I could market Macintosh better than Apple Marketing in my sleep

By SteveJack

An insanely great misnomer, perhaps the best of modern times, has to be “Apple Marketing.”

“On Wednesday Apple posted a quarterly profit of $14 million on sales of $1.475 billion. Year-over-year profits were down 65 percent with machine sales of 711,000, down 29,000 from 740,000 Apple reported in the same quarter last year. A red flag for Jobs & Co: Apple’s sales are falling as the overall PC market worldwide showed growth last quarter. IDC’s figures of 34.6 million PCs sold last quarter, which would indicate that Apple accounted for 2.05 percent of PC shipments worldwide,” we reported yesterday.

2.05 percent? 2.05 percent! Apple Marketing should be renamed, “Wintel Marketing.” No new Switch TV ads in months, market share in decline while the rest of the personal computer industry grows, and you Apple Marketing guys get paid how much?

Listen, Apple needs to put its money to use effectively for once. Take all of that “preaching to the choir/propping up the Mac magazines” marketing cash and put it to good use instead by targeting a large corporation or two and getting them to switch. I don’t care if Apple has to use some of its $4.5 billion cash horde to get it done. Whatever it takes. Get a Fortune 500 company to switch from Windows-based computing to Mac OS X and Mac hardware. Nobody outside of current Mac users and Cupertino thinks a Mac can run a serious business. Think of all of the myths that would be shattered or altered; Mac software, software compatibility with other Wintel businesses, speed, productivity, IT costs, etc.

Apple needs to show the world that serious business can be accomplished, even increased, by switching to Macintosh. Then Apple Marketing can tell the world along with the switched company’s probably actually effective marketing department. The consumer market will follow, if Apple can show a real company how productive computing can be done with Mac OS X. Let’s see if this company’s employees buy a Mac or a Dell for their homes next time they’re shopping for a computer. Let’s see how much a sizable company can really save on in-house IT costs with a pure Mac OS X environment. Let’s see if productivity and profits rise. Let’s hear from the company’s employees after the switch is in place.

Put your money where your mouth is, Mr. Jobs. If Apple Macintosh is so great compared to Wintel alternatives, the result of this “switch a Fortune 500 company” approach should open many, many eyes; especially the eyes of those who really matter, the decision-makers, and could truly positively affect market share.

Apple should approach a large, well-known corporation and slash the cost of the switch. Put 17″ iMacs, at minimum on every desk. All management gets 17-inch PowerBooks. Apple Xserves run the LAN, WAN, and websites. In exchange for cut-rate hardware, software and support, the switching company agrees to let Apple use their employees in Apple marketing materials; including the IT people left in place.

I’m talking one fell swoop here. Get in done in a short time. No drawn-out, gradual transition. Of course, take the time to prepare the employees with a training program run by the company’s computer support people working closely with Apple.

Involve reporters from The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, CNBC, The New York Times, etc.

Let’s see what happens then. It can’t be worse than what’s happening now.

Update 4/19, 6:23pm: I would like to clarify that my idea of getting a major company to switch to Mac is not to target the corporate or enterprise markets, it is to prove to the world that Macs are not just “good for graphics” and Mac OS X can do anything almost always better than Wintel. The conversion of “Big Hairy Company” to Mac should be used as the centerpiece for a marketing effort targeting all markets, to wake and shake people up, and if a few corporate suits also happen to take notice, so be it.

Imagine Jane Public telling her husband, “Joe Six Pack’s cousin’s wife works at Big Hairy Company and they just switched to Mac OS X and she says Macs are amazing and so much easier. And, you know how well Big Hairy Company’s stock is doing now. She threw out her Dell at home and bought an iMac yesterday. I think we should, too.”

And you can quibble about fractions of percentage points on the market share figures until the cows come home, but the fact remains: Apple’s performance record on growing market share is laughable (unfortunately, Apple’s shown they’re absolutely experts at losing share). Let’s be generous and give them 5% right now. Where’s the growth since 1997 or earlier? Answer: there is none. Now let’s talk about my idea or any other ideas you may have since arguing about the exact market share number is nothing but a pedantic excercise and doesn’t help solve the growth problem.

SteveJack is a long-time Macintosh user, web designer, multimedia producer and a regular contributor to the MacDailyNews Opinion section.

53 Comments

  1. Here’s a couple of marketing proposals:
    1) The most obvious, a promotional tie-in with McDonald’s home of the Big Mac. Give away a bunch of macs.
    2) Less obvious, but more important- the return of the Pepsi Challenge. Get some of their people out of the stores and into malls, sports stadiums and college campuses letting people use a Mac and a Wintel box side-by-side.
    3) Aggressive discounting on college campus sales. Strapped college students are going to buy the $1199 Wintel laptop before they pony up $2k for a “14 iBook, AirPort card, MS Office and a memory upgrade.
    4) A little market leadership please-make AirPort STANDARD on all iBooks & PowerBooks. Don’t F-Up with wireless like you did with CD Burners.
    5) Aggressive product placement. Put Macs, especially iBooks/PowerBooks in every TV /Movie shot through product placement deals.

