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Steve Jobs: The Power of His Brand Helps Apple Again [UPDATE]

Last Updated Jun 6, 2011 9:43 PM EDT

To get maximum PR benefit, Apple has, once again, done the unexpected. While normally secretive about new products, preferring to reveal them in real time at its World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple issued a press release to provide information about the Conference keynote. In the release, Apple says it will unveil the three key components of its "next generation" software...
  1. Lion, the eighth major release of Mac OSX - consistent with Apple's use of big and powerful felines to brand its OSX versions.
  2. iOS5, the next release of its mobile platform - fitting Apple's brand platform for mobile products. Instead of numbers, maybe they should use birds (to symbolize mobility) to brand iOS versions. There are a lot more bird varieties than big cats (but Twitter might not be amused).
  3. iCloud, the upcoming cloud computing product - consistent with the i-xxx brand platform (where the xxx is a single syllable word).
What was most impactful about this release was not the unusual reveal about these products before the WWDC, but the announcement that Steve Jobs and a team of Apple executives would deliver the keynote on June 6th. At the news of Jobs being well enough to headline the keynote, Apple stock rocketed $10.42, or 3.09% for the day, and was a major topic on news shows. This once again demonstrates the powerful impact the Steve Jobs brand has on Apple's business.

Getting the media buzzing as only Apple can.

Because journalists and tech watchers know that Apple typically offers up surprises at the WWDC, there is considerable speculation about what the press release has not revealed. Apple watchers know the company is too PR-savvy to generate interest and later disappoint. Therefore, they are trying to guess what surprises Steve Jobs has rolled up his iconic mock-turtleneck sleeves. The list that is being bandied about includes the following:
Whatever it will be, the speculation generated by this "unexpected" approach to Apple product introductions provides the promotion leverage that is vintage Apple, Steve Jobs, and Lady Gaga.

The SJ iconic approach to giving keynotes.

In his CNN Money post, Phillip Elmer De-Witt talks about what makes Steve Jobs keynotes different from other CEOs. He says, "It helps that he generally delivers the goods in terms of new products with real impact. But he also works hard to deliver them with some drama and flair. Insiders say he prepares his product introductions as if they were Broadway shows. The format is deceptively simple: a setup, a twist, and a big reveal." Even those that are not fans of Apple and Jobs recognize his extraordinary ability to charismatically create a "reality distortion field" that mesmerizes audiences.

What can marketers learn?
Even though it is hard to match the delivery of Steve Jobs in giving presentations, marketers can do more effective marketing by learning from his (and Apple's) approach to...
  • Branding - platforms that use effective names, images, and relationships
  • Product design - the look & feel and fit & finish that exceeds buyer expectations
  • Promotion - getting the marketplace to anticipate, speculate, and still be surprised for optimum effectiveness
  • Presentation structure - setup, twist, and big reveal that makes the audience wanting more.
Surely there are good marketers and speakers in many companies. If they can learn how to grab the audience and not let go until the right message is firmly planted in buyer brains, their companies will benefit considerably.

How might you apply these concepts and techniques to improve the success of your business?

[UPDATE] Here's what Steve Jobs delivered and we learned.
The Apple WWDC opened today following the script of the Apple press release. After Apple executives presented the new capabilities of OSX Lion and iOS5, Steve Jobs was introduced and greeted by a standing ovation and a shout of "We love you." He looked about the same as he did when he introduced the iPad2 so his health seems to be status quo. He focused on the iCloud service, which will be comprised of 9 applications that will be offered free to Apple users with up-to-date operating systems. Available in the fall along with iOS5, users will receive 5GB of free storage for email, documents and back-ups. With iCloud, updated content will be pushed automatically and wirelessly to up to 10 devices. As indicated by multiple ovations, attendees seemed happy with the capabilities being offered in Lion, iOS5, and iCloud. More than a few watching the video stream or following the play- by-play, however, expressed disappointment that nothing was mentioned about the iPhone 5 or other rumored hardware. See Erik Sherman's excellent post for more information on disappointments related to what was presented. All in all, this was a characteristically good Apple and Steve Jobs presentation with no big surprises or home runs. After the great pre-Conference build up, one might view this as a bit of a let down. The stock market seemed to echo this sentiment since, as of this writing near market close, Apple shares fell $5.40, or 1.57%. The marketing lesson to be learned is that if you have a great build-up, as Apple did prior to the keynote, you need to exceed expectations rather than just meet them. Otherwise, you might disappoint at least some in your audience.


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Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). Follow him on Twitter.
image courtesy of flickr user, acaben
  • Ira Kalb

    Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California. He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. He is frequently interviewed by various media for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter at @irakalb