The Mythical iTV: Steve Jobs’ Marketing Magic Is Still Alive And Well At Apple

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...

Image via CrunchBase

Another day, another rumor that an Apple television may be coming.

Another recycled rumor, in fact. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that China’s Foxconn, a major Apple supplier, is helping Apple test some prototypes for a large-screen television set. That follows similar (OK, identical) rumors a couple of days ago, last August, last May, and last December saying that Apple was enlisting Chinese suppliers to create an Apple TV set.

No surprise here, given that Apple CEO Tim Cook managed to stoke the fires of speculation last week by saying the company has “intense interest” in television. Of course, Cook himself said the very same thing last May, too.

So don’t hold your breath for an Apple TV that goes beyond the current Apple TV hockey puck. Even longtime Apple television forecaster Gene Munster at Piper Jaffray now says it won’t come before next November. And even then, it’s debatable how important a product it will be, since it’s widely assumed that Apple can’t add much to the current TV experience without deals to get access to live TV shows, or at least win the right to revamp the TV user interface to encompass the full range of pay-TV and Internet content available today. And those deals are nowhere in sight just yet.

But the new flurries of interest in the mythical machine point up something that should reassure Apple investors, at least: Apple cofounder Steve Jobs’ famous marketing magic is still at work at the company more than a year after his death.

Some investors have been worried about whether Cook, by all accounts an ace operations guy but not a showman like Jobs (as no one else really is, honestly), can keep Apple’s brand as blindingly shiny as it has been for so many years now. It’s time to give Cook credit for faithfully following Jobs’ playbook: Let fans wax on about how desirable a new Apple product will be, building demand to a fever pitch so that whatever comes out is guaranteed to get unparalleled attention. Indeed, a recent survey says they’re already willing to pay considerably more for an Apple TV–whatever it turns out to be.

No, Cook doesn’t yet deserve to be considered a master marketer like Jobs. But he’s off to a pretty good start.

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Did The Bubble In Facebook Ad Startups Just Pop?

A little crowded, perhaps? (Source: LUMA Partners)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

For much of this year, hundreds of little and not-so-little startups that help businesses run advertisements on Facebook have been playing the M&A game, buying rivals or related companies, getting acquired by bigger firms, or both. But the acquisitions were sometimes for big bucks, fueling a sense that the opportunities were huge for social marketing startups.

It’s not hard to find social marketing firms still thriving, but suddenly it’s looking a little more like a game of musical chairs. And while it would be easy (and wrong) to say the music has stopped, it’s becoming clear that a chunk of those firms will find themselves without a seat as the social media biz starts to mature and its growth chart no longer looks like a straight line up and to the right.

The recent struggles of Facebook and other social media firms such as Zynga aren’t new, of course. They prompted some folks to wonder if the social media bubble had popped a couple of months ago. But it appears now that advertiser uncertainty about social media is starting to hit the still-crowded ecosystem of social media marketing and ad firms.

Today, Salesforce.com laid off about 100 people from two social-media acquisitions, Radian6 and Buddy Media. Although it may not be surprising given likely job overlaps–and the fact that Buddy was losing big bucks before the sale–the layoff suggests that the market for social ads isn’t big enough to accommodate all the players that have sprung up in recent years, or at least all the employees working for them.

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

How Steve Jobs’ Laughable Early Apple Ads Evolved Into Today’s Marketing Marvels

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

To look at Apple’s classic advertisements, from the stark, bold “Think Different” campaign to the playful “Get a Mac” series to those minimalist silhouetted iPod ads, you’d never guess that early Apple ads were so–not to put too fine a point on it–awful.

On the one-year anniversary of Apple cofounder Steve Jobs’ untimely death, we scrounged up a baker’s dozen of early Apple ads in the accompanying photo gallery for your amusement and edification. They’re print ads in particular, since it was pretty early days to be advertising computers on television. Still, most them wouldn’t be recognizable as Apple ads if not for the name and early logos.

They weren’t especially worse than other computer ads at the time. Maybe they were even marginally better. But they were anything but special, let alone cool.

