On his Micro Persuasion blog, Edelman's Steve Rubel has an excellent post today titled, "Three Reasons the Internet is
Eroding Apple's Mojo."
I completely agree that said mojo is eroding, but have been itching to tell you my own thoughts on this. What does Apple have to do with social media? Not much, from the
perspective of its own corporate outreach, and that's at the core of the problems it now faces.
I'm not a passionate Apple cultist, despite my love affair with my iPod, but I still find it
troubling to see how Apple has bungled the situation regarding Steve Jobs' health. However, most of us who have had to deal with Apple as reporters probably see the company's current predicament as
entirely predictable. Apple has skated on its deserved reputation for creating the coolest of cool tech products for years, which has let the company dictate how it chooses to engage with the outside
world. Now the terms are changing, and Apple is having trouble dealing with the shift.
The reason I mentioned reporters above is that Apple is one of a handful of companies with a
reputation of being painfully unresponsive to press requests. Its communications with us lowly rabble have usually happened on its terms. No corporation, not even Apple, can get away with that
anymore. As Rubel points out, citizen journalists are now consistently calling Apple's bluff.
Let's look back at how things have played out over the last few months. First, for months Apple
has skirted discussing Jobs' health,
and the rumor roller coaster that filled the void has affected the
health of the company's share price. For a time, perhaps, Jobs himself didn't know what his health issue was, but the company behaved as though whatever was going on with Jobs was nobody's business.
For the average citizen, that indeed would be true, but for CEOs of public companies, and particularly Jobs -- a cancer survivor, no less -- it's painfully obvious that's not the case.
Second, in the middle of the speculation about Jobs' health, the company offered up a snooty repudiation of MacWorld,
pronouncing this would be its last time at the show and that its head of worldwide product marketing would keynote instead of Jobs. Were we expected to believe that Jobs was just fine and that
MacWorld was so unimportant that Apple could foist the keynote off on another Apple executive? Particularly when Jobs' keynotes serve as invaluable PR for the company? Go to YouTube, and type in
"Steve Jobs Macworld." What you'll get back is dozens of videos of Jobs' MacWorld keynotes,
of which have hundreds of thousands of views. How many iPods were purchased as a direct result of those Jobs-hosted product demos? Millions, I'd bet.
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When you think about how cool Apple's products are, its inability to manage its reputation right now may seem strange. But, as I said above,
that's precisely why Apple finds itself in its current situation. Because the huddled masses "oohed" and "aahed" at every product launch, and hung on Jobs' every word, the company seemed to believe we
were all so awed that we would be unquestioning. Particularly in a Web 2.0 world, that's a dangerous belief.
It's hard to talk about this without thinking about the best Apple commercial of
all time, which, is, of course, "1984."
When that commercial was made, the woman who hurled the sledgehammer was meant to represent
Apple. Twenty-five years later, we're the ones hurling it. Maybe Apple is starting to feel the pain.