When Apple announces anything, or even hints at announcing something, the media and blogosphere light up. Steve Jobs face beams from magazine covers and social networks buzz with inside stories. Most, if not all, that attention is positive. Is this great PR at work or simply great products at work? I’d argue that Apple doesn’t do great PR but because they make great products they don’t need to. Don’t get me wrong, I think they execute their PR with great professionalism. Their positioning is as crisp as their product set. But they don’t do high risk tactics, or even stunts. They do build excitement and then they deliver products that match that excitement (for the most part).
There are lots of companies that could match Apple at PR. But to compete with Apple they need a CEO who can sell like Steve and products that are as good as the ones Steve sells. With those ingredients they could out PR Apple. Indeed with those ingredients they could wipe the floor with Apple. Truth be told the media don’t love Apple, nor do many bloggers. But they do love that Apple keeps turning out great products and keeps saying provocative things. But if someone really wanted to take them on and had the substance to match them, the media would enjoy taking Apple down. Then we’d find out how good Apple was at PR.
Apple‘s launch of the iPad has gone very well from a PR perspective. They got a mammoth amount of press and social media coverage over the weekend, with virtually all the major news outlets covering the excitement around the product. The excitement has caused a minor crisis in that some analysts got so caught up in the moment that they raised already lofty sales expectations for the opening weekend to silly levels, levels it turns out Apple can’t meet. That aside there have been no negative stories out there. Early reviews are good, the machine seems to actually work and therefore there are no stories of users with problems. All, it seems, is well in iPadland.
Looking behind the launch a little further you can see that Apple did some sensible pre-launch PR including the product placement on Modern Family last week. They also had some nice touches such as Steve Wozniak and Jobs attending different Apple stores to lend their tech celebrity status to the proceedings. Lastly the app and content vendors have started to promote the product with announcements of new applications, books etc. As a measure of the noise level, do a YouTube search on the Apple iPad and you get over 14,000 videos. Do a Google search on the Apple iPad and you get over 136 million mentions.
We are only days in to the life of the iPad but I think it’s fair to say the PR has been a success and market has been created. Indeed, while there was nothing really innovative about the iPad PR, you can argue that what they lost on creativity they more than made up for on execution. Anyone that doesn’t know this product exists, probably never will. Now it’s up to the iPad to actually sell to the masses and not just the Apple faithful. That said, the Apple faithful is an awfully big market these days.
Another way to ask this question: “will Apple’s iPad be bad for the media industry?” Right now traditional media is struggling. I’m not referring simply to print media which is getting more and more desperate for ways to stay alive but also broadcast media, as people spend more of their free time online. The iPad could be a game changer for the media. Why? Well, the iPad does two things:
1. It creates a new platform for the media – early views of the WSJ on the iPad suggest it is a far better product than the current online version. This in turn suggests the iPad offers, magazine publishers in particular, new ways of presenting their content. That’s got to be a good thing.
2. The iPad puts media back into the time equation – people currently spend their time online looking at Facebook, YouTube and Google because they like to explore, make connections, learn etc. But the iPad creates the opportunity for media to be a part of what they find and even look for. I, like many others these days, like to get news online. That said, even a laptop isn’t a great substitute for a good magazine or newspaper. An iPad may well be. In other words, given we have all become used to spending time with our computers that we would have spent with our TVs, the iPad may start to shift the balance back towards consuming media. Of course it will only do that if the content is worth us spending that time.
One thing is clear, if the media doesn’t grab opportunities like the iPad and the Kindle by the horns, then its steady demise will only continue. That would be a sad, sad situation. One that’s bad for society and of course for the media moguls. The latter doesn’t bother me so much but the former most definitely does.