Apple Marketing Boss: We Don’t Need No Stinking Social Monitoring Tools!

Apple’s senior vice president of marketing, Phil Schiller, has twice been ranked the most influential marketer in the world. But when it comes to social media, Schiller seems to be a bit of a Luddite. Or maybe he’s a genius whose instincts are so good that he doesn’t need some piece of software to tell him what to do? After looking at some email Schiller traded over whether to use social media monitoring tools, it’s difficult to say. I’ll let you be the judge.

Back in early 2013, one of Schiller’s marketing minions suggested to Schiller, via email, that Apple start paying for social media monitoring tools. Samsung, Apple’s big rival in smartphones, was using a tool made by Networked Insights.

The emails between Schiller and his staff are now being made public because they were dug up in discovery for a lawsuit Apple is bringing against Samsung.

The emails reveal that Schiller was having none of this idea of paying for any social media analytics mumbo-jumbo.

“I think paying money for social media tracking tools is nuts,” he wrote. “It is easy to track social media, I do it every day, there are lots of summary feeds, groups and notification tools built right in to the social networking sites, all free.”

Schiller continued: “I think the guys at Samsung sat around a coffee table watching Twitter and Facebook feeds and didn’t need to pay for anything in the example below.”

Um, okay. Right. I’m sure that’s just what they did. They just sat around a coffee table and figured it out by the seat of their pants. Why not? Who needs social media monitoring tools, when you can just read those free summaries built right into the social networks?

Old School?

Maybe we’re biased, since HubSpot makes a social media analytics tool called Social Inbox, but come on. The year is 2014!

Schiller looks a little bit ridiculous here. I’m sure Samsung’s marketers were delighted when they found these emails, and even more delighted when they got the chance to make them public.

What makes this even more painful is that just as these emails were emerging, so were a set of slides from an April 2013 meeting in which Apple management were realizing, too late, that “Consumers want what we don’t have.”


What do consumers want? They want smartphones with bigger screens, at a lower price. Everybody in the world knows this. But a year ago Apple execs needed to have spelled out for them, and even now, a year later, they still haven’t acted on either of those two points.

Hey, maybe if Apple had been using social media analytics instead of trusting their guts, they’d have known this sooner.

Schiller obviously doesn’t think so. He’s an old-school marketing guy, and an old-school Apple guy. He joined Apple in 1987, left in 1993, came back in 1997 and has been there ever since.

He comes from the “trust your gut” school of marketing. The one where customers don’t know what they want until Apple shows it to them. The one where Apple knows best.

If that’s the mindset you start from, why would you possibly care what anyone was saying on Twitter? Why listen to customers at all?

Heck, Apple doesn’t even have a corporate Twitter account. Some groups inside Apple have Twitter accounts – the iTunes Store runs a bunch of feeds. But there is no official Apple corporate feed.

It’s not that Schiller is too cheap to spring for social media tools. It’s that he doesn’t believe in this stuff. As I wrote last October, Schiller has been on Twitter since 2008, and in all that time he has sent only 242 tweets.

I’m guessing Schiller also doesn’t go in for all this newfangled marketing analytics, either, even as everywhere else, the quants are taking over the industry.

What does this say about Apple? It says this is a company in a bubble, a company that still believes it knows more than you do about what you want.

Most important, this is a company that is still marketing like it’s the 1980s, with ads on TV and in glossy print magazines.

Then again, it’s hard to argue with results. Whatever Schiller does, it seems to be working. Apple’s business is one that any company in the world would envy. Its $463 billion market capitalization makes it the most valuable company in the world. Analytics? We don’t need no stinking analytics!

What’s your take? Is Schiller a genius, or a Luddite?