What happened to Apple’s marketing magic?

“Chances are you can vaguely remember the last Apple ad you saw, but do you remember it in the same way you remember the company’s ‘1984’ commercial for the original Macintosh, or its wonderful ‘Think Different’ campaign?” Killian Bell writes for Cult of Mac. “It’s been a while since we saw anything quite as iconic.”

“Apple still creates great commercials we can’t help but talk about, but many fans would say those ads aren’t as good as they once were,” Bell writes.
Has Apple lost its marketing magic, or is it just too difficult to create truly iconic ads in the digital age?”

Luke Dormehl responds, “No company is going to hit it out of the ballpark every time, but it’s the swinging for the fences that counts. It just feels like Apple is content to play it safe lately. And that’s a shame.”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: The answer to the headline is: Steve Jobs died.

As we wrote in March 2013:

Steve Jobs held a three-hour meeting every Wednesday afternoon with his top agency, marketing and communications people to approve each new commercial, print ad, web ad, and billboard. Does Tim Cook? If he does, does he have anything close to Jobs’ sensibilities in this area? Judging from Apple’s marketing since Steve left the building, he does not. Therefore, Cook needs to find a marketing guru to take Steve’s place, conduct these Wednesday meetings, and hold his marketing peoples’ feet to the fire until he/she is extremely satisfied.

And as we followed up with in April 2014:

As Apple CEO, Steve Jobs focused on two things – product design and marketing. He was a genius at both. His talents cannot be replaced with one person. In fact, his talents in either discipline cannot be replaced by one person. Jony Ive and Phil Schiller without Jobs cannot be expected to perform as if Jobs was still working with them. [Hence Apple’s subsequent Marc Newson hire to be Jony Ive’s muse/sounding board. – MDN Editor, Nov. 7, 2014]

A team of people – talented people who actually get it and who are all on the same page – is an absolute necessity for Apple’s success, but it creates a problem: Jobs was a single filter. A unified mind. The founder. A group of people simply cannot replicate that. This is not to say that they cannot do great work (we believe Apple does, and will continue, to do great work) just that Apple is fundamentally affected by the loss of Steve Jobs and has to figure out a new way to work.


    1. I think you will find that Chiat Day were going rather stale long before that took place and that was at least part of the reason Apple started bringing it in-house. At present nothing really hits the heights but then few advertising campaigns generally have been for years. The latest watch ads have certainly tried to hark back to the original iPod ads at least visually and the concept and look is really good, its just still pretty difficult to put across what the watch does without holding one, even then it takes time. As usual Mac ads seem to be rarer than the dodo.

  1. The whole company is coasting, relying basically on the profits from one product to cover the fact that nothing is really happening in the rest of the Empire. The largest and busiest group at Apple these days are the thousands of financial engineers who manage the huge wad of cash and investments scattered around the world. Cook and his pals are counting the days to their stock-plan payoffs.

  2. We have a complete INCOMPETENT running Apple.

    It’s so bad now that Apple fans make excuses for Cook before he screws something up.

    Listing every mistake he made as CEO is now an impossible feat, believe me, I’ve tried and I always leave things out!

    Suffice it to say, he cannot create a new product category, update an existing product, launch a product, or release a software update or service WITHOUT screwing it up.

      1. By what measure, Sean, and why does this make a difference? No matter how many times Cook screws up, water boys like you are always there to defend the slow, soulless, user-unfriendly company Apple is becoming.

  3. Another issue is how SAMSUNG (and others) rip off Apple advertising as well. Example: see the Apple Ad where all the iPhone pics are stacked and merged for a visual effect that was memorable UNTIL you see Samsung advertising its wares with a floating butterfly from device to device as a simulated picture and all of a sudden, the rip off has dumbed down the quality of the original.

  4. Bill Hader’s video was great and memorable. Yes, it was the opener for the developer’s conference, but it was watch so many times . . . it was an ad.

  5. I am constantly amazed at the arrogance of those who PONTIFICATE about what Apple is doing or should be doing.

    I don’t mean offering a thought. Anyone can do that. Fine. But some of the drivel above, with its tone that is at once petulant and bombastic! Sheesh!

