Saturday, March 5, 2011

Steve Jobs, iPad 2, Marketing, and 'Just Spell My Name Right?'

"Steve Jobs' reality distortion takes its toll on truth"
Seth Weintraub, Fortune Tech, CNN (March 3, 2011)

"Apple twisted facts and used an erroneous quotation to try to convince crowds that all other tablets had no shot at de-throning the iPad in 2011.

In what seems like a ritual at this point, I watched Apple's iPad 2 keynote in disbelief, noting the factual errors that kept coming up minute after minute. See previous:...

"...That was just the beginning. He next pulled out a thoroughly debunked, mis-translated quote from a Samsung VP:..."

The quote, as presented by Mr. Jobs, is shown in a photo. The text reads:

" 'As you heard, our sell-in was quite aggressive ... around two million. In terms of sell-out, we believe it was quite small.'
Samsung VB Lee Young-hee

Back to the CNN article/op-ed:

"...Some people only hear what they want to hear, but that quote should have ended with "quite smooth." That translation was officially corrected a long time ago...."

There's quite a bit more.

The Lemming hardly knows where to begin.

Opinions, Quotes, and Creative Marketing

Seth Weintraub has a fairly well-defined opinion about Mr. Jobs' and the Samsung slam. He may be right.

Short quotes are not, in the Lemming's opinion, all that reliable when used by someone's opposition. Wading through reverse-cherry-picked sound bites is a wearisome routine during each election - and that's almost another topic.

Throw in translation errors - and the Lemming is not going to start ranting about Speed Racer dubs. Another topic. Topics.

The Lemming has no personal experience with Apple's iPad 2. It's not that the Lemming hates Apple - there are many intriguing bits of tech that the Lemming hasn't personally used.

As for Mr. Jobs' apparent focus on criticizing competing products: That's a familiar marketing strategy. Not, maybe, the most prudent: but it's been used. Back in the Lemming's day, laundry detergents were often compared to "brand X." Later, competing brands were singled out.

Done with moderation - and careful research - pointing out how your brand is better than the competition is arguably a good idea.
'Better Than Roadkill'
The Lemming remembers when 'comparison ads' got out a little out of hand, and comics had a field day. Gags like 'our frozen dinners - better than roadkill' may have encouraged advertising agencies to change strategies. For a while, at least.

A key phrase in that discussion of comparison ads is "careful research." Even before the Information Age, making a claim that wasn't true was - not smart. If word gets around that 'brand X' lies about its product, potential customers have another reason to buy something else.

Creative license is fine - take the Aflac Duck ads, for example. A talking duck? Nobody really believes that: and it's obvious that we're not intended to. Creative facts? Like the Lemming said: those can give potential customers a reason to buy something else.

'Any Publicity is Good Publicity' - Maybe

There's an old adage: "There's no such thing as bad publicity." The Lemming ran into it in connection with entertainers: along with the "I don't care what you say, just spell my name right."

There really is value to getting your name in front of people - but that's show business, not information technology.

CNN's not the only place that Mr. Jobs' creative marketing has been discussed:
In each case, they spelled Mr. Jobs' name right. Whether that's good news for Apple is more than the Lemming knows. This is just speculation, but the Lemming suspects that Mr. Jobs' creative quotation hasn't helped Apple's credibility.

Whether or not Apple's iPad 2 isn't as rotten a product as the rest? That's something that may become apparent as folks start using it. If they start using it.

An Alternatively Factual Statement From North Africa

Comparisons are famously "odious,"1 but Steve Jobs isn't the only high-profile person to make a hotly-contested statement recently:

"...Told by the BBC's Jeremy Bowen that he had seen demonstrators in the streets that morning, Gadhafi asked, 'Are they supporting us?'

"Gadhafi, wearing sunglasses and clad in brown tribal clothing, refused to accept the reporter's assertion that they were not. 'No. No one against us. Against me for what?'

"He repeated his assertion that he is not president, but one of the people. 'They love me, all my people with me, they love me all. They will die to protect me, my people. No, no.'..."
("Gadhafi denies Libyans oppose him," CNN (February 28, 2011))

Yes, there's a huge difference between dubiously-accurate assertions from an infotech CEO and the boss of Libya. Steve Jobs may simply be doing his job, getting Apple's iPad 2 out in front of the public.

iPad 2 and the Emperor of the Galaxy

There are quite a few other possible explanations, some more improbable than others.
  • Steve Jobs has gone crazy
    • And nobody at Apple noticed
  • Mr. Jobs is doing a public service
    • Warning us about those awful products that aren't iPad 2
  • It's all some kinda plot to
    • Undermine Apple
    • Discredit Steve Jobs
      • Who is really Emperor of the Galaxy
      • And all that stands between Earth and the shape-shifting space-alien lizard people
With a little effort, the Lemming could work Elvis and Big Cheese into the mix. Or that Bill Gates is really the Galactic Emperor's evil twin.

Seriously? iPad 2 Probably Works Okay

At this point, the Lemming could probably do some angsty hand-wringing and bemoan how tawdry journalism is unfairly besmirching the fair name of Jobs, and that iPad is doomed, d-oo-oo-oo-med by bad publicity.

Not gonna happen.

The Lemming hopes that the iPad works - and that its competitors do, too. It's hard on executive egos, and worker's paychecks, when a brass hat lets a shoddy product get into production. It's no picnic for consumers who buy junk, either. In the Lemming's opinion.

As for the 'copycat' claims? Mr. Jobs could be right - or maybe Apple doesn't have all the smart designers in the world on its payroll. It's possible. In the Lemming's opinion.

Somewhat-related posts:
1 "When his friend Mr. Strahan, a native of Scotland, at his return from the Hebrides asked him...what he thought of his country? 'That is is a very vile country to be sure, Sir;' returned for answer Dr. Johnson. 'Well, Sir!' replies the other, somewhat mortified, 'God made it.' 'Certainly he did,' answers Dr. Johnson again; 'but we must always remember that he made it for Scotchmen, and - comparisons are odious, Mr. Strahan - but God made hell.' - Piozzi, Anecdotes, p. 172 - Croker" (footnote 1, page 74, "The life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D...." James Boswell (1884)) (via Google Books)

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