Frankly, because this seems to happen every year, we decided to
take Apple out of the running for Marketer of the Year and instead
crown the tech whiz as Ad Age's first Marketer of the Decade.
It seems fitting: Apple kicked off the aughts in 2001 with the
iPod, an electronic device that went on to disrupt and forever
change the music industry; then mid-decade it dropped the iPhone, a
mobile device that changed the mobile-phone industry and added the
word "apps" to the English vocabulary; and finally, in 2010 it
debuted the iPad, a computing device with the potential to disrupt
the media, publishing, entertainment and computing industries.
Yes, it has been a golden decade for Apple. And while one can
certainly argue that its influence has been overstated -- it is No.
56 on the list of Fortune 500 by revenue -- Apple's influence on
business models across industries from music and computing to
entertainment and advertising, along with its impact on popular
culture, media and, of course, marketing, has been indelible.
Product as marketing
It's almost hard to believe the iPod is only of this decade,
with now more than 250 million of them sold, and digital music
sales playing the norm. The iPhone, with more than 50 million sold,
has launched a consumer-smartphone rush. While it may never grab
the kind of market share in wireless that the iPod has in music, it
has been a pioneer and leader with the App Store, strongly
influencing mobile advertising and portable gaming. In the latter
category alone, Apple owned a 19% share of the portable-gaming
software revenue at the end of 2009, up from 5% in 2008.
The iPad, meanwhile, with as many as 8 million already sold, by
some estimates, has spurred a touch-tablet tempest in the industry
with almost every major PC and phone maker adding it to their
product portfolios. And this is an industry that has been touting
tablets for years. Apple's involvement got them moving. "Tablets
are now expected to be a $17 billion business by 2014, according to
researcher IDC. Other estimates have come in lower, but either way,
it's a big jump from the one million or so units that were sold
annually before the introduction of the iPad."
Even the Mac enjoyed resurgence this decade, in part because of
the halo effect of the iPod, in part because of the addition of
Intel processors in 2006, and in part due to aggressive marketing
via both the "Switch" and "Get a Mac" series of ads that ran from
2002 through 2009. Apple computers now have about a 7% U.S. market
share, up from around 2% early in the decade.
Apple's TV spots from the past decade are like a hit parade of
the most memorable ads. Who can forget the dancing silhouettes with
white iPods and earbuds against hue-popping backgrounds, or the
"Mac vs. PC," dork vs. hipster sly hilarity, or even the
utilitarian talk-touch-and-swipe-to-get-it-all-done spots for the
iPhone? However, Apple ads had other influences on advertising. The
introduction of the white background in the "Switch" Mac ads in
2002 was the beginning of an aesthetic not only for Apple, but for
many imitators as well.
The iPad, in particular, is having some major
advertising-industry impact. The iPad's design alone has influenced
all of display advertising, while Apple's iAd platform supercharged
the mobile-ad industry just by its mere announcement.
Apple and its agency, Omnicom Group's TBWA, make a great case study on the benefits
of long-term agency-client relationships. The two have been
together since the iconic "1984" Super Bowl spot, although the
agency was off the account from 1986 until 1997, which is almost
identical to the years CEO Steve Jobs was absent from Apple
So maybe it is the relationship between Mr. Jobs and longtime
TBWA creative chief Lee Clow (who is now chairman and global
director of Media Arts Lab and chief creative of the TBWA network)
that is the key to the magic, and the long string of well-regarded
marketing campaigns. Whatever it is, it works. In 2006, TBWA
created Media Arts Lab to specifically serve Apple as a new type of
ad agency that creates culture, not just commercials.
Sure, it's called the Cult of Apple for a reason, but we
guarantee any marketer would kill for that kind of loyalty -- for
all its innovative gadgets and gizmos, it's Apple's greatest
There are certainly the over-the-top fanboys (and girls), but
even less dedicated customers seem to have a blind spot for
Recall the media flare-up after reports began surfacing that
because of the way the iPhone's antenna is configured, calls were
dropped when it was gripped a certain way. Apple initially
addressed the so-called Antennagate complaints with e-mails that
advised, basically, to not hold the phone that way. But amid
mounting complaints a few weeks after the phone's debut, Mr. Jobs
held a press conference to announce Apple would give out bumpers to
iPhone 4 buyers to fix the problem.
But not before he pointed out that all "smartphones have weak
spots. This is not unique to the iPhone 4," and even showed how
three other competitors' phones -- BlackBerry, HTC and Samsung --
also dropped bars when held a certain way.
BlackBerry's parent company, Research in Motion, fired back the
next day: "Apple's claims about RIM products appear to be
deliberate attempts to distort the public's understanding of an
antenna-design issue and to deflect attention from Apple's
difficult situation." Yet any indignation at Apple's product gaffe
and less-than-humble apology was generally ignored -- or even
derided. Tech website Gizmodo took a lot of shots for trying to
rally customers to force Apple to come up with a solution.
Apple retail stores have come to define the high-end, low-key,
over-the-top customer-service shopping experience of the later part
of this decade. And while Apple intends for all of its 273 stores
to sell its wares, it also is deliberate in its use of them as
marketing tools. Eleven of the stores in particular are meant to
act as brand ambassadors.
According to Apple filings, those stores "have been designed and
built to serve as high-profile venues to promote brand awareness
and serve as vehicles for corporate sales and marketing
activities." And they specifically budget expenses for those
stores, to the tune of $65 million in 2009. Compare that to its
overall $501 million spent in worldwide advertising in 2009, and
the tally is for every $8 Apple spent on ads, they spent $1 on
those 11 signature stores.