Steve Rubel from ‘Micro Persuasion’ recently argued that Apple should be more transparent to engage their customers. More blogs with identifiable authors, more forums, and more admitting to the company’s fallibility – basically, they need to be more like Google.
I disagree with Steve. Apple has been steadily rebuilding their brand’s image for the last decade, and now it’s one of the coolest companies on the planet. They have a cult-like following and are notoriously secretive to their benefit.
While some may love the credibility and trust that comes with being more open, it can actually weaken a business to an extent. Being extremely open sets a company up for immediate and constant criticism. This can result in an endless discussion where the company is pandering to its consumers instead of staying focused on providing value to them. And I don’t think ‘pandering’ and ‘providing value’ are mutually exclusive – I just think that pandering can make companies lose sight of what’s important. Sure, it might ultimately be better for the consumer, but it can be extremely compromising for the company.
Apple’s gotten away with being secretive because people absolutely love their products. Half of the fun in being an Apple fan is the speculation that comes before their next product release. It creates a wild sense of curiosity all over the web. Then when the products are finally released, people go crazy. They literally tear the products apart to see what they’re made of and post tons of close-up shots. It’s like technology porn. Few corporations in the world have created this kind of madness so many times. And this mega-hype is a result of Apple being so private. They manufacture their brand’s mystique and they’re very good at it.
If you have a hammer, everything will look like a nail. Basically, if you have one tactic that has worked well for you, then you’ll be apt to believe that it will work in every situation. Being open works for Google because it’s consistent with the company’s brand. Opening up Apple, however, would be detrimental to the brand they’ve created.
There will always have to be some degree of openness, and Apple might benefit from a bit more. But what they’re doing right now is working very well for them – it’s aligned with their strategy. Their main problem, in my eyes, is managing the expectations of their customers. They’ve literally changed the face of the computer, music, and phone industries. And now it seems like any new product they come out with that doesn’t change the world is a letdown.
Being known as the innovator is tough.