Over the last few weeks, we’ve posted several stories about Apple‘s newer, more aggressive PR strategy in the post-Jobs era. Not only is the tech giant focused on pushing its own products; it’s also giving its executives more leeway to take shots at rivals like Samsung as they see fit.
Jean-Louise Gassée worked for Apple throughout the 80’s as the head of its French division and later directed Macintosh product development before leaving due to strategic differences with other executives. On Sunday he posted an op-ed on the Monday Notes tech blog with the ominous headline “Apple Is Losing the War–of Words“. Gassée‘s conclusion will surprise many in the tech world, because he thinks the Apple PR team should take a few cues from Microsoft and hire an outside firm better versed in the art of “verbal warfare.”
Wait, what? Let’s explore this a little further, shall we?
Gassée disapproves of Apple marketing exec Phil Schiller‘s decision to conduct interviews slamming Samsung’s new Galaxy S4 and even making incorrect speculations about its supposedly outdated operating system. The former exec says Apple cannot define itself with the sort of “I’m a PC, you’re a Mac” branding campaigns that openly disparage the powers that be (Microsoft) because it is no longer the underdog.
His review of the language in Apple press releases and earnings calls should interest communications pros as well: he finds far too many unnecessary superlatives describing “great products”, “tremendous” profits and “amazing” market gains. One report even described the Apple team as “maniacally focused”, which feels more than a little forced. This kind of overly positive language, he says, undermines the brand’s message because the words mean nothing–Apple has effectively ceded the strategic advantage to its competitors.
Execs making negative comments in interviews aren’t going to cut it either–Apple needs a PR firm to attack its competitors more effectively. Gassée uses the phrase “hired media assassins” in citing Waggener Edstrom‘s 90’s Microsoft campaigns. He also mentions Microsoft’s Frank Shaw, who has aggressively attacked rivals like Google and even waged Twitter wars with their representatives.
Gassée is not afraid to criticize his former employer; last year he caused a stir by (accurately) stating that Apple has “never actually invented anything.”
So what do we think? Is it time for Apple to go negative and hire an outside firm to serve as “media assassin”?