05
Mar 15

At a loss for words: it’s a “Pay”-for-all

We knew this day was going to come.

We try to conserve our resources, but the English language only has so many words in it. And it appears we’ve used ‘em all up.

It’s hard to otherwise explain how, just months after the introduction of Apple Pay, we find ourselves with Samsung Pay and Android Pay.

If you’re a product naming or marketing enthusiast, it’s something to marvel at. Kind of like that rare moment when all the planets align. (Which, technically speaking, they never really do.)

As our friend Spock would have said, it’s quite illogical. In an industry where innovation is the key to success, three of the biggest players end up with identically named products.

Of course, the first one out of the gate is innocent of all charges. It’s the second and third who have some explaining to do. More ▸


27
Feb 15

A big week on the Apple Watch watch

Sometimes I am astounded by the analytical prowess of technology journalists.

The Apple Watch is known to be shipping in April. Apple just placed a 12-page ad for the watch in Vogue. And yesterday the invitation went out for a March event titled “Spring Forward” — which is the least cryptic invitation in the history of Apple events.

I guess that was enough to make Fortune go out on a limb.

Headline: Apple just scheduled a “Spring Forward” March 9 event

Subhead: Is this the Apple Watch we’ve all been waiting for?

First paragraph: Apple sent out a media invitation Thursday inviting journalists to [sic] March 9 event, leading to much speculation that it could be when the tech company reveals its much anticipated Apple Watch.

Ah, okay. Thanks, Fortune. I get it now.

But enough of that. We like to talk about marketing here, so let’s talk about that 12-pager in Vogue. More ▸


24
Feb 15

Adobe vs. Apple: the Oscars ad shootout

As fate would have it, both Apple and Adobe gave us a new ad on Oscars night.

Each company tapped into the Hollywood theme to craft its message, but the differences were quite extreme.

One takes issue with the idea of dreaming — the other proudly tells us to “dream on.”

One requires a wall-to-wall voiceover — the other uses only visual and sound.

One uses music as a quiet background — the other relies on music to drive the message.

One is about empowering ordinary people — the other is about empowering Hollywood.

So which was the better spot? And, in strictly marketing terms, which did more good for the company it represents?

Apple, as it often does these days, takes the softer route. It offers a beautifully produced, lovingly crafted story of high school kids using iPad to bring out their creative spirit. More ▸


10
Feb 15

Radio Shack proves an ancient advertising truth

Not many stores find a way to die slowly, painfully and publicly, but Radio Shack did an excellent job of it.

A year ago, it ran one of the best commercials on the Super Bowl. (Above.) Last week, it celebrated the ad’s one-year anniversary by declaring bankruptcy.

The commercial was easy to love — honest, fun and self-deprecating. It acknowledged what we all knew to be true: Radio Shack seemed mired in the 80s and it was high time for a makeover.

Now it’s time to lock the doors.

Hmm. Does this mean great creative actually failed? Nope. Rather, it revalidated one of marketing’s most ancient principles: nothing kills a bad product like great advertising. More ▸


05
Feb 15

Apple Watch to flop! Sell! Sell!

You have to give CNN’s David Goldman a little credit.

With Apple’s next potential revolution still a few months away, he’s going for the gusto.

He’s not just saying that the Apple Watch won’t be as big as previous Apple hits. He’s saying the Apple Watch will flop. Period.

That’s the kind of bravado we like to see. Especially since no product in modern Apple history has ever flopped, despite the many who have predicted otherwise.

So, you might wonder, upon what insights does David base his prediction? Let’s take a little ride… More ▸


15
Jan 15

Thinking “what Steve would think”

Steve Jobs left Apple with an important bit of advice for Tim Cook and team: “Don’t ask yourself what Steve would do.”

Ah, but he didn’t tell anyone not to ask what Steve would think.

Loophole!

Such is the basis of Luke Dormehl’s recent effort at Cult of Mac entitled “7 things Steve Jobs would have hated about Apple today.”

I like Luke. However, I do think this is a pointless exercise. So many things have changed in the three years since Steve’s passing, it’s hard to make these judgments. And then there’s the fact that Steve himself presided over a number of Apple low points. So the idea that he would frown upon today’s Apple — which is doing well in so many big ways — is quite a leap.

Are these seven things really worthy of Steve’s “hate”? More ▸


30
Dec 14

That was fast: Apple is doomed again

I woke up yesterday to a Fortune article by Philip Elmer-DeWitt with this opening thought: “Apple was doomed at the start of the year. Now it can do no wrong. What the hell happened?”

