Tim Cook’s missed opportunity at Apple

“A little less than two weeks ago, when I visited Apple, I was surprised at the access I received to air my grievances about my experience as a customer,” David Weidner writes for MarketWatch. “I was also surprised at the candor with which many at the company spoke. Some very senior people had some very reassuring, positive and honest things to say about how Cook was shaping the company. My impression was, they wanted people to know they still had the same old passion for their products, but they wanted to have a softer, more collaborative relationship with the media and public.”

“And then they sort of did, and kind of didn’t. I asked them to go on the record with some statements I believe would have shed some light on the company. They declined,” Weidner writes. “Frankly, I was surprised that Apple isn’t being more direct, if in fact my assessment is true. Perhaps there is a belief that since Jobs and [former Apple vice president of worldwide communications Katie] Cotton were in charge during one of the greatest runs in American corporate history, why fix something that’s not broken?”

“On the other hand, if it’s such a winning strategy, why did Apple get absolutely creamed with viral social media reports about its new iPhone model bending?” Weidner writes. “If you ask me, that’s not the Apple way. It may be the Steve Jobs way, but it doesn’t seem to fit the company Cook wants or should want to be known for.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple’s idea of crisis management is silence. That didn’t work very well before widespread use of the Internet in the late 1990s. It doesn’t work at all today. In fact, that deadly silence actually ratchets up the crisis levels in this viral social media age since wild theories and accusations will fill the Apple-created vacuum in an instant.

When you’re accused of something that isn’t true, classic cases of FUD, the proper response is immediately tell your story, take control of the narrative, and capitalize on the moment to promote positives about your company. Apple’s usual response or lack thereof, days or weeks of slack-jawed silence, seemingly surprised that FUD is coming their way, is entirely the wrong “response.” (Get ready for the Apple Watch FUD deluge now, Apple!)

The silence initially makes Apple look guilty and, even though they eventually make some half-hearted moves to douse the bonfire, they’re too late, so the burn marks remain. That is why random people still ask, “does is bend?” when they see our iPhone 6 Plus units in public, instead of asking about any of its myriad positive attributes or features. When you allow competitors to spread lies unchecked, you deserve it when they invariably stick.

Crisis management is public relations’ most important job and Apple PR fails at even the very basics each and every time. Apple sucks at crisis management.

Most everything else Apple PR does is magic. Apple PR is often the best in the business; the best in any business. They just don’t get crisis management.

Silence works spectacularly for creating intrigue about the company and upcoming products. It fails totally when the inevitable, adversary-concocted FUD campaign hits. You’d think Apple would learn. Here’s hoping that someday they finally will.

Mark our words, the Apple Watch FUD is coming, especially if it looks like a big hit, with big launch sales numbers, and Apple’s response to it should be as much a part of the company’s launch preparations as the hardware, the software, and the packaging.

36 Comments

  1. I believe that Apple has been following a very dark path. All the things that it brings with it, are not things of value. Money is not value, its money. I believe the arrogance of Cook, Cue and Schiller has not paid off. They are riding the coat tails of Forstall and Jobs, and Ive, and they think they are the ones that have created the greatness, when they do not even know what greatness really is. Jobs said “what is it supposed to do? then why the FSCK doesn’t it do that?” when referring to MobileMe. It is 2015. The issues with Apple OS’s, and hardware should make these three [C C and S] ashamed. “Can’t innovate my ass” comes to mind as one of the more empty statements of late.
    I have been an Apple fan mainly because there WAS just no comparison. The comparison of haste, waste, and poor taste that Steve Jobs could see are becoming more evident every day.

    1. Obviously you could do better. Too bad you are so bad at what you do now.

      “Your comment” comes to mind as one of the more empty statements every.

      Unfortunately, we can’t give you less than one star to really show how much we like you.

      1. Case in point.
        “more empty statements every.”
        This is the simple mistakes that are made.
        If I cared about being liked, I would not have written that which I felt to be true.

