Does Apple really understand its consumers?

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Today was a big day for Apple fans. There was good news and bad news for die-hards. New iPods and a $200 price cut to the iPhone. I own a soon-to-be-discontinued 4GB phone which either makes me a bit of a loser or owner of something highly collectible. Well, maybe not.

There is some speculation of a rebate but what I’ve read most recently is that it’s only for those who purchased one in the last 14 days. If this is the case, what are they thinking? Wouldn’t they be prepared for consumer outrage? Especially when their most loyal and dedicated customers camp out, line up and fork out hundreds of dollars for a now over-priced product. Wow.

Apple has been riding high but I fear they may be in for a bit of a fall. My biggest concern in all of the fall-out though is they seem to be attempting to censor the customer response. People that are trying to express their dissatisfaction and call for a rebate are having their confidence. People could take the dialogue elsewhere which makes it more difficult for Apple to gauge consumer opinion and feedback.

The larger question this raises though is do they care? I think this is the biggest outcome of today’s immediate announcement. People in the forums are indicating that Apple retail stores were unaware of the price cut (bad internal communication) and call center reps seem to be quite pompous. I personally have not followed up so this is only what I’ve read, but if Apple doesn’t manage this well it could have a significant effect on how well they’ll do in the long run.

Update: Within the time I started writing this post, the story has changed. According to Everything iPhone, a rebate may be in the works from Apple. Here’s a classic quote though, supposedly from Mark Miller of Apple, posted on Everything iPhone. “Right now we’re reviewing the overwhelming response of the iPhone’s price cut, and had no idea it would result in over powering the news of our new iPod family, thus tarnishing this memorable day.

[tags] iphone, apple, customer service [/tags]

Is it really so different in the U.S.?

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The September 3 issue of PR Week included a Market Focus feature on Toronto called “North of the border views” (subscriber log-in required). As a proud Torontonian now based in New York, I read it with great interest. Quickly this interest turned to disbelief. I know many of the people that participated in the roundtable discussion and hold much esteem for many of them. Inevitably, the topic shifted to digital media and social media. With Colin McKay on the panel, I figured it would be a lively and insightful dialogue, but skepticism seems to have outweighed opportunity (again). Is this really the case?

I know so many talented PR and social media professionals in Toronto, but I feel that the panel has misrepresented the level of sophistication in the Canadian market. Trevor Campbell, president of Porter Novelli, was quoted as saying, “From where I sit, there’s a hesitancy. We’ve had places where we put everything into place, were ready to put a social media program in the field, and they got cold feet, which might be a bit of the norm here in Canada.”

Maybe this sums it up… “they got cold feet”. Social media can be scary, and can work against you if you don’t know what you’re doing. But doesn’t everything? Effective social media campaigns can have a profound impact on the way organizations not only communicate, but connect with the people that matter to them and who care about what they do.

The most important thing in the communication revolution we’re living and breathing is to remember what it’s all about: PEOPLE. Forget about the fact that technology is the great enabler. Don’t get lured in just by great design. People want a relationship. They want substance. They want to connect with people in similar circumstances, and people in the know. It’s pretty simple. And isn’t that what PR is all about?

PR professionals are used to relying on conduits to get the message out. We need to recognize that a news release is no longer a tool just for media. When produced and posted correctly online, it is a destination in and of itself for multiple readers (and viewers – don’t limited news to just text – audio and video are powerful enhancements). New media releases and digital news hubs redefine how news drives greater online visibility.

Toronto social media and digital PR pros, show your prowess!

[tags] public releations, PR, Toronto PR, social media, digital PR [/tags]