360DigitalInfluence

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide

 

This past Monday, as I feverishly refreshed Engadget’s live Blog of Steve Jobs presentation at the WWDC conference, I was reminded of this excerpt from the book about the development of the Segway, Code Name Ginger, and this quote from author and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”

Apple has access to the same sort of raw material (in the form of people, technologies, strategies and tactics, etc) as their competitors, and yet is a very, very different company than all of them.  I’m not going to speculate as to why that is, this TedX video makes one argument, but I do think part of the answer - as suggested by the book excerpt linked to above which heavily features some of Steve Jobs thinking on promotions - is that the company is just more sophisticated and disciplined when it comes to marketing than most other technology companies.

Jobs presentation at the recent WWDC - and really, all his presentations - is a great showcase for some simple, straightforward marketing principles that more companies should employ:

  • Intensity: Apple treats its news like a precious commodity, hordes it, and announces it all at the same time. On Monday Jobs had 8 pieces of news. Most companies would string those out over 8 press releases and each would achieve the attention it deserves. By packaging them together their inherent news value becomes more, not less, significant.
  • Simplicity: Remember this article in the New York Times about the problem the US military has with PowerPoint? Apple doesn’t have that issue. Ever. Presentations are simple. A concept a slide. A word or two a slide. A picture in place of words whenever possible. Our minds seem to be wired to want to communicate in complex forms but to only understand things when cleanly and simply presented.
  • Credibility: Want people to understand how wonderful you are? Establish your credibility by showing them real, functional solutions (um, WiFi issues notwithstanding), and get partners and customers to help tell the story. If you’re giving them a big stage, they’d be crazy not to want to share it.
  • Beauty: Maybe it’s just me, but when Apple communicates something, it takes the time to make sure it’s presentation is, well, aesthetically pleasing. Look at the Engadget pictures. Sure the slides are text, or photos of hardware, but they look good. There’s nothing bad about being easy on the eyes.
  • Narrative: The presentation recognizes the importance of narrative, something I’ve written about before. This isn’t just a series of product introductions, it’s a story about what ‘we’ (Apple) are doing to innovate and create an even more compelling next generation of products. Narrative is important, it’s how people think, process and store information. There’s a story, an innovation story, behind everything Apple does, and it works.

The past few weeks witnessed the introduction of two new competitors to Google: Bing and WolframAlpha.  Both services have their strengths (and weaknesses); however they both experienced rocky roll-outs.  Here are three lessons public relations professionals should learn from the respective launches.

1.      If you’re going to launch, be open for business.  The world was introduced to Bing May 28th. But not really. Visitors to the site were greeted first by a blank screen, then with a note that Bing would be “coming soon.” The launch release indicated it would be available for actual searches six days later on June 3rd.  The end result? A tremendous loss of traffic that wasted massive amounts of  publicity.

2.      If you’re going to tease, make sure there’s a payoff.  The launch of WolframAlpha was fed by months of speculation and anticipation (a leaked screen shot, a video demo with no shots of the service, etc).  When it launched, however, the service did not live up to, probably unrealistic, expectations. The result? By one measure interest in WolframAlpha has cooled significantly.

3.      Don’t be cute, but if you insist on being cute, be consistent.  You may think WolframAlpha and Bing are search engines but they’re not. How do we know? They told us. WolframAlpha is a ‘computational knowledge engine’ while Bing is ‘decision engine.’ What’s wrong with this? First, the phrase ‘computational knowledge engine’ needs its own ‘computational knowledge engine’ to be understood.  Second, while ‘decision engine’ is easier to understand, Microsoft is inconsistent in its messaging.  Just check out the launch release wherein Bing is described as both a ‘decision engine’ and a ‘new approach to search.’ If you want to play down comparisons to your chief competitor, describe yourself as something different all the time. If the comparisons are unavoidable, don’t try to avoid them.

I said there were three lessons, but here’s one more thing we should all remember.  When you’re naming you’re new product, make sure you think through all the ways your new name can be manipulated.

With tech publications and online media warming to the idea of vendor generated content, the opportunity to garner coverage and increase the visibility of your brand, products and services through channels such as videos, infographics, slideshows and podcasts are on the rise. Although many of these outlets will accept content in the form of bylined articles, guest columns, and white papers, they require significant time commitments from our clients, which can oftentimes be a challenge.  Video is quick, easy and requires a relatively low investment in time and resources, all while providing yet another medium for showcasing thought leadership.

Video has seen enormous growth online over the past few years, which can be attributed to increased broadband adoption and the proliferation of video sharing sites such as YouTube, Blip.TV and Yahoo! Video. With these sites attracting hundreds of millions of eyeballs per month, and with tech media and bloggers scrambling for content, the opportunity to broadcast your company’s message can seem just about endless.

continue reading

Just a quick note to direct our loyal readers to this Nightline segment about the recent Domino’s Pizza crisis.  It’s a good overview of the topic and resident expert and colleague John Bell is featured.

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide