IPad Has All the Ingredients for a Classic Marketing Blunder

James T. Berger headshot

James T. Berger
Senior Marketing Writer

Published February 11, 2010

Fresh from its fabulous success with the iPod and iPhone, Steve Jobs has unveiled the latest in Apple’s  “iPortfolio,”  the iPad.  Amid all the hoopla of a major media unveiling, there are some obvious elements of a classic marketing mistake.

Let’s start with the product itself.  What is it?  It is a tablet that works via a touch screen like the iPhone.  The problem is that it is 12 times bigger than the iPhone and it isn’t a telephone.   OK, then it’s a reader – like the Amazon Kindle, but it’s bigger and bulkier.  It also isn’t a netbook, or miniaturized laptop.  It doesn’t have an external keyboard but instead has a touch screen keyboard like the iPhone.  So, you really can’t use it for word processing, and It also only performs one function at a time.

At a cost of $499, who really needs it?  And, what do they need it for?   Sure, you can access the Internet.  Sure, you can play games on it.  You can also view movies and TV on it.  Perhaps students can get textbooks on the iPad.  But does one really need it?

In addition to the utilitarian problems, Apple has a host of other ones with the iPad.  According to the New York Times News Service, “Many women are saying the name evokes awkward associations with feminine hygiene products.  People from Boston to Ireland are complaining that iPad, in their regional brogue, sounds almost indistinguishable from “iPod,” Apple’s music player.”

Then there are far more serious intellectual property problems stemming from trademark infringement issues.  Two other high-tech companies already market products called iPad and are laying claim to the trademark.  Fujitsu Ltd. says that its U.S. subsidiary launched “iPad,” a handheld multimedia device with a 3.5 inch screen, used by retail clerks to keep inventory data, scan barcodes and manage business operations.   Fujitsu’s “iPad” has an Intel processor, a Microsoft operating system and supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.   In 2003, Fujitsu made an application for a trademark, the status of which is still pending.  In a potential lawsuit, Fujitsu can claim prior use.  Another giant, Siemens, uses the “iPad” trademark for small engines and motors.   In Canada, Ontario-based Coconut Grove Pads, Inc. has marketed a line of bra inserts and shoulder pads called the “iPad” since 2007.

Apple Computer Company had one king-sized blunder in the early 1980s that resulted in the early departure of founder Steve Jobs from the company’s management team.  It was the “Lisa” desktop computer, which was unveiled amidst much media hoopla in 1983, only to be removed from the shelves a little more than two years later and pronounced a dismal failure.

About The Author

James T. Berger headshot
James T. Berger, Senior Marketing Writer of The Wiglaf Journal, through his Northbrook-based firm, James T. Berger/Market Strategies, offers a broad range of marketing communications, research and strategic planning consulting services. In addition, he provides expert services to intellectual property attorneys in the area of trademark infringement litigation. An adjunct professor of marketing at Roosevelt University, he previously has taught at Northwestern University, DePaul University, University of Illinois at Chicago and The Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan (BA), Northwestern University (MS) and the University of Chicago (MBA). Berger is an often-published free lance business writer who has developed more than 100 published articles in the last eight years. For more information, visit www.jamesberger.net or telephone him at (847) 328-9633.