The Shrink Tank

Psychotherapy in practice, research, and pop culture

Epic marketing fail: Can the iPad absorb the flow of criticism?

The Apple iPad: Go with the flow.

Everyone waited on pins and needles for that special time of the month to come. For some people, its arrival could not come quickly enough. They hoped and prayed that it would eventually come out, and even better if its arrival wasn't delayed or postponed. Its release was celebrated by some, cringe inducing for others, and accompanied by plenty of groans and complaints. That's right, Steve Jobs came to town with a big surprise. And with his arrival, everyone was supposed to run out and grab a new iPad.

Steve Jobs launches the Apple iPadThe iPad is Apple's latest sleek gizmo. Their website proclaims that at just .5 inches thin, "it's easy to carry and use everywhere". What followed was a heavy flow of criticism and adolescent snickering. Yes, the world's most recent technological advance sounds like a high-tech feminine hygiene product.

Soon after the iPad's launch, catchy news headlines (my favorite is the Washington Post's: "With A Name Like iPad, Can Apple's New Device Possibly Have Wings?"), adolescent jokes, and fake ads for iPads and iTampons splashed across the news and internet.

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A Chicago Sun-Times columnist quoted in a CNN article suggested that: "Apple could call its new gadget a ‘mangled baby duck' and people would still buy it, both because Apple has sex appeal and because the iPad is a good product....With the right device, marketing doesn't really matter'". Marketing doesn't matter? Really? Tell that to the people who came up with New Coke.

Marketing matters. Just ask Domino's Pizza. That's why we have endless focus groups, polls, and dial testing. And now Super Bowl Sunday is fast approaching and CBS is selling 30 second ad slots for three million bucks.

And CBS is more than happy to host a radical anti-choice ad. An ad chastising a worldwide audience that if you're pro-life in the sense of trying to save your own life rather than undergo a potentially fatal pregnancy, then you are probably killing the next Tim Tebow and are likely an anti-Christian sinner who doesn't focus on the family. Which leaves me wondering, if a mother has four young kids at home and chooses not to undergo labor at the high-risk of her own death, does her decision not to leave behind motherless children mean that she does not care about family? Or should we have a more intrusive big government legislating her uterus?

But no way will CBS air an ad for a gay dating website. And in case you were wondering, gay and lesbian couples raise families that are just as healthy and adjusted as their straight couple counterparts. Of course, who can blame CBS when we live in a country that legally restricts rights and freedoms of its individual citizens while extending basic rights and protections to amorphous corporations.

So is marketing important? You bet it is. Product branding and marketing are powerful tools geared towards influencing our conscious thoughts, our implicit desires, and our outward behaviors. Whether your corporation is branding a political candidate, a new piece of legislation, a drug with more side-effect problems than the disease it's supposed to cure, or a whiz-bang tech gizmo, it's important that your product is protected from those awkward and embarrassing incidents. Otherwise, your reputation may slowly bleed away.

Jared DeFife, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine."

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