What is the common thread with all the Apple news since September?
Apple, the company is doing very well. Q1 2013 earnings released today, 1/23/2013, and by normal measures, Apple is doing great. Record sales of iPhones and iPads. Revenue and profit that would be the envy of any company.
Yet the stock is down $55 in after hours to $460 from a recent high of $705. Seems like a bit of an over reaction to record earnings, no?
So whats happens to Apple’s stock mojo?
Once perspective is that marketing is whats missing from Apple. Steve Jobs was really the marketing genius. Everything he did was focused on marketing. Secrecy? That was meant to build excitement.
Apologies? Opportunity to tout a products benefits with lip service to any actual apology.
Steve Jobs wrote the book on giving people less and having them pay more. Fewer product choices, fewer releases, fewer options, higher prices. It worked beautifully. People loved the clean simplicity.
Tim Cook has never played the part of the visionary. He’s the consummate operations guy. He knows how to keep a well oiled machine operating at peak efficiency. Coming up with inspirational vision for technology gadgets is not in his DNA. Likewise coming up with clear, consistent, compelling marketing messages is not his forte.
There have been several stumbling blocks that have each provided clear signs.
- Hiring John Browett to lead retail was a baffling move. Why would you place a Kmart style retail head in charge of the Apple retail empire known for high service and a premium experience?
- Providing a stock dividend. Its amazing to see stock analysts suggest that the solution to Apple’s problems is to increase its stock dividend and initiate a stock buyback. The dividend sits at $2.85. Is that a meaningful use of cash when the stock has dropped $245? I’d rather have the stock appreciation than throwing away hard earned money as a dividend. Apple isn’t a utility company with a guaranteed revenue stream. Its an innovation company. That money needs to be used to remake industries, to innovate, to create what most can’t even imagine. With $160 BILLION in cash, Apple could buy most companies, they could remake whatever industry they chose. A dividend is simply throwing the money away.
- Giving the keynotes. This is the most telling. Tim is not a technology evangelist. That is apparent. It does not make sense for him to be driving keynotes trying to sell the world on new products. The fact that he is giving the keynotes means that he is unwilling to step aside to let someone else have the lime light. If he doesn’t cede the attention during a keynote, he certainly won’t during product creation.
- Apologizing for Apple maps. Not only was this a horrific idea, but the way it was done was even worse. Steve Jobs would have spent the majority of the apology as an excuse to brag about the benefits of maps. He would have sung its virtues and have put an apology as a footnote. If Tim Cook couldn’t muster any positive comment about Apple’s maps, how can they expect anyone else to? Why bother to release it if he’s that ashamed of it?
- Refresh all the products right before the christmas rush, only to not be able to make enough of them. Why bother? Why not wait until after christmas when you can make enough. iMac in particular should have waited. There were other reasons to release the iPhone 5 & iPad Mini.
Unfortunately, the conclusion is that Apple needs a new visionary to be the marketing face of the company. Someone who can turn every move into a marketing opportunity.
Sadly, Google and Samsung are even out marketing Apple. Samsung’s billions in advertising works wonders against the deafening silence that now befalls Apple.
The first quarter of 2013 promises to be quiet. All the products recently refreshed. No venue until WWDC in June.
Apple needs to get its mojo back. It needs to market itself and its products again. It can’t continue to let Samsung and Google define the brand image for Apple.