  2. Absolutely true. Apple has had the WORSE marketing I have ever seen. This includes the marketing in their stores. The ads for the products, the distribution and the lack of attention to the business customer. Sell to the commercial accounts and the consumer will follow.

  3. “Apple should approach a large, well-known corporation and slash the cost of the switch. “

    Since there is no significant competition on pricing for Mac hardware, that is the only thing that would convince a Fortune 500 company to switch to Macs. As such, the only way the momentum would grow is if every company that agreed to switch received the same treatment. Apple could afford to survive in that environment even less than they are currently.

  4. Jason,

    I think the concept would be, do it once or twice for publicity and marketing and then maybe other companies will see that it can be done, that Macs work better in business, even large business and hopefully, the IT costs would decline and company productivity and profits would increase. Then these other business could see the advantage of Mac OS X and decide to transistion to or include Macs more. It would bring awareness of Apple to large business and let them consider Mac at least – which isn’t happening now at all. It would also put IT idiots everywhere on the hot seat BIG TIME!

    It’s a great idea, SteveJack.

  5. Jersey,
    Again, a gimmick doesn’t hide the facts that are keeping businesses from switching currently, one of which is initial cost. Whats more, since Apple’s argument is a long term one, their advertisement costs would be greater than usual because Apple would have to finance the studies within said Fortune 500 company(ies) to show that IT costs for that company are in fact dropping, and keep that in the public eye for at least a year. That’s a cost that wasn’t mentioned above and beyond those of training and whatever else.

  6. I’m not trying to be a troll. I just firmly believe that the American attitude is “What can you do for me today?” (ie is your price tag comparable your competition, for exactly what I need). I personally believe the only way Apple is going to get anywhere is feature and price parity with the Wintel world. Businesses especially are not going to be swayed by any other argument.

  7. Hell, I switched after a rather contented lifetime of using Windows. However, I know that if I had even the slightest reason to be more cost conscious, the computer I’m currently using would be another Intel box (probably not Windows, don’t like Windows XP very much).

  8. I’m always surprised why I don’t see more articles like this. Everyone says that it’s Apple prices and cpu speeds that are hurting it’s marketshare, and there is truth to that, but the biggest issue is Apple’s marketing dept. Who sets Apple prices, feature sets, and of course advertising…marketing. Who supposedly has their finger on the pulse of the consumer, education, and business markets…marketing. Having worked in numerous fortune 500 companies before, I can tell you that it’s not just price that keeps the IT dept’s away from Apple. Its a number of reasons: lack of good enterprise software and desktop management software, a mentality in the IT world that Apple sucks, and of course, price. Unfortunately, Apple has done so much damage to itself throughout the 90’s, I’m afraid that it’s a lost cause at this point. Every fortune 500 company I’ve worked at is doing everything they can to get the few Macs (if they have any left) out of the company. Where’s Apple marketing in this? Why not find out what their problems are and then come up with products to address them? The ironic thing is that most IT dept’s I know of would switch from Microsoft if they believed that a better solution exists. Apple doesn’t have a clue about what the corporate customer wants and that’s marketings fault. They also can’t market what they have very effectively. Look at Intel’s Centrino ad’s…they are everywhere and they give you a compelling reason to want the technology. What did Apple ever do for wireless. A few vague tv ads that showed the base station spinning in air. Advertisements in the Mac faithful magazines. I swear that the biggest reason for the Mac’s loss of marketshare is Apple’s own marketing dept.

  9. Apple has never been able to market. Even at their peak market share they could not market. John Scully – sugar water marketing wiz became so enamoured with technology that he forgot what makes companies grow – marketing. It isn’t technology. But technology for technologies sake is very seductive. Is has been Apple’s downfall from the beginning. Jobs has always been about the cool technology. By some opinions – Microsoft’s technology is inferior to Apples (flame away), but the point here is that they market what technology they have.

    AppleTalk – PowerTalk – OpenDoc – AppleScript – OSX – the list of very powerful, extendable technologies from Apple goes on and on. Yet they could never stick with anything long enough for it to become a viable solution in the market. That takes marketing partnerships – another Apple failure.

    Have you ever seen what a true AppleScript professional can do? It’s amazing. Flat out amazing. But have you even seen it demonstrated? Work flow automation – big buzz words – AppleScript can do it. Apple can’t market it or sell it. So whats the point ………

    Marketing is expensive – but it beget’s money. Some have recently said Apple should use their cash to buy back stock to drive up the value. Fine – so it trades at 25 instead of 15. Doesn’t help market share.

