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Brand Legacy, PR & Apple Pencil

It was this week, of course, that Apple took to the stage at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Auditorium to unveil a range of product launches, developments and enhancements. The lead-up to the event brought significant disruption – in the most literal sense – to the surrounding area, with dozens of parking spaces closed for over a month, traffic lanes blocked and sidewalks made inaccessible, and a great deal of local speculation as to who was behind it until it was revealed to be Apple.

But were they able to match that disruption from a product point of view? Making a huge media splash with these grandiose events has become something of Apple’s trademark; such is the power of the Apple brand and the fervor of their many millions of fans. But following updates on social media and live blogs by publications such as Wired, I was struck by how lackluster much of the feedback seemed to be.

There are several possibilities for this. As an audience (of both professional analysts and tech experts, and the general public), we are now so much more sophisticated than we were even 5 years ago. For example, many articles sprung up (such as this one from the Huffington Post) about the unsatisfactory amount of storage (16GB) the new iPhone will have. This isn’t niche language; it’s something we all now largely understand. There is also the factor that we are getting used to (and therefore somewhat tired of) these types of announcements that come shrouded in secrecy and implicitly promise huge things. Additionally, as the Apple product offerings widen, the focus gets somewhat diluted or redirected. Surely Apple would have wanted the Apple TV announcement to make a much bigger splash than it did, and instead the $99 Apple Pencil got enormous amounts of coverage instead.

This brings us to brand legacy, which of course Apple has by the barrelful. The Apple Pencil was seized on most fiercely because of the now oft-repeated 2010 quote from Steve Jobs, “If you see a stylus, they blew it.” Here, perhaps, was an opportunity to put a 2015 “This is Apple now” spin on that quote – that someone must have anticipated resurfacing – and instead of being constrained by it, finding a way of honoring the singular vision of Steve Jobs while unapologetically communicating and claiming the right to forever innovate, rethink, reimagine.

Apple is an incredible, awe-inspiring company, and can seamlessly ride out what are essentially very small blips. But this week was a great lesson in audience sophistication and expectation, and how on the internet, nothing ever really disappears.



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