by Tom Kaneshige

The Apple Leak: A Marketer’s Magic Bullet

Jan 07, 2010
Consumer ElectronicsMobileSmall and Medium Business

Was Apple behind a controlled leak about its rumored tablet? A controlled leak lets you decide where and when the information will appear and fires up the buzz machine.

This week the Wall Street Journal’s AllThingsD got the biggest Apple scoop of the year—granted, the year just started.

In case you missed it, AllThingsD’s John Paczkowski wrote: “Sources in position to know tell me Apple (APP) is indeed planning a media event later this month at which the company will announce a major new product.” Of course, it can only be the superbly hyped and masterfully rumored Apple tablet, or iSlate.

[ An Apple tablet won’t be cheap given the high cost of a 10-inch touchscreen, reports. ]

Paczkowski continues: “The gathering is to be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, a space Apple often uses for media events like this. According to other sources, it will occur on Wednesday, Jan. 27.”

Now here’s the rub: Former Apple marketing manager John Martellaro told Apple Insider that the scoop has all the trappings of an Apple controlled leak. Indeed, any source “in position to know” probably works at Apple.

Gotta hand it to those clever Apple marketing folks.

(For the record, I’ve been leaked information by a vendor that wanted to control the timing and location of the story—and, yes, I felt a little used by the whole experience.)

According to Martellaro, there’s a few ground rules in a controlled leak: deliver the information over the telephone to avoid paper trails, and time the leak after the market closes so that no one can accuse you of manipulating Wall Street.

Oddly, Martellaro adds that the Wall Street Journal’s top tech guy, Walt Mossberg, was probably bypassed to allow him to remain “above the fray.”

A controlled leak is a magic bullet in marketing.

Martellaro says the alleged controlled leak lets Apple whet analyst and observer appetites three weeks before the big event. The leak also might be used to cause panic or confusion among certain competitors. And Apple can float the idea of a $1,000 price point to gauge reaction.

High-tech public relations pro Kelly Reeves, CEO of KLR Communications, thinks the Consumer Electronics Show happening this week also had something to do with it. “The ‘leak’ seemed conveniently timed with the biggest electronics show of the year when there is a great deal of attention on the industry and products being announced,” she wrote in an email while in Las Vegas where CES is taking place.

For the first time, Apple won’t be at Macworld Expo in San Francisco in February —a venue where Apple typically announces new products. “This time around, Apple is apparently using CES as its unofficial new stage,” Reeves says, adding that she doesn’t know if the leak was a controlled Apple leak or not.

Nevertheless, she says, “leaking info three weeks in advance of the official product announcement is plenty to start building buzz and creating demand, while maintaining the typical Apple shroud of mystery.”

Got a different take? Send me an email at Or follow me on Twitter @kaneshige. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline.