Another week, another content marketing, tech and social round-up from Future Content shimmying its way into your inbox with some risqué hip movements and no little va-va-voom.
With the news that Apple has been given, not so much a slap on the wrist as an almighty headbutt to the face by the European Commission, we thought we’d do something different this week and investigate Apple ourselves. Not for tax avoidance, of course, the EC has done a pretty good (or bad, depending on who you are) job of that already. Instead, in terms of its content and distribution strategies.
Let’s dive in.
In 2015, Apple increased its spend on advertising and marketing to $1.8 billion, a 50% increase on the previous year. Not that they’ve ever been frightened of spending big: the infamous (and genius) ‘1984’ Superbowl slot cost an estimated $650,000. Take into account inflation, and you’re looking at $1.5million. No chump change.
But it was worth every penny. ‘1984’ was a watershed moment for the brand, and set out a manifesto which defined the business for 30 years.
Lesson one: The right content is the one with the most impact, and quality will outshine quantity.
The spot is indicative as a whole to Apple’s approach to advertising and marketing; a focus on the campaign or project rather than a continuous barrage of information. It also highlights the brilliance of knowing your audience and speaking directly to them. Before Jobs first played the ‘1984’ spot to an eager audience of Apple employees, he said this:
“[…] It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?”
Jobs positioned the business as the outsiders: the outliers who were doing strange, interesting, creative things on the fringes of society. The others. And this message was echoed by its second timeless spot: 1997’s ‘Here’s To The Crazy Ones’.
Lesson 2: Every piece of content should back up a firm brand position, a message or set of values that defines what the business is all about. Whether you’re adventurous, innovative or simply effective, your content will define your brand.
Fast forward to a final campaign: a lovely piece of content timed with the launch of the Apple Watch. Apple is known for being blog-averse, but with the launch of its new wearable, they enlisted the help of Christy Turlington Burns, who charted her training for the London Marathon in 2015.
A former supermodel might not seem like the most obvious of brand/product champions, until you look closer at her charity work as founder of non-profit organisation Every Mother Counts, which focuses on improving maternal health across the world.
This took the conversation away from the product, aligning Apple with something bigger, more important, and more emotive than a gadget. Christy’s personal goals, aided by the Apple Watch, are aligned with her charitable goals, and in the end, everyone wins.
In addition to her blog posts and social media efforts, Turlington Burns was filmed in conversation with Apple’s fitness lead, Jay Blahnik, at the Regent Street Apple Store in London, and the story was a huge PR boon, making press nationally and internationally.
Lesson 3: Choosing a content partner can be hugely beneficial for all involved, if the strategy is right.
Lesson 4: While content should be focused on lead generation, it also acts as a mouthpiece for your brand. Make sure it’s saying the right things.
Lesson 5: Great content can be sweated for value. If you’ve written and effective post, what else can you do with it? Podcast? Video? Send to journalists? All of the above?
Apple is infamously social media-shy; it launched its @Apple Twitter handle only yesterday, and its social media strategy is at odds with best practice.
We’re often told (and we recommend ourselves) that a business needs to be open, revealing something of itself on social media. And yet one glance at the Apple Facebook page or (now) Twitter stream reveals zero activity. What’s going on? This is the world’s biggest tech company. If they don’t need to do it, why should I, right?
Not so fast. For one, you’re not Apple. Sorry. Secondly, they are on social, or rather their main products and services are. They just use the platforms in a very controlled way – mirroring the fastidious attention to detail applied in their product design.
iTunes, for instance, currently has around 980,000 followers on Twitter and 31 million likes on Facebook. Meanwhile, the App Store has 4.5 million followers and nearly 14 million likes respectively. The one channel that takes content seriously in the way that we would talk about content is YouTube which has 133 videos, and nearly 4.5 million subscribers. And it’s this channel that really wins out.
YouTube offers some glossy ad spots, sure, but in amongst that are some campaigns and helpful guides. Shot on iPhone allows brand advocates to produce their story, opening the brand up to others’ interpretations, curating content from around the world. On a more practical level, Apple Music’s Guided Tours offer tips and tricks to users to get the most out of their products.
So, its social media push may not follow best practice as we’d understand it in a B2B capacity, but the social media content is becoming more open, and more helpful than before.
Lesson 6: Best practice is not the be all and end all. Be channel agnostic. Don’t be on Twitter because everyone else is there; be on Twitter because it works and offers some tangible value. The best practice is the one that works for you.
While Apple is reticent to get involved on social media, it has no such qualms about newsletters. Apple’s email is a blend of transactional, sales messages, helpful guides and special offers, nailing the best practice from our own email specialists. Add value, people will love you. Apple absolutely nail it.
Lesson 7: You need an email newsletter. It’s the most direct form of engagement with your audience, plus it’s an essential tool in collecting email addresses about your audience.
Steve Jobs was all about control. He insisted that Apple’s computers should be a ‘closed system’, not compatible with other PCs of the time, and in some ways, the Apple marketing strategy has the same feel. Everything is aligned, on message and on brand. There are no videos of Tim Cook dancing around and being daft (like some other tech founders might).
There’s a case to be made that the brand’s outlier tone has shifted to a friendlier, more inclusive message. And it’s interesting that that shift began when Tim Cook took up the reigns from a famously stubborn and antagonistic Jobs. But, nevertheless, the attention to detail and the sheen of the brand remains. And that’s why, despite not being well known as a content brand, Apple keeps on winning.
Just that $14 billion tax bill to worry about now.
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