Over the last 20 years, as I’ve developed and delivered products and services for the likes of Sky and Go.Compare, marketing has always been one of the pillars of great product delivery.

When you think about marketing brilliance one of the great stories of the last few decades is Apple.

Steve Jobs once said: “Marketing is about values. It’s a complicated and noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about us.”

So, how did Apple Crush! upset the proverbial apple cart?

Apple Crush! refers to a specific iPad advertisement that backfired. The advert depicted a giant industrial press crushing a variety of creative tools like cameras, paintbrushes, and musical instruments.

According to Apple this imagery was meant to symbolise the iPad Pro’s thinness and versatility, replacing the need for these separate tools.

However, the advert created quite a stir amongst the creative community, many of whose members found the ad offensive.

They felt that Apple’s messaging disrespected their craft and portrayed Apple as a force that crushes artistic endeavours in favour of its own products.

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Seeing an opportunity, competitor Samsung launched a counter-advertisement. The advert featured a woman entering a room that looked like the aftermath of the Apple Crush! commercial.

Everything was covered in splattered paint, and there was even a broken guitar lying around.  But instead of being defeated, the woman picked up the guitar and began to play a melody, all while reading sheet music on a Samsung Galaxy tablet.

The Samsung ad’s tagline drove the point home: “Creativity cannot be crushed.”

The question then, is what lessons can we learn from this difficult episode in Apple’s marketing journey?

Apple’s advert highlights the importance of considering how marketing messages might be interpreted by different audiences. Understanding our audiences, our market segmentation, is fundamental.

As with any problem, we solve it by understanding not only our singular point of view, but by understanding the problem in the round as we take into consideration other potential views and reactions.

Even if the intent is positive, insensitive portrayals can damage brand image and alienate customers.

In this particular case, Apple apologised and pulled the advert. On the positive side, the incident shows how established brand reputation can help weather a PR misstep.

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Overall, Apple Crush! serves as a cautionary tale for businesses to be mindful of how their marketing efforts might be perceived.