The Wizard of Oz is a Carny: the Macworld or Jobs question?

I think there is something seriously wrong.

I sincerely hope that Steve Jobs is not losing a battle with cancer.  I have lost too many people to that disease and have far too much respect for the talent that is Steve Jobs to wish this kind of crisis on anyone.

If that is not the issue, then what could it be?

It’s About Time” says TechCrunch?  I think there is something wrong with the analysis offered in this post.  Maybe there is some sort of relationship at play here and TechCrunch is doing its bit to soften the anticipated blow to Apple’s stock price over this?  I ask this question to peak your interest in social capital, not to suggest some sort of explicit conspiracy.

I can agree with Apple’s strategic decision if they see the need to change the emphasis of the Macworld opportunity or to own the event.  Although … in house management who would need to outsource production would be a misuse of Apple’s core talent, so even if IDG does cost them $10-million, that might hold up in a thorough cost benefit analysis.  Let’s not forget they are sitting on $15-billion in cash.

Managing product expectations or expenses, as suggested by John Gruber in 2002 & resurfaced yesterday by Techcrunch, are weak reasons, IMHO.

The reasons Apple gives in this announcement suggest to me that they are leaving a vacuum in the place of Jobs’ address and completely undervalue the role that Macworld plays for them.

Maybe the problem is that the analysis is being done from a product centric (this includes brand management) perspective, with not enough regard to the real reasons why Apple is the powerhouse that it has become.

Here is the take in the Social Capital Value Add ChangeThis manifesto & ebook (its’s free):

Which asset has more long term residual value? Is it the implicit carnival at MacWorld or the
explicit Steve Jobs address? While the “don’t walk by, give it a try” brand spectacle is the overwhelming subject of envious management deliberation, SCVA is the reminder that the carrier wave for the Carny’s call, the more elaborately produced midway (including the folks on the midway), indicates far more about a company’s ability to create and preserve value. (p. 25 of the ebook released, September 10, 2008).

Apple survived long enough to eat it’s children, i.e. switch from being primarily a computer company to become a consumer electronics giant, because it has a core group of very loyal users (particularly in education).  Vendors who have made iPod a whole product solution depend on Macworld in many ways.  I suspect Steve Jobs knows this, fosters this and is part of the reason for this but maybe not?

I mean, c’mon!  Macworld IS like Christmas to Apple loyalists (hat tip to Chris Thomson for that smile). It is irresistible to most tech enthusiasts. Christmas … now that is a pretty successful strategy for building bonding social capital.  The pilgrimage of physically getting the most loyal together for a communal celebration seems to me to have importance beyond the commercially focused get together at your local Apple store.

This move is very likely a “viral” news story, spinning out perhaps more digital footprint than typical Macworlds, but the quality of that asset is suffering.

Either Steve Jobs is very sick and the first evidence that Apple is sliding into badly motivated reactionary management have started to appear or the analysis is focused on product and brand that does not include a full cost benefit analysis that recognizes scaled up forms of social capital as the company’s most important asset.

Switching the emphasis from product and the Steve Jobs brand spectacle is good strategy if you are replacing that with an emphasis on investing in Apple loyalists.  Why not announce a $1-million contest that highlights the pilgrimage to Macworld in place of their trade show floor space?  Or maybe there is an Apple Day at their stores globally where Apple loyalists are invited to meet up with local peers and connect globally via an interactive Tweet up or web event?

Something is seriously wrong, what do you think?

Note: This post is part of the SoCap&Brand series started by Tim Kitchin.  You are invited to add your own post.

4 Responses to “The Wizard of Oz is a Carny: the Macworld or Jobs question?”

  1. Jonathan Salem Baskin Says:

    I agree that something seriously important is happening, but I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that it’s bad. The treadmill of trade shows & developer conferences has created an artificially high hurdle for Apple…one that few of its competitors could ever jump as successfully as Apple has for so long. It’s artificial for a number of reasons, and most of them are not helpful to Apple; most notably, it sets it up to regularly compete against itself, let alone its competition.

    What if Apple simply wants to reign in its events, and make announcements on its own schedule?

    I agree with you that an announcement…ANY announcement that it was doing ‘something else’ other than pulling out of something, would have been a great idea. Apple has never been much for the social tools you mentioned (its products and services do the talking).

  2. Michael G. Cayley Says:

    If Apple is analyzing this the way that they should, in my view, they would not want to reign in the Apple communities version of “Christmas” unless they had a plan to do something better.

    As I said, no problem with switching the emphasis and strategy away from product centric, that is a good idea. They should fill the vacuum with a focus on their loyalists.

    I guess that is the point … products and services have inherent social capital when they are designed in anticipation of human needs which Apple is so good at, but they are not the whole picture.

    Analysis that doesn’t take into account that whole picture can lead to the wrong actions.

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