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.
Fool contributor Evan Niu, CFA, owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.