Taking Back the Market

Using a Different Kind of Keynote Address to Drive Apple Retail Sales

Tim Nash - 2008.12.19

In recent years, the timing of the Steve Jobs Macworld Expo keynote seemed to be more about sucking the air out of the news from CES than having products ready. Often the hardware wouldn't ship until February or March or even, in the case of the iPhone, June.

While this is great for driving up the pre-orders, it isn't a good way to transition products.

Ahead of the Curve

One of Apple's strengths under Steve Jobs is killing off a product or, as in this case, a way of doing things before it is obviously on its last legs. It's one of the ways that makes Apple look on top of its game.

With the recession, visitor numbers this year and next will be hit. So the news that Phil Schiller will be giving the last Apple keynote at Macworld Expo and that Apple won't even be there in 2009 is a good commercial decision. In the days when Apple was desperate for attention, the two Macworld Expos helped focus the press. Now that, as the Macalope put it, Apple gets "massive, global exposure" when it sneezes, Macworld has become an expensive unnecessary distraction.

Even with large discounts from the organizer, it must cost Apple millions. It is expensive in terms of floor space, booth design, construction, and manning it with good personnel, at least some of whom need to be flown in and given hotel rooms, etc. Unnecessary because its prime focus is the consumer, who can now see Apple products well displayed in 250 Apple Stores as well as Premium Apple Retailers.

It is also a distraction, as an exhibition like this is a large soak of management time, because if it is not carried off well the share price suffers.

Other Trade Shows

It still makes sense for Apple to participate in certain trade shows. Those with a narrow industry focus, such as IBC for broadcasters (the European equivalent of NAB) can help build market share, particularly where there is a fragmented market that Apple addresses well. This sort of industry trade show is very good for meetings with major and potential customers and impressing them with how busy the stand is with customers from their industry. The crowds become a recommendation and validate the choice.

As the App Store features a medical section, Apple may start showing off the advantages of the iPhone and iPod touch in exhibitions targeting healthcare.

Another Option

However, special event keynotes could be even more effective if they made more use of the Apple Retail Stores. A multicast only available in those stores and relayed to all the screens, with sound over external speakers, would let many more participate and be the focus of a local event. It becomes the Apple rock concert or Apple movie premiere where you don't have to pay to get in.

Then, at the end, have the product there to buy.

Give the local journalists front row seats. Then part of the local story becomes crowds waiting to get in and the buying frenzy at the end. This takes it out of the tech segment and into real news.

With media cutbacks, fewer and fewer journalists will have the travel budget or the time to fly to Cupertino. Those that do are the top level of tech journalists and earn the bonus of a Q&A at the end.

This special event "localizing" also counteracts reviews, making them less important at launch. Every time there's a crowd, passersby ask what's it about. People seeing TV reports or newspaper articles of one take note of why it happened. It's one of the ways we filter information to sort out what's important. Like those who can't or don't want to go, they can download the keynote after the event.

This is the kind of special event excitement that competitors will have real problems trying to match. LEM

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Tim Nash is a Director of WattWenn which has a new approach to scheduling the production of TV and movies to make the most of budgets. The views in this article are his own and are prejudiced from spending more years working for computer companies than he cares to remember.

Tim lives with his wife, her website on the area ariege.com, two daughters, a cat, and a dog in the French Pyrenees. He lapsed for a while after the Apple II, but became a Mac fan when his wife introduced him to the Macintosh IIsi. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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