Apple has reportedly begun hiring more advertising executives, going against a long-term directive from the late Steve Jobs to limit the size of the internal marketing department. AdAge reported that Apple has been recruiting top executives to work on Apple's brand, and that the company was increasing the size of its marketing department from 300 to 500 or 600 people.
If true—and AdAge is very well connected in the advertising business—Apple is trying to bring more of its Apple-branding efforts in-house. This represents a very different strategy for Apple under current CEO Tim Cook compared to his predecessor, Steve Jobs, who was always leery of allowing marketing and sales departments from gaining control over Apple.
Mr. Jobs spoke about the issue several times. He pointed to Microsoft as an abject example of what happens when the product people get supplanted by marketing folks. According to him, revenue becomes the driving goal of such companies, and innovation takes a back seat.
In fact, that's at the heart of what we're seeing at Microsoft today. The company has been unable to gain ground in mobile because it's terrified of Windows losing relevance. It's unwilling to let Windows—and its fat revenue streams—die.
OH NOES APPLE SI TEH D00MED!
So is that what we're seeing with Apple? Is this the long-awaited 1st Seal of the Applecalypse?
Not likely. Allow me to explain.
The first thing is that Steve Jobs was able to limit the size of the marketing department because he kept an iron fist wrapped around his company's marketing. Though Steve Jobs denigrates marketers being in charge of a product company, he was himself a master of marketing (when working with outside partners).
Tim Cooks is many things, but he's not Steve Jobs when it comes to marketing, just as Steve Jobs wasn't Tim Cook when it comes to operations. There's going to be some give and take when it comes to who's doing what within the company.
We should also remember that Tim Cook is overseeing retail in addition to his responsibilities over operations and product. He's a busy man.
Another important thing is that Tim Cook swore to double down on secrecy. Bringing in more of Apple's marketing in-house is likely to be part of that effort, and this was backed up by unnamed sources offering commentary to Adage.
Under the circumstances, increasing the headcount to keep intellectual property in-house is probably a very good thing.
The Big One
But here's the big one. Let's compare Apple's doubled-in-size marketing department to, say, Microsoft. In January 2012, Microsoft had 25,000 people in sales and marketing.
That's twenty five thousand. Is it any wonder that Microsoft is floundering?
It's an apples-to-oranges comparison in that this number includes sales and marketing at Big Redmond, so let's look at Apple's sales force. As near as I can figure, Apple has about 1,000 people its sales department.
This is an educated guesstimate, but let's say I'm off by a factor of two and make it 2,000. Take the 600 people in Apple's new marketing department and add them to the 2,000 people that might be in sales, and we still have a sales and marketing team that is 1/10th the size of Microsoft's.
While Tim Cook may have adjusted the cap off the size of Apple's marketing department, he does not appear to be letting them take over. At least not yet.