Steve Jobs’ iPad: not such a vivid message

As promised at the end of my last post, ‘Steve Jobs– structure helps engage’, here are the reasons I think Steve Jobs missed his message with the launch of the iPad…

The iPad launch on January 27 2010 was not greeted with the positive reviews that Steve Jobs might have come to expect from major product announcements. Why? It’s possibly thanks to one of the following three reasons:

Firstly, it doesn’t have a clear message associated with it. The launch of the iPod in 2001 had a simple, vivid message: ‘1,000 songs in your pocket.’ The launch of the iPhone in 2005 had the clear messages, ‘It’s 3 products in 1 smartphone’ and ‘An iPod! A phone! A pocket internet device’… whereas the iPad message is ‘Our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary product at an unbelievable price.

Pass it on!

The point is, the iPod and iPhone messages are concrete, focus on functionality and are easily passed on from one person to another. The current iPad message is neither. It focuses on how generally wonderful it, but doesn’t say what how it’s wonderful.

Now, the product looks very cool and might be revolutionary, but the message is not about the functions we want to use – and is not as transferable as a result.

Why? Because if you pass on the ‘magical and revolutionary’ message and someone asks “Why is it magical and revolutionary” you have to delve into your own thinking to justify Apple’s claims.

However, if you passed on the iPod’s ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ message, people get the value immediately.

Apple’s biggest flopG4 Cube

The biggest product failure for apple was the G4 Cube computer which was advertised as a beautiful thing to look at – an art piece. The irony is that it was also incredibly functional, but people didn’t get that message and wondered why they would pay a premium for a computer just because it looked pretty. The ads for the G4 Cube didn’t even show the computer working – the screen was blank. And most computer buyers weren’t looking for desktop art pieces.

By the way, this was the last time Apple marketed any product without showing it functioning and the screen full of what the user will see when they use it.

A New Category

Secondly, the new iPad a challenging product to sell because it’s a new category of product: it’s not a phone-with-more like the iPhone; it’s not an mp3 player-done-better like the iPod; it’s not a laptop like the MacBook.

These were all accepted and well-understood product categories prior to the Apple product launches, so they could be seen as improvements on existing product categories. But the iPad is a – what??

Anytime a new category is launched it’s even more important to convey a vivid message about the product. Apple failed to reach their high messaging standards with the iPad.

Forced Enthusiasm?

Thirdly, there has been a lot of talk about Steve Jobs’ health and, I’m only guessing here, but it appeared that he was trying a bit harder than normal to be persuasive.

He looked as if he was trying to generate enthusiasm, whereas in the past he let the words, messages, images, structure and great explanations generate enthusiasm automatically.

Maybe his energy levels are a bit lower due to his health challenges, and in attempting to try harder than normal, his natural charisma is weakened. It seemed like he was forcing the energy rather than allowing it to flow as a result of the certainty he has about the message and the product’s benefits – which he has done in the past.

So, while the iPad product might still be a hit, it’s interesting to observe one of the world’s great communicators changing his modus operandi a little.


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