4 Ways in Which Apple's Music Event Flipped the Bird to Consumers

Last Updated Sep 1, 2010 2:34 PM EDT

Apple (AAPL) is a master of marketing. And given the success of the iPad and iPhone 4, it still is. However, over the last year, the missteps have become more frequent and glaring. The Apple Event today is an example for one simple reason: streaming video. You can only get watch Apple's event if you own a Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. That simple and unnecessary choice telegraphs 4 things, none of which is good for Apple or its strategy.

Remember that Apple has been obvious in its change of a long-term orientation. Once the maker of the cool outlaw computer, it is now a giant, largely based on consumer electronics sales. Yes, Macs are a significant chunk of the business, but growing smaller. According to Apple's last 10-Q, the company sold a record number of Macs, at 3.472 million units. However, the net revenue was only 28 percent of Apple's total. Compare that to the same quarter last year, where Mac sales were 34.5 percent of total sales.

Apple has become a consumer electronics company. What does a consumer electronics company want to do? Sell to all consumers who like and can afford the brand. Given the range of products that Apple makes, that should be quite a number, especially as it now has a $49 iPod, which is clearly a way to get to more customers and sell them on the brand. But Apple has chosen to provide a video cast of the event only to those who own devices that run Mac OS X Snow Leopard or iOS 3 or later.


That's as good as telling everyone not in the category that they are unwanted. As a result, Steve Jobs and everyone at Apple have sent the following messages:

  1. We aren't interested in talking to anyone who isn't already a customer because they aren't good enough.
  2. Even if you are a customer, if you haven't bought something from us lately, you're as bad as someone who runs Windows. Go away.
  3. We don't know how to stream video to anyone outside of our closed world.
  4. We don't need more business.
In short, this is the "fanboys only" video meeting. Apple's path to growth has been to break out of its restricted niche and into a broader market. Will this one action do anything obvious to sales? Absolutely not. But it shows a pretty large marketing faux pas, and not the first one Apple has made over the last year or two. For corporate management, such a pattern should be disconcerting, because it shows a fundamental break in what has always been an immense strength.

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Image: Flickr user BinaryApe, CC 2.0.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.