Apple's best kept secret is slowly becoming unwrapped.
Cook and Co. hired former Nike and Burberry social media chief Musa Tariq as their digital marketing director of retail. Tariq is behind social media strategies such as Burberry's "Tweetwalk," where the company tweeted out new designs before they were revealed at fashion shows; and for Nike, he brought the company's social media team in-house, instead of having their accounts run by agencies.
For as big a brand as Apple is, it's lacking in the social media department: there's no traditional Apple Facebook page, for one, and a search for Apple on Twitter will show you results for Applebee's and Christina Applegate before you realize that Apple doesn't have an official account outside of @AppStore. (And Apple CEO Tim Cook has only tweeted 80 times as of this writing.) But it's not like Apple has needed social media to market its products. So far, a combination of TV spots and YouTube videos in Apple's famous tear-jerking style have worked for iPhones and iPads. But these products have been out for years now. The iPhone was released in 2007, and the iPad—Apple's last big industry disrupting product—dropped in 2010. Since then, the company has milked them year after year because they're legacy products that can sell themselves.
They want the iWatch to be viewed as a luxury fashion accessory that will help you live healthier, and be what the iPhone once was: a status symbol.
Back in the late 2000s, social media was already a huge influence in our lives, and it's even bigger now. While an ad during the Super Bowl is still the most sought-after advertising space this side of the Moon, a craftily worded hashtag could be far more powerful. Since the iPad came out, Facebook crossed the billion user mark and added hashtag use, once a defining part of Twitter. Twitter, too, has changed its newsfeed to prominently feature photos and video (aka advertising space), something Facebook users are all too familiar with.
So why Tariq? Why now?
One reason is that Apple may need to tap into social media to push a product, one that's unique and can't survive on name alone, like the iPhone can today. That, ladies and gents, is the iWatch. The iWatch has been clouded in mystery for years now, and the company still hasn't announced anything about it. Yet, a smartwatch is a product that Apple must release, if only to satisfy investors that have been thirsty for the game-changing products we've come to expect since the Steve Jobs era. Also, Apple's archenemy, Samsung, has already released three different versions of a smartwatch.
The company has already made some big hires from the fashion industry: they brought on Patrick Pruniaux, the former Vice-President of Sales at Tag Heuer, Angela Ahrendts of Burberry, and Paul Deneve of YSL. If Tariq's hiring is any indication, Apple is polishing up the details before an iWatch announcement, and getting their social media cannons ready. And Tariq's experience in both the fashion and fitness industries seems to fit perfectly with what the iWatch is expected to be specialize in.
During their iOS 8 presentation, Apple announced that they're putting renewed focus on fitness. The iWatch is expected to include a heart-rate monitor and other health-oriented technology that'll work with the company's new Healthbook app to track fitness and well-being. Tariq, having worked at Nike, can make the right social media moves to push the iWatch to young audiences, and market it as a must have fitness accessory, like FuelBand before it. And for people who aren't sold on the fitness aspect of the device, there's other ways Apple can inch their way into their wallets.
When Apple bought Beats Electronics, there was speculation as to what Tim Cook saw in the company. Beats' headphones are massively popular, but they're not known for their quality (think: Bose). What's unique about Beats, though, and valuable to Apple marketing the iWatch, is how Beats got their headphones to to be viewed not as a device, but as a fashion accessory. How many times have you seen a NBA player go to a press conference with Beats wrapped around his neck? This is the magic Apple needs to tap into. Headed halfway into the new decade, the company realizes that social media is necessary to push an entirely new product, one that hasn't already been advertised for years using traditional marketing methods. Tariq's experience at a luxury fashion company as Burberry is exactly what Apple needs to complement their purchase of Beats. They want the iWatch to be viewed as a luxury fashion accessory that will help you live healthier, and be what the iPhone once was: a status symbol.
While it's thought that people will simply buy anything with the Apple logo on it (thanks Jimmy Kimmel), the company isn't taking that chance.