Former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée has ripped into Apple's PR strategy in a new column, highlighting Phil Schiller's recent Samsung criticism and suggesting that the has lost narrative.
In a report titled 'Apple is losing the war – of words' on this week's Monday Note, Gassée pointed to Reuters' interview with Apple marketing boss Phil Schiller's on the eve of the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch, in which Schiller wrongly stated that the device would ship with an OS that's "nearly a year old." In fact, the Galaxy S4 will ship with Android 4.2.2, which is the latest available version of Google's operating system and is a month old.
"This didn't go over well," wrote Gassée, who noted that Schiller's interview had already been received negatively before the 'year-old Android' comment was exposed as being based on rumours. "Apple was accused of being on the defensive."
Gassée points out that Samsung has been known to talk trash about Apple in the past. An example is the company's Galaxy SIII ad, which mocked Apple and its fans. The difference is that Samsung's ad became the most popular tech advert of 2012, while Schiller's comment was called "defensive". SEE ALSO: Samsung knocks iPhone 5 in new print ad, Apple fans fight back
"Years ago, [Apple] could productively poke fun at Microsoft in the great 'I'm a Mac, You're a PC campaign," said Gassée. "But the days of taking potshots at the incumbent are over. Because of its position at the top, Apple should have the grace not to trash its competitors, especially when the digs are humourless and further weakened by error."
Gassée's report goes on to highlight the language Apple uses in its keynotes and earnings calls, which he describes as "language molestation" and "word abuse".
He's talking about Apple executives' use of words such as "incredible", "great" and "tremendous" when describing products and business, which are traditionally repeated multiple times during conference calls.
To illustrate his argument, Gassée even took five earnings calls and counted how many times such adjectives were used. 'Incredible' was said 46 times in total, with 'tremendous' mentioned 12 times, 'thrilled' 13 times, 'amazing' eight times, 'strong' 58 times, 'maniaclly focused' twice and 'great' a total of 70 times (though some of these instances were not self-promotional).
Gassée then counted how many times negative words were used in the five earnings calls, and found that 'disappoint', 'bad' and 'fail' were never mentioned. 'Weak' was said seven times, but six of these were part of "weak dollar" and the seventh was "weak PC market."
Of course, every company wants to be upbeat about their products, and Apple is certainly enthusiastic, but Gassée thinks that, while there's nothing wrong with being positive, Apple's adjective-heavy PR strategy is at risk of provoking consumers to lose faith.
"This isn't about optimism, it's about hyperbole and the abuse of language," he wrote. "Saying "incredible" too many times leads to incredulity. Saying "manically focused" at all is out of place and gauche in an earnings call. One doesn't brag about one's performance in the boudoir; let happy partners sing your praise."
"When words become empty, the listener loses faith in the speaker," Gassée continued. "Apple has lost control of the narrative; the company has let others define its story. This is a war of words and Apple is proving to be inept at verbal warfare."
"Attacking competitors, pointing to their weaknesses, and trumpeting one's achievements is better done by hired media assassins," he adds.
"Perhaps it's time for senior execs to rethink the kind of control they want to exercise on what others say about Apple," Gassée concludes. "Either stay the old course and try to let the numbers do the talking, or go out and really fight the war of words. Last week's misstep didn't belong to either approach."
What do you think of Gassée's opinion about Apple's PR strategy? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter.