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.


10
Oct 14

When in doubt, change the name

Way back in August, a story surfaced about a possible name change looming for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

It’s been echoing in my head (a lot of room in here), because changing a product name isn’t something that happens very often.

Now that Internet Explorer has reached Version 11, it’s an interesting time to ask for a restart.

There are normally two reasons why a company would want to change an existing product name.

Sometimes, they simply have no choice. Circumstances demand it. In other situations, the name change might be a bit more “recreational.” That is, it’s not mandatory, but the marketing guys believe the new name will make it an easier sell.

Before we pass judgment on poor Internet Explorer, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and look a few classic name changes. More ▸


29
Sep 14

The joy of Apple-slamming

Now that the Bendgate uproar is subsiding (personally, I much prefer the name “Bendghazi”), I think it deserves a moment of calm reflection.

To me, the story isn’t that Apple created a sub-standard product. Because it didn’t.

The real story is that all these people were so quick to believe that Apple had screwed up in such a monumental way — and then joyfully helped blast this “news” into the public consciousness.

It all started with the notorious bending video.

Honestly, the first time I saw this, I thought it was pretty moronic. The guy’s hands are literally trembling from the force he exerts in his attempt to bend the thing.

I don’t doubt that one could bend an iPhone 6 Plus if he had a mind to. More ▸


17
Sep 14

Apple’s i prepares for retirement

At last week’s event, Tim Cook made it clear that Apple Pay and Apple Watch have an amazing future.

He made it equally clear that Apple’s little “i” has no future at all.

It’s difficult to draw any other conclusion, since iPay and iWatch would have fit so perfectly into Apple’s current naming scheme.

Hey, we all knew this day would come. The i had a long and fruitful life, but it’s time to start planning for the golden years.

The truth is, the idea of moving past the i had come up at various times inside Apple. In fact, I had a conversation with Steve Jobs on this very topic way back in 2006. More ▸