Apple's silence cedes market narrative to rivals, says expert

Lauded mystique isn't enough as Apple faces competitors like Samsung that won't play the quiet game

By , Computerworld |  Operating Systems

And people noticed. Many commentators, including the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, pointed out how unusual it was for Apple to speak up, and because of the timing, interpreted Schiller's remarks as defensive. Analysts said it showed Apple's concern about the competition, something it rarely admits even exists.

Apple needs to ditch its longstanding reticence and get in the game, LaMotte said. "We will always recommend that it's better to be in the conversation than not," he said. The way it is now, he continued, Apple's letting others create the narrative. "If Apple's not in the back seat, they're in the passenger seat, and Samsung is driving the car," LaMotte said.

Apple doesn't have to be defensive, or take cues from Microsoft, which has run an attack ad-based campaign against Google since late last year, by going negative. But it should do something, LaMotte urged, if only because it's battling a flood of messages from rivals who use social media, blogs and other outlets in addition to traditional advertising.

"They're trying to fight off basic social media tactics," LaMotte said, hinting that such a strategy was futile.

Even its ads, said LaMotte -- himself a former ad executive -- now take the wrong approach, sticking to products and their features.

"Apple always added to their mystique through their advertising," he said, but noted that those ads -- such as the "Get a Mac" campaign that pitted John Hodgman, playing an always-inept PC, against unruffled hipster Justin Long as a Mac -- bolstered Apple's cultural image more than focused on products. That cultural image -- what LaMotte called its cool factor -- has fueled Apple's revenue-making machine, he argued.

"Ads should focus on the brand identity of Apple, the cultural attachment that its users have with the brand and the products," said LaMotte.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is

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