Bright Lights Project: Apple

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I know that suggesting marketing ideas to Apple is like telling the Beatles how to write popular songs, but the brand that borrowed its name and famous logo from the aforementioned band isn’t above input from outside, whether it likes to admit it or not.


It has been in the news recently because of the discovery that its mobile devices store geolocation information, for up to a year or more, raising worries that Apple does nefarious things with it (like sell it to third-party marketers or black-clad UN mercenaries intent on oppression). Yesterday, it released via BusinessWire a lengthy explanation, but still leaves room for doubters to continue their doubting. There’ve been other issues on which Apple has taken a contentious and not always apparently customer-friendly position, like its famous ongoing battle with Adobe Flash (Steve Jobs posted a lengthy comment on that issue here)

There’s a pattern, isn’t there? In our era of 140-character quips and marketers trying to reduce their communication to burps and blips of entertainment content, Apple prefers to issue lengthy statements written in complete sentences and structured paragraphs, or it doesn’t talk at all. It doesn’t participate in social media conversations (at least not obviously, as some claim it does so secretly) so, unlike not just its competition but most brands these days, it chooses to either 1) let its products and services do the talking, or 2) when absolutely necessary, issue substantive declarations, and then default back to letting its stuff talk for it.

How wonderfully archaic for such a forward-looking brand!

People either love or hate Apple, and I think it’s partially a result of the brand’s reliance on operations to maintain its reputation. I know that there are people who decry a “distortion field” propagated by Steve Jobs, and accuse anybody who favors the brand of being blind or foolish, but 1) you could say that about anybody who feels anything about any brand, and 2) Apple does very little to manipulate such perceptions. It builds cool looking computers and other devices, describes them adoringly, and sells them in really cool retail outlets. Hate the message, but you can’t legitimately complain about the messenger(s).

So what would you tell Apple to do differently? Here are three thought-starters:

  • Revive its presence in the creative arts. So much of the goodwill Apple enjoys today was built during the Dark Ages of the 80s and 90s when its products were about as cool as a liverwurst sandwich. But it supported creative types and gave away products to schools it couldn’t otherwise sell, which bred a generation of people who love them. I think it could do more in this area today, and for a limited investment inspire lots of future creatives (so not just consumer users).
  • Invent new pricing for the industry. The company has led its competitors on the product design and software fronts, so why couldn’t it lead on new forms of payment, such as “subscriptions” to its hardware that covered regular upgrades? Ditto for some sort of loyalty discounts for multi-year owners of Mac laptops, etc. Couldn’t there be financial as well as experiential barriers to switching?
  • Pull a Soviet Union. The genetic xenophobia of Russians and then Soviets meant that the country’s borders had to always expand, since they felt threatened by their neighbors. In Apple’s case, the points at which its devices have to interact with other products or services is where things break down, in part because the Apple stuff works so well when used within its closed system (like iTunes and iPods), and also because Apple doesn’t seem to make much effort to ensure seamless interoperability. So why doesn’t it take over its next door neighbors, like payment processing, social networking, maybe even a phone services provider?

Funny how I can’t come up with anything it should do differently on the creative marketing front. It’s not that I think the stuff is perfect (sometimes it feels very smug, actually), but the bigger truth is that I’m not sure it matters. Apple is a great case of actions speaking louder than words or images.

What do you think?

(Image credit: Apple logo)

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