What’s interesting is not just that Apple’s early ads look so depressingly conventional. It’s that a few of them revealed flashes of Jobs’ future marvels of marketing. Once Jobs got past the initial “speeds and feeds” marketing imperative during a time when Apple was really just one, albeit prominent, competitor in a sea of pre-Windows, pre-Mac personal computer makers, he began to develop an eye for brand marketing that few companies in technology or any other industry have since surpassed.

Take a close look at these early ads, and you can see that Apple’s evolution to the pinnacle of brand marketing happened not in a straight line, but in a sort of punctuated equilibrium that parallels the gradual maturing of computing itself. At first, PCs were for hobbyists interested in performance and features, and the ads reflected that. But as the machines began to sell into the millions, Apple’s ads began to emphasize how they were “the computer for the rest of us,” as the first Macintosh ads called them.

That first one for the Apple-1 in 1976, rivetingly entitled “A Balance of Features,” was appallingly amateurish. The ad, released only a few months after Jobs and Steve Wozniak showed the prototype at the Homebrew Computer Club in SiliconValley and incorporated their company, was stuffed full of technical features in a way that’s unimaginable today. For instance, the ad touted the ability to attach a keyboard and monitor to allow “the efficient entry and examination of programs in hexidecimal notation.” Who knew?

There was even a misspelling in the first line, a sign that Jobs’ famous perfectionism hadn’t quite kicked in yet. …

Read the complete post, including a photo gallery of the ads, at The New Persuaders.

On Facebook, Quilters Go For Romney, Gamers Like Obama

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

By the numbers, President Barack Obama is crushing Republican challenge Mitt Romney when it comes to a key constituency: Facebook fans. As of now, Obama claims 28.5 million Facebook fans, while Romney–whose ads for more fans appears on a Facebook search for Obama–has 6.6 million.

But the details behind those numbers are even more interesting. According to an analysis by social media ad platform Compass Labs using some of the data it uses to help marketers target ads, followers of Obama and Romney differ in many ways. A few of them:

* Even though Obama has more than four times as many fans, Romney’s are five times more engaged than Obama’s using Facebook’s own engagement metric, People Talking About This, a measure of how many people are commenting, liking, or sharing content. Obama today has 3.1 million “people talking about this,” and Romney has 3.3 million. But as a percentage of likes, Romney’s engagement on this score is 50%, while Obama’s is only 11%. The reason: Romney’s posts are more simple and forceful and less of a rehash of what’s on his website.

* Romney  attracts active quilters, gun enthusiasts, and churchgoers, while Obama fans are often video gamers, meditators, and jigsaw puzzle fans.

* Both Obama and Romney supporters like Target, but those partial to Obama also like Samsung Mobile and Nature Made, while Romney fans like Fox News (big surprise) and Wal-Mart.

* As for movies, both like The Hangover, but Obama supporters prefer The Blind Side and Fast & Furious, while Romney supporters like Atlas Shrugged (another big surprise) and 17 Miracles.

Here’s an infographic from Compass Labs with more details: …

Read the complete post with a detailed infographic at The New Persuaders.

Brands Flock To Google+ But Facebook, Twitter Still More Active

Number of people following brands on Google+ (Source: BrightEdge)

From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:

More and more brands are staking their claims on Google’s social network, signaling that Google+ is becoming a social marketing staple along with Facebook and Twitter. But they still have far fewer fans and followers than on the two leading networks.

The latest reading on Google’s biggest bet in years comes from BrightEdge, a search engine optimization firm for large brands. According to the company’s new SocialShare Report, three-quarters of the top 100 brands now have Google+ pages, including new arrivals Visa, Hermes, and Wells Fargo. That’s approaching the brand participation on Facebook, at 90%, and Twitter, at 80%.

The number of people following the top 100 brands grew 54% in the last two months, the report said, reaching 12.2 million. That’s far lower than the 150% growth from February through May, but probably not too surprising given the absolute size.

The problem with slower growth, though, is that there are still way fewer followers of most of the top brands on Google+ vs. Facebook and Twitter. …

Read the complete post at The New Persuaders.

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