strategy


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. Continue reading →


12
Sep 14

Samsung innovation: funny ads without humor

I take some heat for sometimes saying nice things about Samsung advertising.

When I do that, it’s strictly as an observer of marketing — certainly not as a fan of the company. The fact is, Samsung has scored points by making fun of the Apple culture, just as Apple did by poking fun at PCs in the famous Mac vs. PC campaign.

However, Samsung’s marketing efforts have been spotty at best. As much as it has benefited from good ads, it has soiled its own nest with ads that are embarrassingly amateurish.

Historically, the gap between Samsung’s advertising peaks and valleys has been so extreme, I have to believe the ads are either created by different teams in different countries, or by one team with multiple-personality issues.

Now we have a whole new batch of Samsung ads that poke fun at Apple. Or, I should say, attempt to poke fun at Apple. There is a serious shortage of fun in these spots, and they are unlikely to gain favor even amongst Samsung believers. Continue reading →


29
Aug 14

iPhone and iWatch: a dual debut?

In a re/code article on Wednesday, John Paczkowski stated with conviction that iWatch will make its debut on September 9th, along with the new iPhone(s).

Within a day, there were a hundred stories reporting that bit of news — either citing John as the source or simply presenting it as fact. Computerworld actually ran the headline Apple makes Sept. 9 event official, hints at more than iPhone 6. Uh … not really. All Apple did was send out an invitation.

Now I happen to have a lot of respect for John, and he may well be right. Still, one can’t help but marvel at how quickly unverified stories spread.

Whether it’s true or not, this isn’t the kind of decision Apple makes lightly. It’s fun to imagine the two sides of the debate — do we launch these products in two separate events or combine them into one?

Since I wasn’t invited to the meeting, I’ll have this debate with myself. Continue reading →


15
Aug 14

Microsoft’s new ads: beating a dead horse

Hail Microsoft, the King of PCs.

It’s easy to understand why the company clings to its “PCs forever” strategy, even after every major Windows PC maker has suffered slumping sales due to the tablet revolution.

It’s actually a form of corporate addiction. When you’ve built a huge global powerhouse based on one strategy, it’s hard to stop.

When trouble brews, the reaction can be reflexive: “let’s go with our strength.”

So now, in its three new ads for the Surface tablet, Microsoft once again goes with its “strength.”

While it previously fell short by comparing Surface to the iPad, it tries again by comparing Surface to the MacBook Air.

Because, as we all know, what the world really wants is a tablet that feels like a PC. Complete with keyboard and Office software. Continue reading →


18
Jun 14

Apple’s marketing rethink: not exactly a surprise

We all know that things are different in the post-Steve Apple.

However, there’s something about the current move to build an in-house marketing agency that’s really, really different.

Unlike previous changes, this one isn’t driven by Tim Cook.

It comes from a new place, deeper inside the company — from those who long played a part in Steve Jobs’ marketing machine.

The industry and the press seem to be surprised by this development. To many others, it’s a wonder it didn’t happen sooner.

A little background to start with…

THE BENEVOLENT DICTATOR

Though Steve encouraged debate, his dictator side made it clear that some things were not debatable. One of those things was the way Apple handled its marketing.

He set up two distinct areas of responsibility. Continue reading →


24
Feb 14

Samsung and Apple: two flavors of innovation

What exactly defines an innovator these days?

Has Apple lost its title of “most innovative” because it hasn’t changed the world since 2010? Or does Samsung now own that title, even though it hasn’t changed the world since … uh, when was that again?

Obviously, innovation comes in many flavors.

Sometimes it’s about creating revolutions, other times it’s about adding features. Sometimes it’s about creating things that people fall in love with, other times it’s simply about creating things.

It’s because of the Samsung vs. Apple innovation debate that I’m so eager to see what will happen with the smartwatch category.

For the first time, no one can accuse Samsung of copying Apple as they did with iPhone and iPad. It literally beat Apple to the punch on this one.

When (and if) Apple unveils an iWatch, the world will finally see — in the starkest terms — the true difference between Samsung innovation and Apple innovation. Continue reading →


23
Jan 14

Apple takes the lofty route for iPad

There are a thousand ways Apple could have gone in creating a new iPad campaign.

Humor? Nope. Intelligent wit? Uh-uh. Technology superiority? No thanks. Philosophy? Bingo!

With the 90-second Verses commercial above (now officially a campaign with two new 30-second cut-downs, Light Verse and Sound Verse), Apple is taking the high road. We get the 1989 Robin Williams quoting Walt Whitman from Dead Poets Society.

Though the spot seemed unexpected for many, Apple has been making noises in this direction for some time now. Continue reading →


30
Dec 13

Samsung: victim of its own DNA

Oh, to be an electronics behemoth.

With its infrastructure and reach, Samsung has the power to build products in infinite categories and ship billions of products worldwide.

However, there is something very wrong with one particular strand in its corporate DNA. It’s the one labeled “marketing savvy.”

Here’s a company with a number of hit products in the mobile space and an advertising budget several times that of Apple. Yet, despite a few creative moments, something deep inside keeps pulling it back to advertising mediocrity.

See Exhibit A above. This is the newly released 2.5-minute piece being deservedly slammed as one of the worst commercials ever made. Continue reading →


5
Dec 13

JCPenney: forward to the past!

JCP has apparently taken down links to this spot. Click here to view on iSpot.tv.

Recently, I saw the above ad for JCPenney — the launch of its big new holiday campaign. Just days later, I saw an article entitled JCPenny On An Express Train To Oblivion.

That headline pretty well summed up my reaction to the commercial. It also got me thinking about JCP’s current course in context of its history.

So, for you marketing enthusiasts, here’s my JCP story. It’s loaded with the things we love about this business: drama, crushed dreams, out-of-control egos and unintentional comedy. Continue reading →


21
Oct 13

iPhone 5s ad: Apple goes for the gold

Ah, relief. After a number of commercials all dedicated to the iPhone 5c, we finally have one for the iPhone 5s.

Some sites, such as The Verge, suggest that this shift might reflect reports that the iPhone 5c is not selling well and the iPhone 5s is a runaway hit.

However, that doesn’t exactly pass the common sense test.

If one of your two products needs a jumpstart, you beef up the advertising for it — not shift to a product you can’t keep in stock. I suspect the reason is much simpler: Apple has a new line of iPhones and wants to sell a bunch of them.

But forget marketing theory for the moment. What do we think of the ad?

Well, if you’re of the mind that Apple has become formulaic with its ads, there’s nothing here to dissuade you. Even by its title, iPhone 5s’s Metal Mastered (above) is a perfect replica of iPhone 5c’s Plastic Perfected. Continue reading →