10
Apr 15

Apple & the customer’s shoes

Those who get what made Steve Jobs tick understand his devotion to the customer experience.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say it was his highest priority — and it went far beyond the products.

Steve believed that everything a customer sees, feels or touches is an opportunity to connect them more deeply to the brand. Absolutely everything. When he reviewed a piece that would run in a magazine, for example, he cared as much about the quality of the paper as he did the message of the ad.

Even if it was something that didn’t register with a customer consciously, he knew it was having an effect.

In all my advertising life, I’d never seen the CEO of a major company focus on so many aspects of the customer experience — from ads to packaging to retail design to tech support.

His technique was pretty darn simple: he put himself in the customer’s shoes. More ▸


27
Mar 15

Becoming Steve Jobs: the authors speak

Yesterday, the authors of Becoming Steve Jobs, Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, had a little sit-down at the Soho Apple Store — with surprise guest host John Gruber.

It was a rare opportunity to get a sense of the authors’ personalities and motivations — since we normally hear of such things only through articles written by people who color the facts with their own point of view.

Kudos to Gruber for asking some probing questions and making the event run smoothly.

The truth is, any book about Steve Jobs will have a polarizing effect similar to the one generated by Steve himself. So now we have the battle of the biographies. It’s Becoming Steve Jobs (Schlender and Tetzeli) vs. Steve Jobs (Isaacson).

A few observations:

First, I love the title Becoming Steve Jobs. A book title, like the headline of an ad, is hugely important, and this one so perfectly captures the concept. Steve accomplished what he did only because of the journey that brought him back to Apple in 1997.

Few will remember at this point, but the original title for Isaacson’s book as announced was iSteve. What a horribly cute title that would have been for a life so important. More ▸


10
Mar 15

Waking from an Apple Watch hangover

We don’t like to make hot-headed remarks about Apple new-product events around these parts. Better to let things sink in for a while.

Okay, time’s up.

A few random comments about yesterday’s Apple Watch and MacBook event.

The broadcast
Glitch-free and a pleasure to watch. With the accompanying tweet-cast, Apple has become quite spiffy with these things. My only issue with it was…

The tweets
I couldn’t help but wince while reading some of the pre-event tweets. Steve Jobs hated any writing that sounded like marketing-speak, but such inhibitions seemed to have melted way here. It was a mix of trying to be cool (Getting psyched backstage listening to I Lived by @OneRepublic), trying to be clever (Please make sure your seat is in an upright position. It’s almost time for takeoff.) and sounding like an ad (People grab their seats before the keynote grabs their attention). More ▸


05
Mar 15

At a loss for words: it’s a “Pay”-for-all

We knew this day was going to come.

We try to conserve our resources, but the English language only has so many words in it. And it appears we’ve used ‘em all up.

It’s hard to otherwise explain how, just months after the introduction of Apple Pay, we find ourselves with Samsung Pay and Android Pay.

If you’re a product naming or marketing enthusiast, it’s something to marvel at. Kind of like that rare moment when all the planets align. (Which, technically speaking, they never really do.)

As our friend Spock would have said, it’s quite illogical. In an industry where innovation is the key to success, three of the biggest players end up with identically named products.

Of course, the first one out of the gate is innocent of all charges. It’s the second and third who have some explaining to do. More ▸


27
Feb 15

A big week on the Apple Watch watch

Sometimes I am astounded by the analytical prowess of technology journalists.

The Apple Watch is known to be shipping in April. Apple just placed a 12-page ad for the watch in Vogue. And yesterday the invitation went out for a March event titled “Spring Forward” — which is the least cryptic invitation in the history of Apple events.

I guess that was enough to make Fortune go out on a limb.

Headline: Apple just scheduled a “Spring Forward” March 9 event

Subhead: Is this the Apple Watch we’ve all been waiting for?

First paragraph: Apple sent out a media invitation Thursday inviting journalists to [sic] March 9 event, leading to much speculation that it could be when the tech company reveals its much anticipated Apple Watch.

Ah, okay. Thanks, Fortune. I get it now.

But enough of that. We like to talk about marketing here, so let’s talk about that 12-pager in Vogue. More ▸


24
Feb 15

Adobe vs. Apple: the Oscars ad shootout

As fate would have it, both Apple and Adobe gave us a new ad on Oscars night.

Each company tapped into the Hollywood theme to craft its message, but the differences were quite extreme.

One takes issue with the idea of dreaming — the other proudly tells us to “dream on.”

One requires a wall-to-wall voiceover — the other uses only visual and sound.

One uses music as a quiet background — the other relies on music to drive the message.

One is about empowering ordinary people — the other is about empowering Hollywood.

So which was the better spot? And, in strictly marketing terms, which did more good for the company it represents?

Apple, as it often does these days, takes the softer route. It offers a beautifully produced, lovingly crafted story of high school kids using iPad to bring out their creative spirit. More ▸


10
Feb 15

Radio Shack proves an ancient advertising truth

Not many stores find a way to die slowly, painfully and publicly, but Radio Shack did an excellent job of it.

A year ago, it ran one of the best commercials on the Super Bowl. (Above.) Last week, it celebrated the ad’s one-year anniversary by declaring bankruptcy.

The commercial was easy to love — honest, fun and self-deprecating. It acknowledged what we all knew to be true: Radio Shack seemed mired in the 80s and it was high time for a makeover.

Now it’s time to lock the doors.

Hmm. Does this mean great creative actually failed? Nope. Rather, it revalidated one of marketing’s most ancient principles: nothing kills a bad product like great advertising. More ▸


05
Feb 15

Apple Watch to flop! Sell! Sell!

You have to give CNN’s David Goldman a little credit.

With Apple’s next potential revolution still a few months away, he’s going for the gusto.

He’s not just saying that the Apple Watch won’t be as big as previous Apple hits. He’s saying the Apple Watch will flop. Period.

That’s the kind of bravado we like to see. Especially since no product in modern Apple history has ever flopped, despite the many who have predicted otherwise.

So, you might wonder, upon what insights does David base his prediction? Let’s take a little ride… More ▸


15
Jan 15

Thinking “what Steve would think”

Steve Jobs left Apple with an important bit of advice for Tim Cook and team: “Don’t ask yourself what Steve would do.”

Ah, but he didn’t tell anyone not to ask what Steve would think.

Loophole!

Such is the basis of Luke Dormehl’s recent effort at Cult of Mac entitled “7 things Steve Jobs would have hated about Apple today.”

I like Luke. However, I do think this is a pointless exercise. So many things have changed in the three years since Steve’s passing, it’s hard to make these judgments. And then there’s the fact that Steve himself presided over a number of Apple low points. So the idea that he would frown upon today’s Apple — which is doing well in so many big ways — is quite a leap.

Are these seven things really worthy of Steve’s “hate”? More ▸


30
Dec 14

That was fast: Apple is doomed again

I woke up yesterday to a Fortune article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt with this opening thought: “Apple was doomed at the start of the year. Now it can do no wrong. What the hell happened?”

Funny how all that talk of doom dissipated overnight when Apple unveiled iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch and Apple Pay. Now iPhone sales are through the roof. Samsung profits are plummeting. AAPL stock is in record territory. And Wall Street analysts continue to raise their target prices.

But Philip isn’t entirely correct. Refusing to accept defeat, a small band of rebels has fled to the hills, from where they still lob an occasional grenade in Apple’s direction.

For sheer entertainment value, let us marvel at two recent articles. More ▸