Whatever happened to the good old days, when iPad was the only choice in town?
Unfortunately for Apple, those days are now long gone. There’s no resting on past glories. For those comparing tablets today, it hardly matters who invented what. What’s important is what they see today — and it starts with the ads.
Let’s see how the ad competition is shaping up.
Apple has always spawned passionate reactions to its advertising, pro and con. But these days, it seems that the natives are restless.
For the most part, iPad ads have always worked like iPhone ads. They’ve been focused on the product and have demonstrated a wide range of apps. When iPad was crushing competitors in both marketshare and mindshare, there didn’t seem to be a downside to this.
But now there’s a question: is it enough anymore to say “iPad lets you do a lot of stuff”? As other tablets mature, what’s the shelf life for a message like this? (Alright, that’s two questions.)
Here’s what Apple’s competitors are doing, starting with Amazon.
The Kindle Fire HD, by most reports, isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Looking at this ad, you can see that the message is a bit familiar. Basically, it says “Fire lets you do a lot of stuff.” Only at the end do we see Fire’s big advantage: it’s cheap. As in $199 cheap.
Of course Fire is missing certain important things, and that is why it’s so cheap — but all’s fair in love and marketing.
You’re up next, Google.
With Nexus 7, Google is eager to join the party. Or, I should say, they’re joining the chorus. Because the net takeaway from the Nexus commercial is also familiar: “Nexus lets you do a lot of stuff.” Imagine: you can check the weather, use a map, find a restaurant, translate a word and make a video call. These are all things we’ve lived with for years now.
On the positive side, Google plays up their strength here. They position the technology as connecting with our lives. Is that differentiation enough? You tell me.
And now Microsoft.
Damn, it’s hard to watch this. Surely a disruption in the space-time continuum caused Microsoft to reach back into the 70s, when a song-and-dance caused shoppers to pull out their wallets.
Give them credit for not just saying “it does a lot of stuff.” But latching onto the click as the big marketing idea has almost the opposite effect from the one they wish. It trivializes the technology they’re so proud of.
Last, there’s Samsung.
Samsung faced the same uphill battle all the others have faced. They were trying to get a slice of a market that was hugely dominated by Apple.
As discussed in a previous article, Samsung is doing what Apple had always been known for. They’re getting people to talk about their products.
That’s no easy feat when you start out with nothing. Unlike the others who tried in vain to claim the mantle of “chief challenger” to Apple, Samsung hit on an idea that resonated. It used humor to capitalize on the growing feeling that Apple has become too big and less innovative. Plus it put tons of cash behind its campaign.
When Apple took on Microsoft with its super-successful Mac vs. PC campaign, its goal wasn’t to replace Microsoft as the leader. It simply wanted to become part of the conversation. And this work got people talking about the Mac platform in places they weren’t talking about it before.
If you need proof that Samsung’s Apple-bashing humor draws a crowd, just look at the YouTube numbers. This anti-iPhone ad now has over 17 million views. Apple ads just don’t get those kinds of numbers these days.
Through its advertising, Samsung has succeeded in creating an umbrella personality for both its smartphone and tablet products. All of their ads now reinforce the same point (whether it’s true or not): Samsung is the company delivering innovation.
I hear all kinds of opinions about Samsung ads. Some think they’re stupid, or resent Samsung for ripping off Apple ideas. But these ads are doing what exactly what they are designed to do — they’re striking a nerve, and stoking the anti-Apple flames.
Google, Amazon and Apple are all running commercials that play up the infinite things their devices let you do. Only problem is, “doing a lot of stuff” is now well-trod territory. That alone is not the message of an innovator.
What Apple does have going for it is that familiar tone of elegance and simplicity. However, this familiarity translates to some as boring, or simply more of the same. Which is not the personality of an innovator.
That’s an issue for a company that lives or dies by innovation — and it opens the door for marketing attacks. Remember, we’re talking about marketing here and not necessarily the technology reality.
When you look at all the ads together, it’s Samsung that has stepped out of the mold. (Microsoft stepped into a very old mold.) Samsung doesn’t focus so much on the devices; instead it creates a personality for them. Love or hate these ads, they’re not invisible. They’ve helped paint the picture of Samsung as Apple’s most dangerous competitor.
Historically, Apple has been pretty good at getting noticed when they face a far bigger competitor — as it demonstrated with the Mac vs. PC campaign, using humor to chip away at big, bad Microsoft.
With Samsung picking up even more buzz (note tomorrow’s unveiling of the Galaxy S IV smartphone), it will be interesting to see how and if Apple’s ads will evolve. Hard to imagine that it would ever directly address its competitor as Microsoft did with its pitiful “I’m a PC” campaign. But creativity can work in a thousand different ways.
As the technology playing field levels — in consumers’ eyes, that is — the spirit of the ads may well become the most important differentiator.