Will advertising changes signify that Apple are losing the plot post-Steve? And what can IBM learn from Apple’s success until now?

Fascinating blog post over at The Ad Contrarian detailing a slightly pessimistic view that Apple will struggle after Steve Jobs’ exit:

The story line went like this – while Jobs will be missed, he is no longer essential to the future of the company and it will go on brilliantly without him.
 
I don’t buy this for a second. Genius is non-transferable.

The author goes on to suggest that changes in Apple’s advertising may be the litmus paper that tells us that things are going downhill:

Here are some clues to look for in Apple’s advertising that will indicate that dull hands are grabbing at the wheel:

1. Creeping Brandism: The Apple brand was built bottom-up. That is, the products defined the brand. Virtually every Apple ad was about a product, not  the brand (okay, there was “Think Different” but that didn’t last.) Keep an eye out for the erosion of this discipline.

2. Agency change: Vapid marketing people relegated to the background all these years by Jobs’ dominance may suddenly start flexing. They wouldn’t dare contradict Jobs’ legacy, but they could accomplish the same thing by undermining the agency.

3. The Tortured Logic of Account Planning: Look for ads about you the consumer instead of Apple products. Look for moronic online “engagement” gimmicks. Or look for social media pandering.

4. Complications: Part of the brilliance of Apple advertising has been its simplicity.  Keep an eye out for complicated ideas or ads with more than one product.

5. Media: Apple has used online media sparingly. The preponderance of its advertising has been conducted in traditional media — TV, print, and outdoor. Watch to see if Apple suddenly starts going all trendy and new age in its media choices.
If you start seeing any of these signs coming out of Cupertino, sell your shares.

A fascinating view, after all Apple’s advertising (and more generally, marketing) has been stellar over the past decade. Think synchronised original iMacs, the shop-window mimicry of the iMac G4, the silhouette iPod dancers, Mac vs PC, and many more.

However, (and you can probably guess where this is going…) think about another large technology vendor close to my heart and consider the points above with regard to their advertising.  Whilst point 2 is less relevant, all the other points highlight areas where IBM’s marketing and advertising stance is at the complete and opposite end of the spectrum from Apple’s – brand vs. product, complexity vs. simplicity, online vs. TV etc.

Clearly Apple and IBM’s businesses are very different, but then so are their growth and mindshare over the past decade…

It will be Interesting to see if Apple’s stance does change over the next couple of years, as indeed whether IBM will ever adjust their marketing strategy to ape successes elsewhere.

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!