In the technology biz, “cool” is a very good thing to be. Ask Apple. Its past revolutions were fueled by the ever-present aura of cool.
But where exactly does cool come from? One thing is for certain: it doesn’t come from standing on a mountaintop and screaming “we’re cool!”
This is apparently one marketing lesson Microsoft has never learned. Because just a few days ago, it stood on a mountaintop (The Grammys broadcast) and screamed its coolness with the above Surface Pro commercial.
Let’s start with the obvious: it isn’t cool. If I had to categorize it, I’d say this spot falls somewhere between “retro” and “embarrassing.” More ▸
If money is power, there was no power shortage when it came to Super Bowl ads last night.
Advertisers lined up to fork over their millions for a few seconds (and in some cases, minutes) of our time. Unsurprisingly, some scored while others fell flat.
Note to advertisers: can we please stop with the “pre-Super Bowl” release of the Super Bowl spots? There were quite a few of you out there this year trying to “get a jump” on the competition. You’re seriously watering down what used to be a fun and surprising advertising event.
Here are a few thoughts on some of the more (or less) memorable spots. More ▸
The first Steve Jobs movie is almost upon us. The indie film titled jOBS will debut as the closing act at Sundance tonight, and will appear in theaters on April 19th.
There are conflicting signs about the quality of what we might expect.
Let’s start with the positive. A colleague who was close to Steve recently attended a pre-screening of the film, and he thought it was a lot of fun to watch. It was good to see the Apple story getting its time on the big screen.
He did, however, add an important disclaimer: if you knew Steve, you’ll likely feel that the Ashton Kutcher’s portrayal is “one-dimensional.” Kutcher exhibits one facet of Steve’s personality per scene, while the real Steve was a deeper, more complex person. More ▸
Back in the days of NeXT, Steve Jobs taught me a lesson in technology advertising. As you might expect, it wasn’t very complicated. It went like this:
At that point in time, Steve had a particular need for importance. Sales of the NeXT Computer weren’t exactly on fire. The company was struggling to survive.
Steve wanted the world to believe that NeXT was a relevant force with a message that deserved notice. He had no interest in an ad that was cute or inconsequential. He wouldn’t pin his hopes on a marketing gimmick.
I can’t help but think of Steve’s direction when I see Microsoft’s advertising for its Surface tablet.
News flash: skeuomorphism is not dead. What’s dead are cheesy, antiquated graphics — like the stitched leather look in Contacts and Calendar. These were aberrations in a world that had been built upon good taste. More ▸
Would you buy a phone if it were endorsed by Barack Obama? Lady Gaga? Ben Affleck?
How about Steve Ballmer?
I’m still having nightmares over this one. If you’d asked me weeks ago to guess who might be the “celebrity” voice in a Windows Phone ad, I can guarantee I’d never have guessed Ballmer.
That’s because there are blatantly obvious reasons not to go that route. Though I know people who have personal experience with Ballmer and swear that he’s a brilliant man, his public persona is what it is. And it isn’t all that appealing.
Putting a CEO out there like this isn’t something that’s done lightly. It normally involves a spirited debate between client and agency.
How likable is the guy? How believable is he? Will viewers identify with him? Will they even like him? More ▸
I’ve never been a fan of the cheesy leather stitching that’s crept into OS X and iOS 6.
Actually, let me rephrase that:
I loathe it.
It’s not like I’m alone. I’ve never had a problem finding people equally repelled. Many in the design community have openly expressed their contempt.
This is the “skeuomorphism” issue that has reportedly been a point of dissension inside Apple between the Scott Forstall and Jony Ive camps. Should apps be designed to look like their real-world counterparts?
It’s one thing to create a skeuomorphic theme for an app. It’s quite another to create one that dates back to ancient times. I’ve never had a “desk blotter” calendar. Maybe my father did. Certainly no one under 40 can relate to it.
And what is it about the Find My Friends app that deserves the leather stitched treatment? More ▸
I’m still calling this the iPad mini event. But that’s only because it sounds much simpler than the MacBook Pro/iMac/iPad mini event. That was quite a boatload of technology.
Tim Cook. I thought he was much improved yesterday — compared to his performance at the iPhone 5 event, where he seemed overly coached and eager to hurl those adjectives.
The even-newer iPad. Surprise. The 4th generation comes only seven months after the 3rd generation. Never seen that before. Of course an update was necessary, if only to add the Lightning connector. Apple couldn’t very well be selling millions of iPads for the holidays sporting a connector that has no future.
The next new iPad? Taking iPad off its regular spring update schedule is a smart marketing move. By moving to a fall update schedule, Apple will enter every holiday season with a brand-new iPad. That’ll throw a bit more fuel on the flame. More ▸
Last time Apple went heavy on advertising in a sporting event, it didn’t exactly end well.
But let us not speak of the Genius anymore. All traces of that campaign have been hidden from our sight.
Now the baseball playoffs are here. And once again, Apple has made a very expensive media buy. This time, it’s blanketing the games with the new iPhone 5 ads.
But look. Someone else has moved into the neighborhood. Samsung showed up for the playoffs with equal force, in the form of its Galaxy S III ads. You know — the ones that make fun of the lost souls who line up to buy an iPhone, when they could just as easily have a much cooler Samsung phone. More ▸
Who the heck do I think I am? I’m a creative director who’s had more than a few adventures in technology marketing, including branding, product naming and strategy. I have a long history with Apple and NeXT — where I took a blood oath to uphold the principles of simplicity.