Funny how all that talk of doom dissipated overnight when Apple unveiled iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Apple Watch and Apple Pay. Now iPhone sales are through the roof. Samsung profits are plummeting. AAPL stock is in record territory. And Wall Street analysts continue to raise their target prices.

But Philip isn’t entirely correct. Refusing to accept defeat, a small band of rebels has fled to the hills, from where they still lob an occasional grenade in Apple’s direction.

For sheer entertainment value, let us marvel at two recent articles. More ▸


19
Dec 14

Apple holiday ad 2014: two ways to see it

Another year, another Apple holiday commercial. So, what do we think?

Nosing around the internet (and pestering friends and associates), my non-scientific small-sample analysis of The Song yields these results:

• Most people like it.
• Some people love it.
• Some people think it goes over the top into Hallmark territory.

And then the dose of reality — even among the people who like this ad the most, quite a few qualify their answer by saying “but it’s not as good as last year’s spot.”

Killjoys!

Well, the truth is, when its ads are critiqued, Apple has it rougher than other companies. It is not only graded vs. its competitors — it’s graded vs. its own past. That’s what you get when your advertising is as legendary as your products.

And so, if we are to review this ad, it’s only fitting that we review it two different ways. More ▸


01
Dec 14

iPhone 6 ads: resoundingly “okay”

When Tim Cook introduced the new iPhones on September 19th, he also introduced a couple of Fallon/Timberlake iPhone commercials.

At the time, I was on the fence about them. Didn’t love ’em, didn’t hate ’em.

There have been some new ones since, including two just released. (One is above, the other is here.)

Even after watching the whole bunch over and over, I still find myself on the fence. And I think I know why.

This whole campaign is on the fence. It teeters on the edge between the good and the bad.

• It doesn’t plumb the depths like the Apple Genius campaign, but it’s a far cry from the glory of Mac vs. PC campaign.

• Certain bits are funny. Some parts make you wince.

• You have a favorite spot or two, but conveniently forget about the others.

• You say it’s good, but your inner critic says “I wish it were better.”

All things considered — talent, scripts, concept, production values — it’s a campaign that’s absolutely, perfectly … okay. Which, given Apple’s illustrious history of advertising, isn’t okay at all. More ▸


14
Nov 14

CurrentC vs. Apple Pay: the battle of greed vs. convenience

From the Pathetic Excuse Dept: You may have noticed that my normally sporadic posts have become increasingly sporadic. There is actually a reason. I’m in the final stages of a new book, and the manuscript deadline fast approaching. So it’s all-hands-on-deck time, and I only have two. Hope you’ll stick with me. And I hope you’ll like the result, coming spring 2015.

The more I read about the CurrentC consortium and its challenge to Apple Pay, the more I scratch my head.

Most critics of CurrentC (and there are plenty) are slamming it because of its technology, security or ease of use. However, what I find most disturbing is the obvious motivation for CurrentC — and the obvious end result if the consortium should realize their dreams.

The bottom line is that people can tell whether a company is acting in the customers’ interest or its own self-interest. Which isn’t good news for CurrentC.

Clearly, it all started when a light bulb went off in these retailers’ heads: “Why give credit card companies a cut of every sale? All combined, we’re giving those guys billions of dollars!”

By creating CurrentC, they would not only save truckloads of cash, they would gain new insights into customers’ buying habits, allowing them to shower people with targeted sales and coupons. Life would be sweet.

Of course, CurrentC is presented in a way that would have us believe it’s all to make our lives easier. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there is precious little about CurrentC that makes life easier for customers. It’s designed to benefit the retailers.

It requires more effort than Apple Pay, it latches directly onto our bank accounts, it requires us to surrender our social security numbers and it bypasses the fraud protection that comes with credit cards.

The retailers will profit in a huge way by no longer having to pay a percentage of their sales to the credit card companies. But — does anyone on earth believe they will pass those savings on to their customers?

Yeah, right.

CurrentC isn’t a savings plan for customers — it’s a new profit center for retailers, with a candy-colored shell to help it go down smoother.

But wait, you say! How can I possibly slam retailers for padding their bottom lines with CurrentC when I’m okay with Apple adding billions in profits via Apple Pay?

It’s easy.

In this world, one earns a profit by providing a valuable service. Apple Pay makes in-store purchases totally simple, and it doesn’t cost customers a dime. It’s the credit card companies who will foot the bill, because Apple Pay reduces fraud and makes it easier for customers to use their cards. So everyone wins. Customers get a better experience, credit cards become more convenient and Apple makes a profit for making it all possible.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to enjoy watching this battle. Greed has always been a powerful force in our world. I think convenience is going to whoop its butt.