        1. The measure of criticism is the quality of its suggested alternatives.

          And your suggested alternatives are what jß?

          Try my meagre suggested alternatives, posted below, which happen to be those used by Apple. :mrgreen:

          Beating on Apple when they screw up is a great way to get them to wise up. Apple is never perfect, just better than the alternatives. But know what you want and suggest it. Don’t simply complain like a crying little baby. We’re grown ups now.

          1. 1. Improved memory management and containment within apps. Do not let the app affect/corrupt memory that is being used by other apps, as in leaking. This applies to all apps on the system, but at least all Apple apps.
            2. Containment of graphics drivers, and of late, wi-fi hardware and drivers.
            3. Adopt new features in the OS on a tryout basis as opposed to just forcing new ways of doing things that offer only change, not improvement. This can be a simple checkbox.
            4. Take the hippocratic oath when it comes to software development, as in not to make things worse. This has happened with almost every new version of xCode, not to mention the developer portal on Apple’s site.
            5. If you provide the ability for Apple hardware to say, run two Apple Thunderbolt displays, make sure that each and every time you disconnect your Macbook Pro (latest) from the displays, you do not have to reboot, or close and open your lid to get the display to correct itself.
            6. Make sure that Safari can render Apple’s own website pages.
            7. Make Apple’s web pages responsive, so that they are easily viewed/navigated on iPhones (not iPhablets).
            8. Provide a mechanism to view all pages as Desktop on iPhones.

            I understand the lust fest MDN patrons have for Apple, I do. I also see that it is also a two-faced blog, and inconsistent as hell with the responses.

            Take md8mac for instance. He has no idea of what I do, or how I do it, or how well, yet he insults.

            Steve Jobs could see character, the problem with character is, that it can be faked. I have always believed in Apple, and Steve. The other’s, not as much as I used too.

    2. You may “feel it to be true,” but others may feel differently. Personally, I think that things at Apple could be improved a good bit, but are not nearly so bad as you seem to believe.

      Apple has always had some product release bugs. Consider that Apple currently has a much more complex and integrated ecosystem and a much broader user base, and it is no surprise that the bugs have increased somewhat. I think that it is also fair to speculate that the changes in Apple’s management and culture since SJ’s death play some role in the perceived decline in software quality.

      1. Agreed. I also take issue with the MacDailyNews take. I think you sound more guilty if you immediately jump when something negative comes up. You sound much more reasoned and like you actually looked into the issue if you take a little time before responding. I actually believe that Apple took some time and looked into the reports of the iPhone 6 bending before they made their response. This instills confidence in me. A response blasted out immediately does not come across as reasoned, evidence based, only desperate.

      2. re
        “You may “feel it to be true,” but others may feel differently.

        I wish everyone on the planet would stop trying to bolster their thoughts and opinions by the use of the word “feel”.

        jß – you THOUGHT it was true because of reasons a, b and c. At least I hope you had logical REASONS for your opinion.

        And others may THINK differently. They may also have different feelings about it: happy, sad, irritated etc.

        If the word “feel” is followed by that, to or any other word that is not a FEELING, what follows is, essentially, gibberish.

  2. Apple says nothing: Apple is guilty

    Apple say something: Apple is lying

    This comes from a profession, tied with politicians and lawyers, that lies at the TOP of the Who do You Trust/Respect Least list .

  3. MDN, respectfully I disagree with your “A = !A” media response algorithm. As we have all called out others for doing this, we must call you out, too: What billion dollar FUD narratives have you successfully thwarted?

    What really happens inside Apple should come as no surprise: 1) People get shocked at the FUD, knowing it isn’t true. 2) Scheduling of meetings begin (scheduling is always tough: The right people are all over the world). 3) Responses get developed that offer a path OUT of the narrative, not merely respond to it. 4) Marketing and Legal need a little time to get their side of the response properly handled and vetted. 5) The response launches.

