two faces of apple marketing

Yesterday’s Apple event gave us more detail about the Apple Watch and introduced us to a new 12” MacBook. While these products are members of the same family their marketing messages seemed to have been separated at birth. The MacBook messaging was all about engineering while the Watch was all about functionality.

First, let’s look at the messaging around the 12” MacBook. Pretty much the whole presentation, apart from the three case colours, considered the engineering that went into the design and manufacturing of it. This included detailed information about the display, keyboard’s keys, trackpad, motherboard and battery. We heard about the new butterfly/ steel key sub-structure and the new four point trackpad sub-structure. Then there was the new battery chemistry and structure. In particular we heard how the batteries are now made from sheets, allowing the x-y dimensions to be easily varied, which in-turn allows the battery to fill more of the space within the housing. Then, if you bear with me, there was a discussion around the radical shrink of the motherboard i.e. circuit board housing the main processing functions.

In pretty much a 180 degree shift the Apple Watch messaging was noticeably devoid of technical details. There were no processor or memory details. There were no display details and there were no details about the battery chemistry or structure. We did here about the housing materials, but this seemed to be more like a teaser to make watches more desirable. One might therefore argue that the watch is being sold more on aesthetics than performance. Maybe, one should only care that it works. Such a message is not new for Apple. Steve Jobs often said that the technology behind the usability of a product is not of concern. That approach though could have also been applied to the new MacBook, but it was not. We did not really need to know about all of the internal details. Should these not be aspects “behind the scenes” that provide the end functionality?

My guess would be that Apple wanted to showcase their engineering prowess. They wanted to show the work that is put into all aspects of a product, from the basic alloy metallurgy to the structure of the key support/ spring mechanism, to the battery layout. I think this technical messaging is as much to other corporations, to show them the depth of the products. It is also apparent that the technology development will transfer between product lines. I would not be at all surprised if the Apple Watch drew on battery or display technology, for example, showcased in the MacBook. While it appears Apple really stuck to their view that end functionality is the only concern for consumers with the Watch, the MacBook was used to showcase the engineering that allows design to take centre stage.