Sep 16

My visit to the Apple Museum

img_8038There is a long list of must-do things for anyone who visits Prague.

Like the Charles Bridge, built in 1538. Or the Prague Castle, largest of the world’s ancient castles, dating back to the 9th century.

But hell, Prague is also home to the world’s only Apple Museum — which dates all the way back to 2015. And, as an Apple enthusiast, I do have to keep my priorities straight.

So, yes, I did visit the Apple Museum on my first day in the Czech Republic last week. (Do I get any points if I walked across the Charles Bridge to get there?) I even sat down with the museum’s manager days later to learn a bit more.

Now that I’m back in New York, here are some photos and observations from my little adventure. Continue reading →

Jun 16

Has Apple lost its simplicity?

Last week, I wrote an article for The Guardian with the above title. It was a question, not a conclusion, and I tried to offer a thoughtful opinion. Sadly, The Guardian chose to give it a click-bait headline that contradicted my point of view. So, for the record, here is the complete article as originally intended.

 Four years ago, I wrote a book about Apple and the power of simplicity.

It was the result of my observation, having worked with Steve Jobs as his ad agency creative director in the Think different years, that Apple’s stellar growth was rooted in Steve’s love of simplicity.

This love—you might call it obsession—could be seen in Apple’s hardware, software, packaging, marketing, retail store design, even the company’s internal organization.


Even back in the 70s, Apple was professing its love for simplicity

But that was four years ago.

Though Apple’s customers remain fiercely loyal, the natives are getting restless. A growing number of people are sensing that Tim Cook’s Apple isn’t as simple as Steve Jobs’s Apple. They see complexity in expanding product lines, confusing product names, and the products themselves.

Is this just perception, or is it reality? Has Apple developed a problem with simplicity? Or is it simply maturing as one should expect from a global company?

It’s difficult to be objective because Apple has become the world’s most overanalyzed company. It’s created passionate fans and passionate detractors.

Maybe I can help. My experience with Steve Jobs has led me to admire Apple—but I also believe in tough love. This is a good time to put emotions aside and take a cold, hard look at Apple’s current “state of simplicity.” Continue reading →

Feb 16

Super Bowl confidential: the secret story behind Apple’s “Lemmings”

This is the day I normally offer up some reviews on the Super Bowl commercials.

This year, I suffered a bit of writer’s block. I couldn’t find a fresh way to say things like “This one was funny,” “This one was an embarrassment” and “Damn you, advertisers, for taking away the surprise by releasing ads a week before the game.”

So I’m going to sit this one out. I’ll listen to your opinions instead.

However, I will not sit idly by! In honor of the Super Bowl I’m setting the time machine back to 1985, when Apple ran its notoriously awful Lemmings commercial on that year’s Super Bowl.

Just twelve months earlier, Apple had stunned the technology and advertising worlds with its famous 1984 commercial, and Lemmings was meant to carry on the blockbuster tradition.

Instead, it was a dud of extraordinary proportions.

But what exactly is the origin of Lemmings? It’s a story that’s never been told publicly, and it’s definitely not what you think. Join me now on this journey down memory lane…
Continue reading →

Dec 15

The great Apple advertising experiment

experiment-timRecently, Apple hired Tor Myhren as VP of Marketing Communications.

He comes from Grey, where he was the global chief creative officer and president of the NY office.

To borrow some new Star Wars terminology, he’s a big deal in advertising.

On the surface, Tor’s hiring is what it is. But if you look a bit deeper, there are all sorts of juicy implications.

To better appreciate, one must first understand how Apple’s marketing has worked in the past, Steve Jobs-style.

Steve kept things simple. Basically, he trusted the right people to do the right job. He had the ad agency (called TBWA\Chiat\Day in 1997, becoming Media Arts Lab later) and his in-house creative group. The two had separate and distinct responsibilities.

