When a huge megacorp such as Amazon blatantly rips off your work, you can respond by complaining, by writing angry tweets, by reducing your prices, by panicking, or... by putting together a hugely entertaining ad.
Always a good reminder that every day we get a chance to influence the world around us: vote with your wallet.
If there was an event where Apple expressed the importance of telling stories, it was their services event earlier this year where they launched Apple TV+. Every other word at their March event was either “Services” or “Storytelling”.
But everyevent features storytelling from Apple. They’re incredible at storytelling. And I always enjoy seeing the stories they want to tell with each product announcement they make.
Yesterday’s event was no different.
From a product perspective, it’s hard to get excited about year-over-year device upgrades these days – when phones are objectively “more than good enough” for the overwhelming majority of customers.
How do you make people want something new when what they have is good enough? You tell a great story and make sure millions of people hear that story.
Here are the stories I took from Apple’s September event:
iPhone 11 Pro: this is a professional video and stills camera in your phone. Stop thinking you need a camera and a phone and get this.
iPhone 11: the new iPhone is tough as nails and the battery lasts longer. It’s also a bit cheaper. What more do you want from us?
Apple Watch: this watch will change or save your life, or both. And we’ve got the watch for you – pick from a thousand variations.
Apple Retail: everything is fine despite Angela Ahrendts leaving. To prove it, here’s two new initiatives and a beautiful redesign of our most famous store.
AppleTV+: We are taking this content thing seriously. We’re not messing about and one way or another you’re going to end up watching these shows.
iPad: This is a platform of its own now. It’s not a bigger sibling of the iPhone. We’re going to keep pushing the price down at the low end and keep pushing the tablet paradigm to its limits at the high end.
Apple Arcade: Families, we get you. Don’t worry about the slimy games out there trying to nickel and dime you. We’ve got fantastic, exclusive games for you, and for just $4.99 / month you don’t need to worry about your children racking up a huge credit card bill for fake coins ever again.
The stories Apple didn’t tell
The Tile competitor: a new way to find the stuff you own. Never lose another gadget or item around your house. Seamlessly integrated with your existing Apple devices. Tiny price compared to the iPhone you’ll be buying soon – why not buy a pack of 10 Apple Tiles? They’ll make a great stocking filler.
The pro story for anything other than iPhone. Mac Pro, iPad Pro, MacBook Pro all are waiting for their time to shine.
I had an encounter with a business the other day where I felt frustrated by their marketing approach.
They sent me snail mail without my consent, and even had the misfortune to send their mass mailing out with a typo in the headline.
I messaged them to tell them about the typo but also to politely ask them not to send me such mail in the future. Aside from being mail I didn’t want, I thought it was against the GDPR ruling we’ve had in Europe for over a year now.
Apparently their approach was still legally compliant with GDPR, and they have no intention of changing it.
But it made me realise – some individuals, and some businesses choose to scrape by and meet the rules.
While some people and some businesses think the rules don’t go far enough – they choose to set the example, and enforce a higher standard than the laws ever could.
Some rules are there to be broken, but some rules and laws are there to protect customers, society, the environment, and more. Those kinds of rules can be obeyed, or they can be exceeded by each of us.
The companies that exceed the rules, tend to exceed customer expectations. And those companies have a bright future.
It was set to 3rd February 1991. Correct date, wrong year. I thought “🧐 that looks odd” so changed the year to 2006 – the actual year we legally started the business (unlike 1991 which was the year I was born).
I received a warning saying “you can only change this a few times” – in itself a poorly worded error. Why can I only change it a few times, and what definition of “a few” are you going by, Twitter?
Either way, I thought this would all be fine. After all, why would I need to change the date again after this? So I went ahead and confirmed.
“Your account is locked.”
This was literally the next thing I saw. A blank screen with one link to a support doc. No buttons or options to undo the change, or change the date again.
What did this change cause?
It locked everyone out of the @GoSquared Twitter account – you cant read the timeline, you can’t post, you can’t do anything.
It instantly hid our profile so it didn’t exist publicly – we didn't show up in search results, and if you went directly to the profile it just told you it didn't exist.
It paused our active Twitter Ads running – of which we spend a not-insubstantial amount of money on every month.
It cut our access to all related Twitter tools including the Twitter Analytics product.
Any Tweets mentions or quoting our own Tweets showed a lovely “This Tweet is unavailable” message.
We were deleted from Twitter.
All this, despite being an active user of Twitter since February 2008 with over 6,000 followers, being a verified Twitter account, and an active paying customer of Twitter Ads having spent many many thousands of dollars over several years.
To make matters worse, the issue arose at around 10:30am London time. I immediately took their recommended action of uploading a scan of my ID, and also submitted a support ticket to Twitter Support. I also reached out to the Twitter Business team via an email address they shared in previous communications. A number of people also mentioned @Twitter, @TwitterUK, @verified, and @TwitterSupport in various tweets to try to drive attention of the issue. We even reached out to any contacts we had at Twitter. But nothing.
Nothing until 8:30pm, and only after calling in a favour from a couple of very helpful people: @KeaneJoel and @Jonah.
I’m not writing about this to moan, I’m writing about this with the hope that no one else goes through the same stressful ordeal.
Don’t change your birthday on Twitter.
Twitter – you have got to improve on so many fronts here:
This is very nearly the most destructive action one can take on their Twitter account. You have to make that clearer to the user at the point they are making the change.
The details are not details. They make the design. – Charles Eames
I was lucky enough to get a new Apple Watch this week – the Series 4 Nike+.
The packaging is beautiful as with any Apple product. Compared to my Series “0” original Apple Watch, the packaging is different – being a sport model it's unboxing the Series 4 is slightly less theatrical, but it’s still delightful and the details astound me.
One point that stood out – there’s hardly any documentation, but the paperwork that is in the box is carefully crafted down to the last detail.
Look at the border radius and shape of the paper – look at the border shape of the watch, the screen of the watch, and even the wrapper that goes around the paper. Even look at the previous image and see the box cut-out that holds the paper in place.
They all match up. And that’s not by accident.
Imagine the time and effort it took to ensure that happened internally – from the graphic design of the leaflet, to the collaboration with the printing team to the facility where they cut the paper stock. To the quality control to ensure it always looks perfect and not wonky or misaligned.
All this effort for a detail that almost no one will pick up on. But almost everyone will feel it.
“A tall skinny macchiato with syrup and 4 shots please.”
On a recent visit to Starbucks I spent some time watching and listening as customers flowed in, collected their drinks, and left to head to their busy work days ahead.
One gentleman walked in and if I had to guess I’d have put him as a standard cappuccino kinda guy. But I was wrong – instead he asked for a tall skinny macchiato with syrup and 4 shots.
I always enjoy people watching, but after hearing a few orders – even within the rush hour in the centre of London in a coffee shop – something blindingly obvious struck me: people can be so very different from each other.
It’s pretty obvious when you think of anywhere that has a menu as extensive as Starbucks, but it made me reflect on assumptions we often make throughout the day when running a business.
It’s easy to think people are “like you”. And it’s easy to think “no one would do that!” Or “why would anyone ever ever want that?!”
Figuring out what people want doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hold a bunch of user groups or feedback sessions or do extensive research.
Sometimes all you need is a reminder – get out of the building and just watch the world go by for 10 minutes.
Starbucks is a great place to observe consumer behaviour in all its wonder.