    Spend the money on marketing that great technology AS A SOLUTION TO A PROBLEM… AN EDUCATION PROBLEM… A BUSINESS PROBLEM… not just that my digital camera works better with it….

  10. Wintel hardware Dell/Compaq/Gateway overall is much cheaper as are replacement parts, their availablity, 3rd party hardware compatablity and professional corporate trainers.

    Any change to Apple’s current marketing position as suggested would yield minor profits at best. A move to a platform that could also run Windows if OSX proved unacceptable long term might interest the Wintel ITs but highly unlikely to be available from Apple any time soon.

    No Corporate exec today would switch over to a platform running its own exclusive operating system without an “out” to return to Windows XP, etc. if OSX didn’t work for the majority of the employees.

    Look at Sony, the Apple quality builder of the Wintel world. Even on the Wintel platform, they are just too expensive for the everyday operation and needs of corporate America.

    Apple has it right and needs to continue doing what it does well. Without Steve, new Macs would have been a distant memory of the early 90s.

  11. Steve, I think you’re panicking, as a fair number of long-time Macheads have been doing lately. Fortunately, the fellows actually running the shop in Cupertino are keeping a more level head.

    Your entire premise is that Apple requires sales into corporate America, and that it is these enw corporate sales that will drive marketshare upwards, and that the increased market share is a good thing for Apple.

    Your logic is flawed.

    Your assumption that 2% share of the new-PC sales market is not sufficient to support a thriving computer manufacturer is simply not correct. In an annual market space of around 140 Million CPU sales, Apple, if it merely sustains the present pace, would account for about 3 Million of those CPUs. Add to this revenue from software sales, and non-CPU hardware sales and you will see a Fortune-400 company appear before your eyes.

    Your premise seems to be that Apple being anything less than Number One on the Fortune 500 list is flatly unacceptable… yet, you make no business case as to why this is unacceptable. Are all companies Apple’s size or smaller not viable, as well?

    Apple remains poised to continue its evolution as one of the most impressive niche manufacturing/sales companies on earth.

    I’m sorry that doesn’t satisfy you.

  12. I think you may be barking up the wrong tree. While US corporations are certainly buying PCs at this moment, they do not compare to the volume of PCs being sold in Asia (especially Mainland China) right now. The effect of SARS virus aside, an order of 20,000 PCs are considered small in the midst of China’s growth. You know, they weren’t hit as hard during the dot com bust. Apple’s China’s presence, as I understand, is miniscule.

    What can Apple do if the price, performance ratio is so huge ? Most businesses today are very cost conscious. High quality and image are only valued by limited segment. In any case, quality of PC and Apple are similar now since they are made by the same Asian manufacturers. In other words, the market is being commoditized.

    Advertisements when aired do not alter the mass’s opinion and buying pattern that quickly in this industry. The PCs just have (i) a gigantic, organic distribution; (ii) a deep HW and SW support ecology; and (iii) vast selection of business software laid down over the past 15 years. Will advertising to businesses ever be adequate to overcome the effect of all 3 areas ? My guess is, Hardly.

    Now Apple has decided to target very specific verticals (Media, Scientific and Education), and also to the Home. They are still work in progress and not enough information is available (e.g., is Apple working hard enough in markets that matter today and tomorrow ? — like China — ), so it’s unfair to comment on the outcome.

    Bottom line is: I do not believe one can sell better than Apple based on the above plans. For one, I’m not sure if people (outside Apple) understand the challenges as well as Apple itself. (Look, they are not stupid, okay ?). At the very least, please respect the size and depth of the problems. And no, I don’t work for Apple. Our relationship started when I bought the very first Mac in 1984 and I’m still buying their stuff. However all of my friends have pretty much given up on Macs except those trendy kinds 8^)

  13. Granted that advertising alone is not going to change corporate america’s PC purchasing decisions. But a marketing department is not just responsible for the advertising. They should be finding out what customers want and then creating the products to address those needs. I think that’s where Apple fails. Apple’s marketshare has slid consistently since the early 90’s. They’ve essentially lost the corporate market, are in the process of losing the education market, and are holding on to a 2-3% share overall. Yes, that share can keep Apple healthy as a company, but look at how many applications are NOT available on the Mac, or how many take forever to get ported to the Mac. Many developers are not going to support a company with 2-3% share when they can make $$ supporting Wintel. Another interesting item is that if you examine their financials for the last few years you’ll see that most, in some quarters all, of their profit is coming from their investments, not product sales. Scary.

  14. I wasn’t too impressed with Apple’s marketing until I read the article and comments above. I wonder if anyone has ever had to make a sale or introduce a product in their life. Think not.

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