    Sometimes Apple does do “A = !A” like with Antennagate, but do you remember how the world responded to Steve’s famous, “You’re holding it wrong” response? Not so good. Round Two took a little longer and worked: Deep access in a controlled way was given to select journalists to Apple’s research facilities into signal propagation.

    “A = !A” placed the blame on the consumer for falling for the trap laid by the FUDster. “A = ~A” walks all over the FUD with facts presented by third parties and shows why Apple’s approach is better. But it takes time to figure out what’s needed, who’s needed, and then how long it takes the third party to speak out on what they learned.

    We could argue all day about the merits of marketing Apple’s approach before there is any FUD narrative, but in truth, until the FUD is out there, the world just expects it to work and wouldn’t care to be inundated with lots of “why we’re better” fluff. Instead, as history has shown, marketing the product as the hero — with little attention given to the underlying technology or approach — is cleaning up the marketplace.

    In my time at Apple (20+ years) I was not directly involved in billion dollar responses, just smaller ones. Regardless, though, I saw how the process worked, at least under Steve.

    1. MacDailyNews said it best and your comment really doesn’t address the end result of waiting too long to respond. Excuses don’t cut it.

      The silence initially makes Apple look guilty and, even though they eventually make some half-hearted moves to douse the bonfire, they’re too late, so the burn marks remain. That is why random people still ask, “does is bend?” when they see our iPhone 6 Plus units in public, instead of asking about any of its myriad positive attributes or features. When you allow competitors to spread lies unchecked, you deserve it when they invariably stick.

      The silence initially makes Apple look guilty and, even though they eventually make some half-hearted moves to douse the bonfire, they’re too late, so the burn marks remain. That is why random people still ask, “does is bend?” when they see our iPhone 6 Plus units in public, instead of asking about any of its myriad positive attributes or features. When you allow competitors to spread lies unchecked, you deserve it when they invariably stick.

      1. The media showed be taking more responsibility!

        Why is MDN so silent when their commentators blog FUD. These posts should be wiped out.

        And don’t give me the excuse that it is the FUDDERs’ right. There is no such law.

    2. Absolutely agree with you, that’s how I’ve seen these things work at other companies as well. The worst thing is to rush out a response, only to find out later that the response wasn’t exactly correct.
      That situation results in your initial responses always being second guessed and makes it impossible to really stamp out the FUD.

      1. Agree with your agreement, and want to add that people are just plain stupid. The loudmouthed, and fast-typing ones anyway.

        They demand instant responses to developing situations, and if they’re provided with a quicker one, they’ll then cry “conspiracy!” when new facts come to light that replace earlier knowledge.

        No wonder so many people these days don’t care for science (where knowledge changes all the time) and go for the invalid “faith has all the (unwavering) answers!” route.

        1. Glenda speaks for me.

          You NAILED it with ‘No wonder so many people these days don’t care for science (where knowledge changes all the time’.

          Science is the foundation of our current level of civilization. What a statement of decay and prediction of our immediate future that people willfully neglect and even destroy that foundation. The consequences could not be more obvious. In the 1960s in grade school, we little kiddies called this out as ‘The Decline and Fall of Our Modern Civilization’. 1960s. Here we are in the 2010s staring at the consequences.

          It’s a cultural sine wave. Greater historians will have to sort out why it happens. But I will point out that it is deliberate self-destruction and wonder why we undermine ourselves.

          Now back to topic…

          1. Nope. All the science in the world doesn’t create culture. You can’t have science without culture and without civilization. So of the things to have, science has advantages, but without culture, all you get is more advanced hand-amputation machines.

            1. Thank you. To take one step further, quoting from the Fritz Lang film ‘Metropolis’:

              The mediator between brain and muscle must be the heart.

              Going all brain (all science) or all muscle (all culture) offers tragedy. The two must be reconciled through collaboration with the heart (humane spirit).

              I’m currently reading the ‘Divergent’ series of books with my nephew. It discusses much the same subject. In our current era of parasitic biznizz bozos and customer abuse, again the goal is to rediscover and collaborate with the heart.

