I’ve been thinking about Apple’s marketing strategy lately and I can’t seem to tell if it’s really cool or has a touch of pure evil running through it.
Consider the last few weeks. Apple files suit against a website that exposes rumors about Macintosh products. Within a week or so of the suit, they reveal the exact products that the rumor site talked about. Kind of silly right? Maybe not so – maybe kind of brilliant.
During Steve Job’s keynote presentation at MacWorld he slowly ramped up his speech to two new products that the rumor site had suggested were coming – the iPod Shuffle and the Mac Mini. Before even revealing the Mac Mini you could tell people knew what was coming. Steve smiled after talking about the iMac sales figures, and people knew what was coming. Steve knew they knew what was coming. He was as gleeful as he could get.
If I put myself in Steve’s shoes, I have two core principles that I must follow to satisfy my shareholders. I must make products or provide services that capture market share and at the same time do it as inexpensively as possible.
Now, still in Steve’s shoes, I consider my options. I have this new product coming and it totally rocks, but I’m torn by the fact that in order to sell this product with already low to nonexistent margins, I have to eat into to some real money to let people know about it. If only I could avoid that. So I study the buzz. Insiders have leaked information about my new product, so people already seem to have an idea of what I’m trying to make a splash with. But they’re also talking about all sorts of other things, leaving it up to those who know my secrets best to rise to the top with some reasonable conjecture about why their rumors beat all.
So I sue them. It’s fruit hanging so low I can kick it. My salaried lawyers are essentially free because I budget for them and pay for them anyhow, and the cost of filing suit is essentially free less FedEx shipping charges and court fees – all microscopic compared to sending out a press release about my products. By suing the most legit of all the rumor sites, I create a huge buzz. Everyone who cares is talking about how the suit lends legitimacy to the claims. People are outraged, people are excited, people anticipate my big reveal. The publicity alone is priceless, but in addition, I didn’t have to let the cat out of the bag.
So when I’m standing there, my finger on the “Next Slide” button, looking at the faces of the attendees, I know they know, and they know I know they know, and everyone revels in the little secret for just a second more. And when I reveal the Mac Mini, everyone is so pleased that my company did the right thing and revealed the product that everyone was hoping I’d reveal and immediately begin blogging the radness, and calling their aunts, and running the to the Apple store and generally work up a healthy froth.
And all of that is either totally awesome, or a touch of pure evil, or both.