When it comes to communications in the tech world, Apple is considered by many to be a grandmaster of sorts. Detailed, slick and interesting presentations are a trademark of the company. Indeed there are many who consider that Apple made the tech launch a showbiz event with its attention to detail and penchant for drama (thanks mainly to a certain Steve Paul Jobs). Indeed there are many who believe that Apple events themselves have played a major role in the success of many of its products – serving as a sort of extension of the “reality distortion field” that one of the company’s founders was famous for generating. Yes, it was not as if Apple ALWAYS had events for all its product launches – some were just marked by a humble press release – but by and large, the rule seemed to be to mark products with elaborate launches, invites to which were considered a sign of having arrived in the tech world.
So well, you can consider these statistics over the past three days from Apple:
- Major products launched: Five (two iPads, two iMacs and one AirPods)
- Press releases: Three (some very interesting CEO Tweets, though!)
- Events: Zilch. Zero. Zonk.
In fact, Apple has an event scheduled for 25th, and the announcement of these products has only increased curiosity levels about it, with speculation ranging from a video service to a gaming service to a second avatar of an iPhone.
We are not sure we have seen anything like this in the recent past. Yes, the odd product upgrade or special edition or accessory announcement getting a press release rather than a launch was not uncommon. But these are five products, and at least three of them – the iPad Air, the iPad mini and the AirPods – were coming back into the spotlight after brief sabbaticals. While some would say that the iMac update was relatively routine and unexpected only in terms of scheduling and that the AirPods were perhaps too marginal an upgrade on paper to warrant an event of their own, the iPads definitely came with plenty of changes to fill up an elaborate launch presentation – the ranges coming back from the cold, Apple Pencil support, et al.
What’s more interesting is that these were all announced BEFORE a very high profile event. “It is almost as if they wanted it out of the way,” a friend of mine who is a senior executive in a communications firm said. “A few years ago, they would probably have had these upgrades on the stage for a short while before moving on to the main star of the show, whatever that is. Remember, that’s how a lot of products were launched – as add ons to the main product for which the event is remembered?”
So, have times changed? Well, many executives believe that the big event is rapidly becoming too easily cloned and unmanageable. “It might get you the headlines for a day or so, but managing the crowds, the travel and stay arrangements and all…those can be a logistical nightmare,” confides a friend who works in an organization known for some very high profile launches. There is also the biggest challenge of them all: holding the attention of the audience during a long presentation. “There is no Steve there anymore,” my friend says with a shrug. “Without someone that commanding on the stage, you would struggle to hold the attention of the crowd for a long time.” The indications are therefore that Apple already might have a lot to say in its March 25 event, so much that it did not want to bundle other product announcements with it.
It that is indeed the case, that would also indicate that notwithstanding the concern of some big launch lovers, Apple has not yet given up on the big launch event. What it, however, seems to have worked out is a rather clever way of staying in the news well before a launch event and not just after it, which is the conventional way. “In
the past, days leading up to the event would be marked by speculation about what the event would be about. And more often than not, most of what would be launched would be covered in leaks – witness what happened to the iPhones,” a colleague in the media told us. “Now, Apple has actually managed to retain the interest in the event by reducing space for rumors by actually giving the media real news. Yes, people will still write leaks and rumors, but a large section will be more interested in what has actually been released. I mean, right now, more people are talking about the AirPods and iPads than about what will happen on March 25. And of course, that also means less space for the competition! Most of the tech sites and publications have been going Apple, Apple, for the past few days. All with new press releases and tweets.”
Of course, there is no way of knowing if this is a one-off or part of a long term strategy, but one thing is clear: judging by the coverage and interest, Apple has once again delivered a rather telling communications lesson to the tech world.
As you grow in size and reputation, you do not always need a stage or a crowd to launch an event. A few tweets and press releases can suffice.