Steve Jobs, Apple

In 2010, the standard advice for marketers is: Be transparent. Embrace social media. Start a dialogue with your audience.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is having none of this. As everyone knows, Apple’s success is based at least in part on opacity. The brand has no Facebook or Twitter page, doesn’t respond to media requests (including one from this publication) and sometimes uses heavy-handed tactics to censor information. Apple’s mania for secrecy reached its apogee with the iPad.

While some news outlets accurately predicted the device’s debut (and its name!) seven months early, not a peep came from headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., until Jobs’ official announcement on Jan. 27. By then, bloggers had whipped up so much buzz that the iPad announcement nearly eclipsed the State of the Union address the next day.

It’s easy to conclude now, as sales of the iPad have surpassed 3 million units, that the device’s success was preordained. But industry watchers credit the marketing.

Let’s remember the “Do I really need one of these?” mumblings that preceded the launch of the iPad—a $500-plus gadget that lacks a keyboard and also can’t make phone calls. The company’s retort was an ad campaign from TBWA\Media Arts Lab that featured all the classic hallmarks of Apple advertising: A hip tune and a simple message. In this case, the former was Blue Van’s “There Goes My Love” and the latter—wordlessly conveyed—was: Look at all the cool things you can do just by touching the screen!

That focus on one or two key features is what made Apple’s message so effective—and what sets the brand apart in the tech sector, according to Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group. “Previous tablets were laptops with touchscreens,” he says. “But Apple presented it as something different, so the buyer looked at it as something different. Apple made it all about touch.”

In the ad, the iPad is on hand for every daily activity: reading a book, watching a movie, answering e-mails, smiling at family photos. That demonstrated functionality is what longtime Apple watcher and president of Creative Strategies Tim Bajarin calls the brand’s “ecosystem of applications and services”—another key differentiator.

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