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Who's to Blame for Apple's Recent Marketing Missteps?

For the better part of 18 months, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) seemingly couldn't nail the sweet spot with its marketing campaigns. That time frame coincides precisely with Steve Jobs' death in October 2011; the company's co-founder was instrumental in coming up with Apple's marketing strategy.

In his absence, those advertising duties have fallen onto the shoulders of marketing chief Phil Schiller. That may be why Apple appeared to have lost its ad touch. Are Apple's marketing missteps Schiller's fault?

Big shoes to fill
Bloomberg Businessweek reports that Apple's longtime ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day has had a tough time transitioning to a new era where Schiller calls the shots instead of Jobs. Whereas no one questioned Jobs' decisions, Schiller seems to have less direction. The marketing exec uses a similar approach to Jobs, spending lavishly to produce ads that are ready for prime time, but sometimes axing the ads before airing and still spending millions of dollars in the process.

Apple has seen a long string of widely criticized ad spots, starting with the embarrassing "Genius" ads that ran during the 2012 Olympics. The Mac maker then reverted to a reliable product-as-hero strategy, but also released some uninspiring iPad ads that attempted to showcase specific traits.

Rivals have been effectively capitalizing on Apple's marketing mistakes. Samsung has taken no shortage of potshots at Apple, and Microsoft's latest dig at the iPad is surprisingly clever, lighthearted, and effective. Microsoft used the exact same strategy that Apple used against it years ago in its "I'm a Mac" campaign, playfully goading its rival.

Only two months ago did Apple seem to return to its roots, with the release of ads chock-full of emotional appeal. Much like how the "Think Different" campaign was all about rebuilding brand strength when the company's future was questioned, the freshly unveiled "Designed by Apple" push is similarly more about what Apple stands for than what specific features a product has.

Schiller has become one of Apple's primary showmen, frequently leading product presentations at launch events, although software head Craig Federighi did most of the talking during the software-centric WWDC keynote. Schiller has some big marketing shoes to fill, and until recent Apple's ads have left a lot to be desired.

There's a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

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  • Report this Comment On June 12, 2013, at 8:33 PM, Stonesand wrote:

    There are two prerequisites for ads that will do their job (increase sales). (1) the seller needs to know what evaluative criteria customers use for their product/service. (2) the seller needs to know the relative strength of those evaluative criteria. In other words, it maks no sense to emphasize "warranty" if it's at the bottom of the EC list and ignore say "ease of use" if that's the #1 EC.

    We see thousands of ads but most don't reflect these two basic points. I've watched countless car ads that don't reflect one single EC. Indeed, it's often hard to determine just what they are promoting.

    The same goes for some of Apple's ads. It's hard to see how some ads (Apple and others) get past the executives who are responsible for their companey's marketing efforts. Certain ads may sometimes be interesting but have no lasting impact.


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