Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Two Weeks On, Apple Endures

Two weeks may not sound like a lot of time, but for a company that’s just lost one of the world’s most influential technological and social innovators, it is.

That’s why in the huge wake left by the passing of Steve Jobs, tech writers, bloggers and PR professionals, continue to hang on almost every word the company says, and look for signs, no matter how small, that suggest the company is foundering.

On Wednesday, 14 days after Jobs’ death, the naysayers may have found one.

For only the third time in nearly a decade, (cue the foreboding music) the financially conservative tech giant missed its quarterly earnings estimate – a fact that sent the stocks spiraling downwards by some 22 points before today’s Nasdaq opening. As of 10 o’clock this morning, Apple’s stock was down 5.4 percent.

I don’t know about you, but this latest sign of the purported apocalypse hasn’t caused any iPhone 4 or 4s, or any of my iOS devices to suddenly crash. (My Blackberry, however, is another story) Over the last few weeks, both before and after Steve Jobs’ death, I’ve written about Apple’s long-term vision, its ability to manage its message, and its resilience going forward. So lets set the record straight – a missed earnings call by any other company, like Goldman Sachs and Google, generates news, for sure, but few people start questioning the company’s future. Miss a few more earnings estimates, however, and legitimate concerns mount. Apple Q4 sales still rose 39 percent to $28.3 billion and the company ended its fiscal year with $108 billion in sales.

Only Apple has the bragging rights to call this a “poor performance.”

The Street writer, James Rogers, rightly points out three reasons why the bite into Apple’s profits won’t last: An already better-than-expected Q1 outlook, an expected uptick in iPhone 4s sales, offsetting sales declines in older models, and the staggering $81.6 billion the company has in on-hand cash.

Apple’s aim high and shoot low forecasting approach should serve as an important reminder for PR professionals. No matter how groundbreaking and dare we say media controlling Apple can sometimes be, the company often underestimates its projected performance to its own advantage. (Yesterday’s miss aside) Clients, especially young startups, run the risk of being overzealous when it comes to the type of messaging and marketing campaign they seek to launch. Reigning in those expectations sounds like a good idea to me.

Two weeks without Jobs and Apple’s message still bears fruit. And it will for a long time to come.

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