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Apple Music’s abject marketing failure

Updated Aug 31st, 2015 6:23PM EDT
Apple Music Marketing Failure
Image: Apple

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Apple two weeks ago was forced to defend its nascent Apple Music service following a report which claimed that 48% of users who signed up for the streaming service were no longer using it. Offering a rebuttal, Apple subsequently said that only 21% of the millions of subscribers who signed up for a three-month trial had left the fold.

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While Apple has busied itself with defending the popularity of Apple Music, it hasn’t done much to address an underlying issue which has prevented the service from truly gaining traction in the marketplace. In short, Apple’s marketing effort as it pertains to Apple Music has been an abject failure.

At the core, the problem with Apple Music is that Apple has done a horribly poor job of letting people know that a) it exists and b) what it does. This is a completely new service from Apple, one that can potentially yield them a lot of money, and yet, they’ve done a surprisingly poor job of advertising it.

Now sure,  Apple has thrown together some objectively cool ads, but the ads themselves don’t inform. They’re mostly a collection of cool scenes set to cool music. If you don’t already know what Apple Music is, the commercials serve no real purpose.

To wit, this Apple Music commercial is great as a standalone piece of art, but it probably goes over the heads of most people.

Apple can get away with this type of “Hey, this exists!” advertising when it comes to the iPhone because it’s simply reminding people of a product that they either a) already have or b) are already familiar with to an extent. The iPhone at this point is a well known commodity across the globe. Which is to say, Apple can get as abstract as it wants with its iPhone ads and people will get it.

Apple Music isn’t even close to reaching that point.

If we go back in time, you might remember that many of Apple’s early iPhone ads focused on what the device could do. From email and navigation to photos and much more, the first iPhone ads informed more than they entertained. Apple Music ads, to date, have done the exact opposite.

As a quick example, here is a collection of iPhone 3G ads.

Ask some of your more non-tech oriented friends if they know what Apple Music is and odds are you’ll be greeted with a collective ‘no’. Even folks who may have seen Apple Music commercials or Apple Music billboards around town will likely view it as a complete mystery.

There’s truly no excuse for this.

Apple has an advertising budget that completely dwarfs what a company like Spotify is capable of. And yet, nearly two months after launching, Apple hasn’t done much of anything to tout the service in an impactful way.

Remember the iPod’s original slogan? “1,000 songs in your pocket.” It was short, to the point, and more importantly, told people what the iPod was and why it was useful.

So why not take a similar approach with Apple Music?

Why not tell us that Apple Music provides most of the world’s music library in the palm of your hand for just $10/month? Why not tell us that Apple has literally hired hundreds of music experts to curate music and help us discover new bands and artists while also directing our attention to diamonds in the rough? Why not tell us that everyone, starting today, can check out this amazing service for free for three full months?

Until Apple does that, we’re simply left with abstract ads that, while legitimately cool, don’t really do much of anything to increase true awareness of Apple’s streaming music service.

Now perhaps Apple is planning to roll out a more concerted advertising campaign once it gets all of the kinks out of the software. Or, maybe Apple is simply waiting for iOS 9 and new iPhone models to drop before really turning up the heat on Apple Music advertising.

Whatever the reason, Apple Music, as it stands today, suffers from a fundamental advertising problem – most people don’t know it exists or what it does.

Now there may be hope ahead. Over the weekend Apple released two new Apple Music ads which do more to highlight what the service is capable of, though that doesn’t mean all that much.

In the video below, we see The Weekend listening to Beats 1 Radio as he checks out Apple Music Connect. Oddly, the limo he’s in is being driven by John Travolta.

In part 2 of the ad, we finally get to see a glimpse of the Apple Music interface. Most of it is hard to make out, and if you haven’t used Apple Music before, you likely have no idea what he’s actually up to. The ad concludes with a tagline that reads, “Unlimited Music for $9.99.” Finally, Apple has gotten around to telling us what Apple Music is, if only for a brief second after a 2-minute long commercial, two full months after the service initially debuted.

It’s not much, but it’s a start, I suppose.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.