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Headphone Jacks & Marketing

/ Products
Everyone agrees that Apple is great at marketing, yet there is still confusion around the iPhone 7 and the headphone situation. Ben takes a look to see if there's any lessons we can apply to what we do.
A wet iPhone 7 camera lens.

Marketing is Hard

Marketing new products, features or services is hard. First you need to get your material in front of people, then you need them to pay attention, and finally you need them to ‘get it’. Last week's iPhone 7 launch is a great example of how hard that is.

Apple don’t need to worry about the first two problems. Any announcement they make is seen by millions. People who are interested in buying, the media who are preparing the latest clickbait, and even people who just like to poke fun at Apple and their products. Yet, despite this attention, their brilliant marketing team (there’s no denying that) and one of the biggest market caps in the world, they still can’t get their message across to everyone.

The Confusion

The biggest complaint about the iPhone 7 is the removal of the headphone jack. Whatever Apple’s reasons are for this change (rightly or wrongly), their public message was the following:

  • The headphone jack is old, there’s better solutions now.

  • The space is useful for other things like the battery and sensors.

  • We have included headphones in the box that use the lightning port.

  • We have made wireless headphones that you can buy.

For people who were following closely it was a simple message. But for those hearing through social and traditional media outlets there was confusion:

My Sister

Over dinner the iPhone 7 came up. My sister said that she liked it but wouldn’t get one because the headphone jack had been removed and she uses the headphones that came with her phone all the time. Plus, she doesn't want to buy the expensive wireless AirPods. When I explained that wired headphones that use the lightning port are in the box her sole complaint went away and she no longer cared about the removal of the port.


A couple of the team here were discussing the iPhone 7 and mentioned that Apple was including the wireless AirPods in the box. When it was clarified that they weren’t included and were an additional $269.00 purchase they weren’t too happy and wondered why the port was even being removed.

The Internet

Both my sister and colleagues are tech savvy people that currently own an iPhone. Yet they were confused about the new phone, and if that’s the case you can bet there are millions of people who are in the same boat. A quick search on Twitter confirms this problem and the situation Apple are facing.

Your message is probably too complex. Simplify.

The Lessons & Reminders

I won’t pretend that I have any suggestions for how Apple could have done this better. They have many smart people who are dedicated to solving problems like these. I do however think there’s a few lessons and reminders for the rest of us who are selling products and services on a much smaller scale:

Be Focused

You can’t cover every feature or benefit and you shouldn’t. Focus only on the best, remove the distractions.

Plain English

Your message is probably too complex. Simplify it. Make it quick to read and understand. Potential customers will give you seconds not minutes.

Enlist Help

Apple has a passionate fan base, you probably have one too, no matter how small. Look after those people, keep them happy, let them spread the word and answer questions or concerns for you.

Accept Failures

No matter how much you refine your marketing and messaging it won’t work for everyone. People will get the wrong idea or be confused. Treat them with care but don’t let them sway your decisions unless you see a consistent trend that needs to be addressed.

Ultimately this won’t matter for Apple, they know what they are doing and it will all be forgotten in a few months amid the next round of drama. For the rest of us though, I think it’s a good reminder of what we need to consider when talking about our products and services.