"Hey Guy”: Apple’s disappointing customer marketing

Last week, Apple made an interesting acquisition of a Seattle-based artificial intelligence (AI) start-up called Turi for around $200M. And like me, you probably said “Great, Apple is always on the forefront of new technologies”.  But, for me, this is less about the acquisition and more about hope in solving a constantly frustrating experience that I have with Apple. It’s not about the products as I currently own 15 different Apple products. My frustration is that Apple customer marketing is abysmal. I constantly get marketing touches from Apple that are frankly insulting as I feel like Apple is just saying “Hey Guy!”

You probably know the “Hey Guy” guy.  He/she is that person who just can’t remember your name.  And, at any interaction with you, he/she pulls out the “Hey Guy!” greeting and then engages in a quick conversation before going on to more important or beneficial conversations with someone more relevant than you.

This drives me crazy as I expect more from customer marketing at Apple. It started in college, worked its way into my professional life and has always grated on me. It’s basically admitting, “I don’t remember who you are, and I really don’t want to, but I don’t want to come across as rude”.  For me, I’d rather you just ignore me and move on.  In customer marketing, that’s a cardinal sin.

As an example, last week, I had another “Hey Guy” experience with Apple customer marketing as I received two identical emails from Apple about its new AppleTV model. 


Hey, Apple, did you forget about the one that I purchased two months ago, using my Apple ID on Apple.com? You’d think that given our “relationship”, Apple would know me better since my household includes 4 MacBook Air laptops, 3 iPads, 4 iPhones, 2 iMacs, 1 iTouch, 1 iPod mini, 1 Apple Time Machine, 2 Apple TVs and most recently the Apple Watch. I use iCloud and have three similar Apple-based emails (@mac, @me and @icloud). More than half of them connect back to the same Apple ID. You can say (and most of my friends and family would agree) that I’m an avid Apple fan. As a marketer, I’d categorize myself as a brand advocate. My commitment to Apple is real and I let a lot of things (both technology glitches or usability issues) slide past. So, now with a new and strong commitment to data and AI, my hope is that they’ll focus on the fundamentals of customer marketing like relevant communications, customer value and more surgical management of customers and Apple assets (products, experiences, access, etc.)

The risk in continuing like this for Apple − and all other similar product-centric brands − is that the current customer marketing strategy and related messages will have a profound impact on my view of Apple. And as competitors like Amazon and Samsung continue to shift to put the customer first, the risk for Apple increases. Typically, poor emails are not a huge deal, but when a brand has the marketing technology caliber of Apple, we consumers expect more. And more importantly, as a marketing professional, it poses a great concern as “the brand of brands” is ignoring the fundamentals of today’s customer marketing best practices.  If you have my data, use it. Recognize me. Talk to me as me, not “A Customer”. Apple, I trust you. I give you all kinds of information about me, willingly.  And, as much as I expect you to secure my data, I expect you to use it to market better to me as a highly-engaged brand advocate. It should be what you do. It’s what your brand has been built upon. Come on. You’re better than this. Apple customer marketing should be the pinnacle of what we expect from brands marketing to us. Don’t be the “Hey Guy” guy.


A Brand Advocate