The agency developed the big ad campaigns and the in-house group owned, product packaging and themes/signage for the retail Apple Stores. Continue reading →

Dec 15

Distorting Apple news, Wall Street-style

watch-loveFollowing the first shopping weekend of the holiday season, the news for Apple was refreshingly positive.

One could even say it was surprisingly positive, given the negativity preceding about downward trending iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch sales.

The new news was that Apple was off to a record-breaking start. Not only was Apple Watch a hot item, but even the lowly iPad was showing new life.

But wait! Surely there is some gloom hiding in there somewhere.

Yesterday, I awoke to see a Fortune article by Philip Elmer-Dewitt with the click-bait-ish headline Top 12 Reasons People Gave Up On The Apple Watch. Ominous! Except that once you understand the nature of the study, it’s not ominous at all.

Elmer-Dewitt is talking about a new survey from Internet research firm Wristly. Having previously reported 97% Apple Watch satisfaction ratings, their new survey is “the first formal survey of dissatisfied customers.” Continue reading →

Sep 15

Addendum to the iPhone “S” argument

dice-6Earlier this week, I expressed a distinct lack of love for the S-naming that Apple has applied to iPhone every other year.

My point was that by choosing this path, Apple has actually trained the world to believe S years are “off-years” that feature only minor innovations. This, when some of iPhone’s biggest advances have actually arrived in the S models.

As Exhibit A in my argument, I now submit yesterday’s BuzzFeed article entitled 20 Minutes With Tim Cook. More accurately, I submit a single paragraph neatly tucked mid-article. Here, John Paczkowski illustrates two reasons why Apple’s S naming is a bad idea (though he did so unintentionally): Continue reading →

Jul 15

Apple doubters in a feeding frenzy

Wow. That was quite a spectacle. It was as if someone dropped raw meat into a piranha tank.

The raw meat was a report by a company called Slice Intelligence, claiming that Apple Watch sales were off a whopping 90% from launch week. The piranha were a few hundred news services and blogs who’d apparently been starved for weeks.

Sometimes I wonder if people understand how organizations like Slice work. They make money by selling their services to client companies, and they attract new business by sending out press releases that become “news.” The more shocking the story, the more PR they get — and, in theory, the more new clients they can reel in.

In this case, Slice got exactly what it hoped for. Its name was attached to one of the biggest stories of the week. But, in the absence of any numbers from Apple, just how believable is the story? Continue reading →

Jun 15

Apple Watch & the killer app crisis

I’ve been quiet about my Apple Watch since it arrived in mid-May.

I was trying to honor one of blogdom’s most important rules: never be the last of a thousand reviews.

Fortunately, I’ve found a loophole. This isn’t a review — it’s an observation.

Of all the opinions I’ve read, positive or negative, one comment pops up more than any other: Apple Watch doesn’t yet have a “killer app.”

The latest came just three days ago, when CNBC posed the question Is interest in the Apple Watch dissipating?. The article offers not a shred of evidence that indicates a lack of interest, but it does offer one quote from an analyst, “It’s not clear what the killer app is. It’s nice to get notifications, but it’s a nonessential product.”

Well, here’s the stark reality: The Apple Watch has no killer app. And it will never have a killer app.

But anyone who hinges the success of the device on the idea of a killer app is living far, far in the past.

If you need any proof, just look at the iPhone. We can all agree it started one of the biggest technology revolutions of our time. So … what’s the killer app? Continue reading →

May 15

One day they’ll understand Apple

Well, okay. Maybe that headline was a bit too optimistic. Let me re-phrase:

They will never understand Apple. Ever.

I suppose we can just chalk it up to human behavior. As the original Macintosh team at Apple liked to say, it’s more fun to be the pirates than the navy. In Star Wars terms, one could say it’s more fun to be the rebels than the Empire.

Given the size of the company today, Apple can easily be seen as both the navy and the Empire. So I get why the sport of finding the cracks in Apple’s armor is so popular.

That said, I remain amazed that so many fail to grasp how Apple thinks and behaves — though they’ve seen the same scenario play out time after time. Continue reading →

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. Continue reading →