The marketing genius of Steve Jobs revolved around selling beautiful and useful things with the enthusiasm of a snake oil salesman – convincing audiences his products weren’t just good, they were “magical.”
But on Wednesday, Apple Inc. faced its first major product launch since the death of its iconic co-founder. The introduction of the latest iPad was only the second time the company’s less charismatic new CEO, Tim Cook, has stepped on stage to lead a launch, trying to whip up a frenzy of free advertising and buzz from a crowd of fanboys, bloggers and the press.
In that effort, most observers agree, Mr. Cook was following the script Mr. Jobs left behind – with a presentation similar in structure to other Apple product launches, though without some of the excitement.
“Nobody whipped up the Mac faithful like Steve Jobs did. It would be unfair for Tim to even have to try to play that exact role,” said Tim Bajarin, an analyst with California-based Creative Strategies Inc. Rather, he presents a very stable corporate message and image … He was at ease, in control.”
That stability may be exactly what the Apple brand needs, according to marketing industry observers.
“They’ve lost that chief salesman … but it’s quite smart, during this tumultuous period, not to deviate radically from their strategies,” said Arthur Fleischmann, partner and president of Toronto agency john st. “You watch [Mr.]Cook onstage, and it’s a clear extension of the brand strategy.”
At the same time, Mr. Cook’s presentation pushed a new marketing message for Apple: It’s focusing on its core product group of iPads, iPhones and iPods, which have ushered in what Mr. Cook called the “post-PC” era.
“That was one marketing message they did very well here,” said Technology Business Research Inc. analyst Ezra Gottheil. “Taking the product lines that are three times bigger than the PC market, and saying that’s where the action is. And it is.”
There’s no question the message was presented with a more subdued style of salesmanship, however. Where Mr. Jobs emphasized that Apple products were “magical” and “revolutionary,” Mr. Cook preferred to repeatedly call them “amazing.”
And where Mr. Jobs was known for faking out audiences by walking partway offstage, and then pausing to present “one more thing” – a supposed afterthought designed to excite the crowd – Mr. Cook completed his presentation, then simply thanked attendees for coming.
He also brings a more team-oriented style to the launches, introducing engineers on stage in a way Mr. Jobs only did in recent years.
Another development creating buzz in advertising circles is Apple’s decision to name the improved tablet simply “the new iPad.”
But as Apple moves into the post-PC and the post-Jobs era, it has the advantage of marketing products from an undeniable position of dominance, and forcing competitors to come up with messaging to beat even its newly subdued launches.
“There’s so much momentum around Apple itself, and yes, it was a character like Steve Jobs that got it to that position,” said Stephen Bennett, creative director at Taxi Canada. “But market share has not dropped.
“Apple’s such a unique brand and has such a love connection to consumers.”