This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but a former senior marketing manager at Apple posted an article today “confirming” that the company does indeed purposely leak information in order to amplify the buzz surrounding an upcoming product, or for any number of other reasons. The ex-Apple employee in question, John Martellaro, wrote about the process in an article on The Mac Observer.
Citing specifically a piece that ran Monday (subscription required) in the Wall Street Journal, which claimed to confirm that the Apple tablet existed and would be announced in January and released in March, Martellaro talks about Apple’s use of “controlled leaks,” a process by which it is able to release information without hurting its reputation for never discussing pre-release products. Martellaro is in a very good position to know about what goes on, because he was himself told to do the same thing on multiple occasions.
Here’s how Martellaro describes the order coming down from on high:
The way it works is that a senior exec will come in and say, “We need to release this specific information. John, do you have a trusted friend at a major outlet? If so, call him/her and have a conversation. Idly mention this information and suggest that if it were published, that would be nice. No e-mails!”
The key to a successful intentional leak is to ensure that deniability exists on all sides. Often, information floated in leaks isn’t final, and something about the product will change before production actually occurs, and if there’s no trail and no evidence to point to, both Apple and the news outlet are protected against claims of having disseminated false information. Official leaks are published after the close of the stock market to avoid accusations of stock manipulation.
Maybe most interesting about Martellaro’s inside look at Apple’s marketing machine is his list of reasons for fabricating a leak like this one:
Controlled leaks are almost always the solution to a problem. In this case, it could have been that Apple needed to release the tablet information early because it wanted:
- to light a fire under a recalcitrant partner
- to float the idea of the $1,000 price point and gauge reaction
- to panic/confuse a potential competitor about whom Apple had some knowledge
- to whet analyst and observer expectations to make sure the right kind and number of people show up at the (presumed) Jan. 26 event. Apple hates empty seats and demands SRO at these events.
Suspicions are one thing, but confirmation is another entirely. This look inside the extremely successful Apple information control mechanism is very helpful when it comes to sorting fact from fiction in the rumor mill.