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August 22, 2006

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Stephen

Circa 2003-2004, Michael Hardy, a Federal Computer Week reporter, came around the Apple booth at FOSE. Given that Apple was riding high on the iPod wave, and garnering lots of press, Mr. Hardy was interested in doing a feature story on Apple's Federal market and sales strategy.

Mr. Hardy was familiar with Apple's PR strategy, which is to generate press releases about products, and speak ONLY about the products, NOT the strategy or market. There have been plenty of PRODUCT reviews, but very little about the Federal market, the players, and the competitive landscape. Occasionally, Apple will speak to these topics, but only in very specific verticals, such as science, music, or education.

A Federal Computer Week article about Apple's Federal market strategy? This is the kind of publicity money can't buy. Especially since Apple Federal basically had zero marketing dollars, and what market development funds were available, were given to channel partners such as CDW-G, Holman's, and GTSI.

Apple Federal would do no direct marketing in print, web, or publications since such efforts would "dilute the brand", according to my coordination with the Apple PR staff droids.

At the time, Mr. Hardy of FCW wanted to have direct conversations with the Apple Federal team, NOT the PR spokespersons. As you can imagine in the Apple School of Mushroom Management, under no circumstances are ordinary employees permitted to say ANYTHING to the press. Only Product Marketing and designated spokespersons who have been through the Apple PR class are permitted to speak on behalf of Apple, and then again usually under very restrictive guidelines. Meaning only talk about product, NOT about strategy or competitive positioning.

Now, why is this important? In 2004, Dell did over 800M in federal business, Apple didn't even hit 70M.

http://www.fcw.com/FCWDownload/pdf/Top20integrators2004.pdf

Yet, Apple continued to get a lion's share of press, but only regarding iPod, music, and Apple Retail stores. Given that most Federal employees are interested in those things, but only from a consumer perspective, NOT from a government enterprise perspective, Mr. Hardy wanted to enlighten the Federal customer base about what Apple was doing for government in their market.

Eventually Mr. Hardy got to interview an Apple VP, John Brandon, who primarily talked about the products and reseller strategy, but deftly avoided answering direct questions about the Apple Federal team, total revenues, nor direct sales strategy.

One of the more frustrating things about Apple was kind of like the the Fight Club motto, you don't talk about Fight Club. Similarly, at Apple, high on the list of no-no's is talking about Apple.

Unfortunately, Federal customers are smart, and they can read websites, press releases, product literature and blogs. They want to talk to Apple about things that aren't available from those venues.

The fact that FCW had actively sought to give Apple that venue, only to see Apple avoid it, speaks volumes as to Apple's School of Mushroom Management.

Good Tip

Good Post! Many of my clients make mistakes regarding this. Learning more than just the basics will certainly help anyone's success. Even though there is no single way to do anything, this certainly will work.

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