    When pontificating about Apple, I have one request — include the annual income of the huge successful business that you run.

    1. sorry but your logic falls apart.

      For example if I walk into a fast food restaurant and say it’s signage is confusing (like those new tiny print electronic billboard menus they have) or the place is dirty. I don’t need to have experience running a multi billion dollar fast food chain to make those complaints.

  6. I’ve been banging on Apple’s issues with marketing for several years now.

    Marketing which the article doesn’t cover encompasses more than just ‘ads’, it actually covers all ‘sales’ including getting retail partners, online, Apple stores, customer service, building new distributor channels (like opening into India now) etc.

    1) Steve Jobs was a marketing genius.
    Adweek called Jobs “The Greatest Marketer of the Age”.
    (Besides a visionary tech guy) he was a sale man at the core, selling stuff at computer fairs since he was young man. Phil Schiller was a scientist by training. I think Schiller approaches marketing like an engineer, he’s very good at building outlets and supplying them like in China, but he doesn’t seem to have the natural ‘instinct’ though for ads though (this is gift that some like Jobs are born with).

    Schiller I guess has been trying to surround himself with ‘ad people’ thats why the big hiring of in house staff.

    2) there have been other recently marketing snafus (remember marking encompasses more than ‘ads’ ) like the weird Apple Music WWDC presentation, the free Bono into your device shambles (which supposed costs tens of millions) , the confused Apple Watch April 24 launch date (Apple marketing didn’t correct the ads or smooth over irate customers and press even as it boiled over. I was waiting for Marketing /PR to say something but nothing, weeks later PR issued a video on the San Francisco Gay Parade — not beating up on gays just pointing out what happened).

    Then there was the issuing of instructional videos (the Guided tours) for Apple Music at the END of the initial free trial period instead of the start forever tarring Apple Music as ‘hard to use’.

    Jobs had marketing teams work side by side with the engineers as they created products so the ad guys were intimately knowledgeable of the product. The Apple Music thing etc shows that there is weakness in the corroboration now, marketing which deals with customers should have voiced out they need how to guides. ETC.

    3) Certain Apple businesses like MACS have practically NO advertising ! There hasn’t been a serious Mac campaign for years since mac/PC guy (‘Get a Mac’ ), 66 different ads in 4 years (one new ad a month). Macs is an important part of Apple , makes significant revenue , they’re selling well now but the could sell MORE if they advertised. (people have flamed me for saying this but seriously imagine if a car company like Ford did not advertise trucks because they sold more sedans (or vice versa), makes little sense). No having Macs ads all the years Win 8 floundering was weird. Macs still smaller market share than iPhone so plenty of room to grow.

    Again this seems to be due to Apple is top heavy with engineers without Jobs to add the marketing punch. Engineers seem entrenched with ‘new’ and not so interested in old like Macs.
    (one more time for flamers, I would like to point out Macs make 40% of the PC profits of the world and is larger business profit wise than Dell or Acer or Lenovo, yet not even Web Ads ! ).

    btw: More macs sold = more developers = more software.

    4) NOT RUNNING ADS means also that consumers are not PRE EDUCATED when they go into Apple retail partner stores like Best Buy and Walmart where the sales people are often CLUELESS. A customer asks what the difference between OSX and Windows and the sales guy (I’ve watched them) say “Nothing except you get more software with Windows”. They won’t say less ‘malware’ etc as they also sell PCs so customers need to be pre educated with ‘Ads’.

    Even sales guys need to be educated. I was at Walmart two years ago where the sales guy standing next to Thunderbolt Macs did not know what thunderbolt was. Didn’t carry the cables or Mini D so now way to connect the MacBooks they sold to external monitors.
    Training retail partners is also part of marketing.


    1. reading my post again I realize my tone is possibly too negative. I’m a big Apple fan.

      As an ex marketing person I’m just pointing out what I see. People like me would have given a heck of a lot for a great product like Macs to sell, most of the time we had to gloss and sell ‘less than ideal products’ so it’s really painful to see Apple not make the most Mac ads and so on .

      Apple IS doing well financially and marketing snafus notwithstanding they move a lot of product. As I’ve pointed out before they make as much profit as 140 Amazons (11,000 million to 79 million last quarter).

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