"Steve Jobs has announced he is to pursue a career as an artist. His work will be exhibited by Green Park tube""

Did you hear?  It seems Apple is planning to launch a shiny new toy.  Perhaps an easier question is “have you not heard?” You’d have to have returned from a month-long trek through the hills of Kathmandu to not be aware of this revelation.  Every news site is hyping it so much you’d think Apple has conceived a new way of slicing bread.  But the thing is – we haven’t heard it from the horse’s mouth yet.

If you’ve been busy finding yourself in Kathmandu you might also have missed our own news – Edelman launched the 2010 Trust Barometer yesterday.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do.

As we trustworthy types do, we were chatting about the research yesterday and Steve Jobs cropped up in conversation.  As he does.  So to catch you all up – once again Technology is the most trusted industry according to our research.  Well done us.  And we’ve moved from a shareholder to a stakeholder world  where transparency has grown in importance.

The findings also show that it’s no longer all about the CEO.  Its lowly people like you and me that people want to hear from (you do, don’t you?).  The trust is no longer linked to the job description. (Though as an obsequious aside – it is still worth listening to the likes of Robert Phillips and Richard Edelman.  Not only are they interesting to listen to, they also help pay my bills).  But you get what I mean, companies have to look beyond the bucks and the board room when asking for a consumer’s trust.

So compare this to Apple.  Jobs is the messiah for many, a heroic entrepreneur for our time.  But his health issues last year further underlined the important of not putting the whole company’s eggs in a CEO’s basket.  Transparency is usually linked to openness in corporate dialogue.  Compare this to the Tablet, which is so shrouded in secrecy they’ve probably developed an invisibility cloak especially for it.  Following the fanfare of this evening’s press conference I’m sure the Apple spokespeople will return to their imagination lab in the bowels of a volcano somewhere to a chorus of “No Comment”.  So in a conventional sense there is very little transparency.   However – there will be an awful lot of #iSlate conversations.

So what does this all mean?  Well the Naked Pheasant himself put it nicely when he said that the “trust is with the art not the artist.” The product is the king, not the person.  That’s where the consumer trust lies.  Mr Pheasant continues “how many times have you seen a friend showing off an iPhone in the pub?”  The Boss Bird has a point and attached to the great product is some great conversational marketing – the iStore adverts are a good example.  It’s a great approach to promotion and one that is too often ignored: ensure the product is blisteringly brilliant – and the rest will follow.   If you build it they will come.

There is one flaw in this approach as far as I can see.  What if they mess it up?  How loyal is the consumer trust in Apple?  Maybe Jobs is just too achingly smart to let this happen and the iSlate/ Tablet/ eReader will meet all of its expectations.  Maybe it will revolutionise how consumers absorb content.  It might even revive the print industry, to boot.  But what if it doesn’t?  What if the once glorious conversations and exchanges in the pub turn into “jeez do you remember when Apple had it all then they fucked it up with that big iPhone that turned into a toaster?”

When the conversation is around the art and not the artist, you are only as good as your last painting.

@LukeMackay

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