The “Genius” of Rob Enderle, and the myth of Apple marketing

Thu, Jul 23, 2009

Analysis, Featured, News

In his latest article, Enderle writes:

Apple is a marketing-driven company — something unique in the technology segment — while Microsoft has largely been engineering-driven. During the 90s, this was actually more of an Apple liability than an asset, because Apple was being run by people who clearly didn’t get Apple’s unique capability. Steve Jobs returned Apple to its roots, and the company came back.

What makes a marketing-driven company is that products are created in line with marketing programs. In effect, they are designed to easily fit marketing messages and campaigns. In Apple’s unique case, it is Steve Jobs himself who assures this link; he starts thinking about how he will introduce a new product right from its conception.

This is the same stereotypical BS from anti-Apple folks who simply can’t wrap their minds around Apple’s success, so instead, they attribute it solely to “marketing.”  As an asside, it’s funny that Enderle acts as if he’s somehow privy to how Apple comes up with its products.

Apple, admittedly, excels at marketing, but the products it advertises are often the best of their class.  Apple isn’t a marketing driven company.  Rather, it’s a company that strives to create products that are so great that they practically market themselves.

Go back in time to the early 2000’s, before the iPod became the de-facto MP3 player on the planet.  At the time, the MP3 player market was filled with a number of underwhelming and clunky devices with horrible control schemes.  The iPod, though, was able to catch on because people were hooked from the first time they used the incredibly intuitive touchscreen scroll wheel.  When a product is so far ahead of the competition, word of mouth reigns supreme, and marketing is almost a gimme.

And the iPhone, for example, was a generational leap forward in terms of product engineering.   The fact that it took competitors nearly 2 years to finally match the feature set and usability of the original iPhone exemplifies just how far ahead of its time the iPhone truly was.

So is Apple a marketing-driven company?  Not at all. It just know how to market the hell out of exquisitely engineered products.


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11 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve W Says:

    I gotta agree with Rob on this one.

    Sales is about getting people to buy what you make.
    Marketing is about getting your company to make what people want.

    Thing is: when it comes to future tech, many people can’t describe what they want; “I’ll know it when I see it!”, to paraphrase a certain Supreme Court Justice. Apple does two things better than their competitors. They envision the future, and they market to early adopters.

    “incredibly intuitive touchscreen scroll wheel”? I don’t think so. I believe it was “A thousand songs in your pocket.” Before that, it was “Rip, Mix, Burn.” The iPhone was about “the real internet”, and now it is about mobile applications.

    Of course, Steve Jobs original – and still valid – concept was that consumers want something that “just works”. Starting with the Apple 1 computer, Steve envisioned customers lining up for a computer that they didn’t have to put together themselves. The Apple ][ introduced the auto bootstap sequence; just turn it on. The Macintosh introduced the appliance computer: inaccessible insides, and no command line.

    The secret is not getting people to buy what you can dream up, the secret is about getting people who can build your dreams.

  2. Sam Says:

    SteveW, you’re using a definition of marketing that is broader than I’ve heard anyone else use. The term commonly applied to “getting your company to make what people want” is Product Management. Product marketing is what happens after the product is made.

    The genius of Apple is not that they are driven by marketing. While Enderle may be right with his guess that Steve Jobs thinks about how to introduce something very early in the process, that doesn’t drive the design– it refines it. If something can’t be easily introduced, it’s not simple enough.

    And that gets to the core of Apple. Apple’s products try to simply the essence of common tasks. There aren’t hundreds of settings and configurations and switches and knobs. Having a remote with 200 buttons isn’t better than having one with 100 buttons. Apple chooses to do something, then determines the essence of user desires and whittles the product down to that.

    So I think Enderle is basically setting up a false dichotomy. Apple is neither driven by the technology NOR the marketing.

  3. jonkc. Says:

    from SteveW: “Apple does two things better than their competitors. They envision the future, and they market to early adopters.”

    this is actually insulting our intelligence… it assumes Apple does not make better computers and that people don’t know this? which is challenged at best. it also assumes that somehow people haven’t communicated this among themselves without the help of an add somewhere.

    SteveW, the secret is actually building a Car or a Computer that performs outstandingly, and they will come… easy really.

  4. CapnVan Says:

    C’mon. It’s Enderle. The man’s the piñata of the Apple community. Not without reason, mind you — his native intelligence seems to be on par with said party toy.

    It’s not like Jobs has some kind of unique ability here — any good executive is thinking about how this product gets successfully to market. Otherwise you’re stuck with the Microsoft table tech (Surface?) — relatively cool gear that no one thought about making actually usable or desirable.

  5. msantti Says:

    If the product is designed poor, it won’t sell no matter how good the product is.

    Ooops. I did forget about Bose. Crappy products and sells at prices that would make even Apple blush.

    Apple is engineering driven also. It helps with the marketing.

    I guess MS is driven to make crap.

  6. PeteOtt Says:

    No Enderle is not even close to being right and anyone that thinks he is is drinking the same cool-aid. Apple’s products that are well-made and offer consumers something they need tend to do well and the marketing works. Its products that aren’t fail, just like any other tech company’s bad products. If Apple were a marketing company, it wouldn’t matter weather the product was great or just good enough: people would buy it.

    Now, Microsoft as an engineering company is equally wrong. Or do people believe MS is really an engineering company?

  7. Me Says:

    Microsoft is a photocopying company…

  8. Don Says:

    Rob “Never Right” Enderle is a total joke. His “group” consists of him and his wife. He has been so wrong, so many times, that I don’t know why any intelligent person would pay any attention to him at all.

    Get a clue, people. Listening to Enderle is a losing proposition.

  9. EB Says:

    No, Apple is not a marketing driven company, and no, it is not an engineering driven company. And no, Apple does not make products people want. Apple makes products that people DON’T KNOW YET THEY WANT!
    Apple’s genius is figuring out what will actually work for people, creating it, putting it out there, and THEN showing people they want/need/can’t live without it. Marketing driven companies go out there and see what people are asking for, and add every one of those features.
    If Apple was a marketing driven company, you would have seen an iPod with an FM radio years ago. Or an entry level Mac tower for $800. No way, no how…
    Endrele = FAIL

  10. MT Says:

    Let’s analyze the statement logically. If all Apple had was marketing, there would be no halo effect. If all Apple had was marketing, then there would be no Apple user community at all — merely people who had an Apple product or two, idly comparing them to various other products with lots of “meh” inbetween. That this is blindingly obvious and refutes Enderle in less than 30 seconds proves that if there’s any company that’s marketing driven, it’s the Enderle group.

    People go nuts over Apple’s products because they are well-made and well-designed. More than any other company, Apple creates lovable products.

  11. lens42 Says:

    Nobody here seems to know what “marketing” is. Enderle is right and describes exactly what Apple does. Engineering is not the key to Apple’s success. Thinkpads were better engineered than Macbooks for a decade and it didn’t do them much good. Apple excels at finding a market that is ill served and then serving it better than anyone else. THAT *IS* MARKETING. They did with PCs, music players, laptops, and phones. They didn’t do it with TVs and Game boxes because those were not ill served. Sony has FAR better engineering that Apple, but the poor company has horrible marketing and conflicting goals (because they also own media), so Apple eats their lunch.

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