MARKETING

The Marketing Tactic Tim Cook Needs to Bring Back to Apple

In the wake of some unfavorable press, Apple's CEO slides into defense mode--and it's not doing the company any favors.
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Apple CEO Tim Cook wasn't a happy guy last week. The new book Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, by former Wall Street Journal technology reporter Yukari Iwatani Kane, hit the streets. Among the author's arguments: Cook sits in the shadow of Jobs and may preside over a long decline similar to the one the company saw in the past.

Who would want to hear that? Certainly not Cook, who fired off an email to CNBC:

This nonsense belongs with some of the other books I've read about Apple. It fails to capture Apple, Steve, or anyone else in the company. Apple has over 85,000 employees that come to work each day to do their best work, to create the world's best products, to put their mark in the universe and leave it better than they found it. This has been the heart of Apple from day one and will remain at the heart for decades to come. I am very confident about our future. We've always had many doubters in our history. They only make us stronger.

Jobs usually handled the media masterfully, but there's none of that in Cook's statement. Actually, there's little smart marketing in it at all. That's because Cook has apparently forgotten one of the critical secrets of marketing: show, don't tell.

Want a classic example of showing? The old Palmolive dish washing detergent ads that had Madge, the beautician, soaking the fingers of a customer in the green stuff:

Or there's Samsung, which showed that its product was thinner than Apple's iPad Air.

You can even do it in words. A classic ad for Rolls Royce claimed that at 60 mph, the loudest sound was the ticking of the car's electric clock. That brilliant line came directly from a note an engineer wrote during some tests.

Showing takes work but it makes your point far more powerful. Anyone can talk; few can actually pull off what they claim.

That's the problem facing Cook. He took umbrage at an unfavorable report and decided to get huffy. He and his marketing and PR teams talked and talked more than should have been possible in a single paragraph.

How do you counter something like that? By delivering. Show the new products, the new technology. Demonstrate what you can do. In the process, people will forget about the criticism, unless it's to laugh about it. That is, if you can deliver. If not, you'd better learn how. Marketing without substance is the fast lane to inconsequence.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Mar 25, 2014

ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist

Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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