Jun 14

Shooting blanks at Apple

I love the smell of exaggeration in the morning. (Illustration: Fortune.)

With a rising stock price, cheery forecasts from major analysts and growing anticipation for iPhone 6 and iWatch, it’s getting harder and harder to write negative articles about Apple’s prospects.

But, naturally, some people do.

Surprisingly, it was Adam Lashinsky who recently rose to the challenge with his article for Fortune entitled Apple’s newest product: Complexity.

Compelling headline. Compelling visual. The only thing it lacks is a compelling argument.

In fact, it’s an excellent example of how even the smarter Apple journalists can be seduced by the lure of Apple doom-casting. Continue reading →

Jul 13

Behind the “Apple ads flop” story

Last week, a story spread through the Applesphere that Apple’s new brand commercial, Our Signature, is a flop.

This, according to Ace Metrix, which is in the business of researching such things for its clients. (See Bloomberg Businessweek story here).

On the heels of this story came another, in which it was revealed that Ace Metrix has on its client roster a company called … Samsung.

Naturally, that revelation sparked some good conspiracy theories. Like this one: Maybe Ace Metrix is saying that the ad is bad because in fact it’s really good. But since Samsung is pulling the strings, they’re saying it’s bad so Apple might believe the numbers and take it off the air. Score another point for Samsung.

Hold on there, fellas. Continue reading →

May 13

Microsoft & Nokia groom their comedy act

Let’s give credit where credit is due. An ad associated with Microsoft is making people laugh.

Not that this hasn’t happened before. The difference is, this time viewers are laughing with Microsoft — not at it.

It’s remarkable, because for many years Microsoft has been the older guy at the party trying to prove he’s cool or funny. Mostly, it’s turned out awkward (the Gates/Seinfeld buddy series), lame (“I’m a PC”) and/or befuddling (Surface dancing ads).

Given this track record, I’m assuming that the creative spark in this ad originated with Nokia. (Although Nokia hasn’t exactly behaved like a creative powerhouse in the past either.) But the branding here is heavily Microsoft, which has obviously opened its wallet to put the concept of “Windows Phone” front and center. Continue reading →

Mar 13

That was fast: Samsung buzz falls to earth

Wow, things really do happen faster in the world of Samsung.

Apple enjoyed a good 15 years of ever-increasing buzz before it finally took a hit. Samsung’s buzz has suffered a wound in just a fraction of that time.

What a difference a launch can make.

Samsung was on a tremendous winning streak over the last year or so. It way outspent Apple on marketing, effectively hitting the company while it was down. It had a monster hit with the Galaxy S III. It was hailed by many as “the new leader in innovation.” And it was all set to be anointed the king of smartphones with an epic unveiling of the Galaxy S4 at Radio City Music Hall last week.

But the next day, there wasn’t a lot of anointing going on. In fact, Samsung was taking hits on several levels. Continue reading →

Feb 13

Apple battling where it used to crush

No one denies that Apple has been more successful than any other technology company on earth.

How that happened shouldn’t be a matter of debate, but we can always count on human nature to muddy the waters. Some Apple detractors put forth the theory that it’s not the technology; it’s all in the marketing.

Reasonably intelligent people can’t possibly believe that. However, there is one bit of truth to it. That is, Apple has always been amazingly good at marketing. It’s been the gold standard in marketing as long as most of us can remember.

No matter what brand I’m working with, technology or otherwise, it’s astounding how many times I hear marketing people cite the Apple example to make a point. Apple’s advertising history is as famous as its products.

But something’s changed. Continue reading →

Oct 12

Reflecting on the iPad mini event

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.

Some observations:

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. Continue reading →

Oct 12

Apple Maps: adventures in crisis management

Some time after the big oil spill, we inevitably get the “open letter” from the oil company CEO. It’s a time-honored tradition in disaster management.

Following Apple’s maps lapse, Tim Cook has taken a page from the same playbook. His open letter appeared last week.

Tim’s apology was deep and sincere. He said that Maps fell short of Apple’s standards and pledged to make improvements quickly. He also suggested that customers download other mapping apps, implicitly saying that those apps are currently superior to Apple’s.

Many have reacted positively to Tim’s letter, finding it refreshingly honest.

Personally, it made me squirm a bit. Not because I prefer Apple to be untruthful, but because I want it to be even more truthful. Hold that thought for a minute.

The last time Apple had to deal with a public outcry of this magnitude was during the iPhone 4 “antennagate” controversy. Steve Jobs called a press conference, which in itself signaled the seriousness of the situation. Continue reading →

Sep 12

Where Samsung doesn’t copy Apple

Click to enlarge

While Samsung has been accused of copying Apple technology, no one will ever accuse it of copying Apple advertising.

Unfortunately, its ads remain distinctly Samsung.

No, I am not a fan of Samsung advertising in general. This isn’t because of the company’s products, it’s more of a tone and creative quality issue. Samsung ads just feel cheap to me. They feel like the ideas that inevitably show up in internal agency meetings, but are quickly scrapped in favor of something smarter.

This new ad lives up to my low expectations.

First, it’s visually unappealing. I  like to believe that a company capable of creating a smartphone can hobble together a decent-looking ad.

The headline “It doesn’t take a genius” carries on in the tradition of Samsung TV commercials mocking those who line up for a new iPhone at the Apple Store. You find yourself wishing it was more clever than it is. Continue reading →

Sep 12

Observations on the iPhone 5 event

I’m a little late to this party due to travel. But here are a few thoughts about the Apple iPhone 5 launch event.

Tim Cook. I can’t fault any of his words, but I suspect that our friend Tim has been studying up with a speaking coach. And the instructions were: Be enthusiastic! Hit those adjectives with some gusto! Don’t get me wrong. Steve Jobs certainly indulged in an excessive adjective now and then, but he had a natural delivery. Tim really forces it, and it does wear thin. The best example comes at the end when he introduces The Foo Fighters. Way over the top.

Phil Schiller. Following Tim, Phil was actually refreshing. He’s not falsely animated, he’s just himself. A clear presentation of iPhone 5. Continue reading →

Sep 12

The fanatics behind “Sh*t Apple Fanatics Say”

There are two reasons why you might laugh at Shit Apple Fanatics Say: you know people like this, or you are people like this.

No matter what team you root for — Mac, PC, iOS, Android — it’s hard not to see truth in this video. Truth, of course, is what makes funny things funnier.

The viral success of this video (over 800,000 views in just a few days) made me want to find out more. So I flung myself into deep investigative journalism mode — which in this case consisted of hitting the Send button on an email to Scott Rose, one of the video’s creators. Continue reading →