Until now, most of Apple’s advertising has been pretty straight forward. For the iPhone specifically, the company has largely just held things close to its vest, leaked selected tidbits to a few outlets (mostly new media), and then relied on a big marketing bash on release and sheer numbers and hype to do the rest. Recent sales figures have shown, however, that this may not be working anymore and the company has apparently been re-thinking its strategy.
Enter Apple’s VP of Marketing, Phil Schiller, who interviewed with Reuters just before the Samsung Galaxy S4 was announced. His interview turned out to be a huge faux pas as he dropped an old (and at that point, discounted) rumor that the S4 was releasing with an old version of the Android operating system.
Instead of throwing a torpedo under Samsung’s marketing blitz, Schiller gave them a new battleship as the backfire from Schiller’s false statement hit the wire and gave Samsung a lot of free publicity while making Apple look.. well, more tarnished than usual.
In the critical hours just before the big unveil, which is the best time to build hype, Apple inadvertently handed Samsung a huge amount of free publicity in big time publications like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. Worse, Apple was seen as the bad guy and was labeled by the popular press as “defensive” in its attempted attack as conjecture that the move was out of desperation due to low iPhone sales.
It’s an interesting role reversal, as Jean-Louis Gassee at MondayNote points out. Not long ago, Apple was often seen making fun of Microsoft as it used its underdog status to promote itself as “new” and “edgy.” Today, Samsung has used its perceived underdog status to (or more specifically, the status of Android as “edgy” and iOS as “old”) poke fun at Apple. With Apple now “The Man”, as Gassee puts it, the roles are reversed.