeks who design really intuitive, really ‘human’ stuff for anyone, need to act less aloof around the ones trying to help them get the message out.

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