There's a truism that those who make the most noise have the least to say. And while I'm not saying the two are connected, Samsung's about to spend millions marketing the latest Galaxy smartphone, while Apple [AAPL] quietly shares a little evidence suggesting iPhones offer a better experience, and users like them more.
[ABOVE: The circus is in town.]
All about the marketing
Apple's research-based evidence is likely to be ignored by the current platform partisans. Fortune/CNN once again hits us with a subjective opinion when it makes the claim: "Samsung's event marketing makes Apple's hype look tame", though given the topic of the tale is the Korean firm's hiring of vaudeville performers and Radio City Music Hall for the Galaxy S4 launch, the headline could equally well have read: "Samsung's hype makes Apple event marketing look tame".
It's strange to reflect that the power players attempting to define the smartphone age have begun adopting the same kind of extravaganza-based marketing as used in classic populist politics. As Juvenal once said of Rome's decay into dictatorship: "Give them bread, and circuses and they'll never revolt." And a circus Samsung's trying to make, bringing out the clowns of hype to win us all over to its little plastic toy:
- Hiring one of Broadway's biggest venues for the launch
- Offering a big screen display of the event in Times Square itself
- Populating the whole thing with its very own flash mob
- Roll up, roll up, Samsung's circus is in town.
I do like a good show. I can imagine the atmosphere as Samsung's sidekicks plaster themselves with greasepaint and urge each other to "break a leg" as they climb whatever stage they're going to take to make whatever claim they're going to make. I can imagine the well-rehearsed glitz and glamor as they attempt to popularize their particular breed of plastic-encased, super-slidey devices. (Never leave a Galaxy on a Formica table on a slope, that's all I'm saying).
[ABOVE: I doubt this clown will be on the bill.]
I can imagine that somewhere in the wings the Galaxy marketing guys will be chatting quietly with carriers to arrange those big device subsidies these things enjoy, boosting adoption of the goodies in its stall through the simple expedient of offering them up cheap.
Apple doesn’t seem to do circuses at the moment. Apple keynotes appear to have become a little formulaic they usually work like this:
- Entry music
- A few statistics about Apple
- A senior executive gushing about their love of the company
- A smaller product introduction designed as a gadget-obsessive's aperitif
- A few more statistics
- A little about software
- The hot product (with funny little self-deprecating joke)
- Another senior executive plights his troth to Cupertino
- End show with some music
It's a formula that's worked for years, but obviously the jaded tastes of tech journalism feel a little aggrieved because these events feature no rubber-clad dancers, explosions, big flashing lights, Russian Roulette, acrobats, high-wire artists, ice-sculpting contests, or naked mountaineers singing barber shop songs.
You don’t even get to hope for Rollerball-style gladiatorial fights to the death at an Apple event, except possibly between some of the hungrier journalists fighting over the mini-burgers on trays. Worse still, Apple's even ditched the burgers in recent years, though you do get to ask questions about the products which the firm's media handlers then politely explain they can't answer. Then again when they do answer those questions their response is often reported incorrectly or blown out of proportion.
Perhaps Apple should hire some dancers, too.
[ABOVE: It would be criminal to mention clowns and circuses without taking a moment to listen to this classic track.]
The invisible circus
If it did, perhaps they could prance through Times Square during the Samsung event (on stilts so they'd be easy to spot) carrying great big huge placards, on which they might write:
- "Android is fragmented."
- "A lot of consumers take a cheap Android phone because they're in the market for a new feature phone."
- "Four times as many users switched from Android to iPhone than from iPhone to Android during the fourth quarter."
- "Most Android phones are running old version software."
- "iOS is a far more secure platform."
A longer placard might say this other thing Apple's marketing (but no circuses) chief, Phil Schiller told the Wall Street Journal yesterday:
"When you take an Android device out of the box, you have to sign up to nine accounts with different vendors to get the experience iOS comes with. They don't work seamlessly together."
Schiller's long statement might look good on an incredibly long flag attached to the Goodyear blimp, roaming restlessly above the New York skyline.
If you think Apple is likely to do this, then you'd be wrong -- that's despite the many Android acolytes who will occasionally spit that the secret of the iPhone's success is entirely due to marketing. In truth, Apple doesn't spend that much on this, preferring (in what is evidently now an anachronistic fashion) to focus on its products, to let them do the talking.
Apple could change the way it runs its product launches.
However, I imagine that if it did the change in keynote format would become the big story, with headlines such as:
"Apple changes keynote format, obviously these are the end times and the aliens are going to climb out from under our beds and the Mayan's are marching from the jungle bent on razing our decadent Western culture to the ground. Apple is doomed, I tell you, doomed. I'm a Virgo, what sign are you? Do you like oranges?"
The product would become less important than the way in which the company markets the product.
How weird is that?
Anyway, Samsung will offer up its new Galaxy device at a bread and circuses event tonight. And yes, dear reader, Schiller's rumor has it this device will be running an older version of Android. Not that anyone will notice. They'll be too busy fighting over the mini-burgers and trying to catch the eye of one of the cute dancers.
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