    3. The original (I use the term loosely) story says Apple got “creamed” in social media. Creamed as measured by what specific parameter? What, precisely, did Apple lose? I’m interested in knowing this since my original $1500 stock purchase in AAPL is now worth $280,000. I have a lot at stake here. If Apple is all screwed up I need to know before I get in trouble. [sarcasm]

  4. Yup, the BS over the iPhone bending really killed sales. Right now there are millions of unsold iPhones languishing in warehouses all over the world. Oh wait, that is the Amazon Fire…

    1. Customers who spend hundreds of thousands on products don’t enjoy being asked “Does your phone bend?” or whatever the FUD o’ the Day is by the general public. Such FUD tarnishes Apple’s brand, which is the intent, and it’s aided and magnified by Apple’s silence.

  5. All it would take for a response is a picture of an iPhone, a Galaxy and Nexus under the same bending load and in one photograph showing the amount of deflection in each.

    I could set up the demo in an engineering lab and do the photo in less than an hour.

    Apple wouldn’t then have to say anything other than to say “Look at the comparison.”

  6. WHAT exactly is the ideal response to any FUD attack?

    I read lots of the usual analcyst blahblah that ‘It’s bad to be FUDed and here’s why’, as well as ‘Here’s what bad stuff FUD can do’. But I almost NEVER see any wise responses published.

    In the example given here, the ‘will it bend’ bullshit, there is the assumption that Apple didn’t respond. But Apple DID respond. Here is one article covering their very simple, elegant, poignant response:

    http://www.theverge.com/2014/9/25/6844943/apple-says-iphone-bending-extremely-rare

    What’s ACTUALLY going on here is GUTTER SNIPING. Certain people prefer rant warz and hate bombing to decent, direct human discourse. Apple are the MASTERS at crisis management.

    Rule #1 of Crisis Management: Keep cool, calm and collected at all times.

    Never: Enjoin the enemy in a public fight. Crisis management is not entertainment for the masses.

    Let’s face it: Everything has to be an arena fight or the peasants aren’t entertained. Don’t live in the world of the lowest common, very common, denominator.

    You GET what you GIVE. Give dignity, respect, honor and honesty. Too bad if the gutter people aren’t entertained.

    This is all basic stuff. Get your heads out of the games kids and ‘so-called’ adults. There’s a real world out here. :mrgreen:

  7. There’s some truth to the whole thing, but it’s hardly affecting growth and sales. It mostly affects the geek press and the blogosphere and those of us who live our lives reading that stuff. The average guy on the street has zero clue about that stuff. The average guy on the street knows that teh smartphone is the iPhone. You’ll notice that the bending thang didn’t make iPhone 6 Pluses any more available between September and Christmas. We blogospheroids have a very severe case of overestimating the importance of our observations. We tend to observe tsunamis when there are belly-flops and then scamper around yelling that the sky is falling (mostly to each other), and observing (mostly to each other) that Apple needs to do something. We need to realize that just because it’s fun doesn’t change the fact that it’s bullshit.

    1. I was grinning at how self-important the MDN take was. Nobody cares about all these little dust-ups a month out. The geek press is incestuous and suffers from a sense of ADD and kleptomania, in the end obsessing over nothing-storms. It’s hilarious to watch, and a little sad. Imagine what people could do if they didn’t spend their time twittering their life away about bending phones…

      1. What? Are you saying that for the 2.12338 days I was away I missed… Nothinggate? Was it that Nothing happened or that Apple said Nothing? Please share what RSS feed you’ve subscribed to that keeps you up-to-date on Nothing-gate, because I’m not finding anything (Anything-gate?):

        Me: “Siri, what’s happening with Nothing?”
        Siri: “I’m sorry, I found Nothing on the web.”
        Me: “Siri, tell me about Nothing.”
        Siri: “Is there a point to all this?”

        /s

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