strategy


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 →


8
Oct 13

Samsung’s crime against advertising

Bad enough that Samsung’s new Galaxy Gear smartwatch is being universally panned by reviewers.

Now the product’s launch commercial is getting the same treatment. Mostly because it’s a shameless copy of the very first iPhone commercial.

No argument here about the blatant nature of this rip-off. However, my problem is a more basic one:

The ad is crap.

Rule number one when you set out to copy someone else’s work: “Do it well.” In ignoring this rule, Samsung has set itself up for the double whammy — attacked for being unoriginal and creatively anemic. Continue reading →


9
Aug 13

Apple’s evolving view of “pro”

In recent years, many pros have started feeling like Apple’s jilted girlfriend. Through no fault of their own, the love just seemed to fade.

Apple might claim otherwise when confronted, but the telltale signs have been hard to ignore:

Mac Pro. Apple’s most powerful Mac has been agonizingly slow in the update department. It hasn’t changed physically in eons. (Though it’s about to.) Ironically, the one Mac targeted specifically at the pro user remains the only Mac without a high-speed Thunderbolt connection. Even the Mac mini has had Thunderbolt for over two years.

17-inch MacBook Pro. This big-screen laptop was a favorite and a necessity for designers and video editors who needed that much real estate to be their mobile best. Then, poof.

Final Cut Pro. When the long-awaited update to Apple’s high-end video editing suite finally appeared, it lacked certain features critical for pro editors: multicam editing, EDL support, backward compatibility and more. You could say the pro editing community was speechless—but it wasn’t. The cries of anguish were long and loud.

Aperture. The latest version was released in February 2010. Yes, that’s 3.5 years without a major update. Even if you consider this misleading, the perception of stagnation is a natural result when Aperture’s competitor, Adobe Lightroom, continues to evolve visibly.

Could it possibly be? Would Apple ever even think about saying goodbye to the pro market?

I hope you’re sitting down for this, but Steve Jobs did in fact once consider that very option. Continue reading →


11
Jun 13

Schiller’s zinger: Apple’s rallying cry

“Can’t innovate anymore, my ass.”

Phil Schiller’s one-liner in yesterday’s WWDC keynote just may be one of the best in Apple history.

People may forget what drives Apple, but Apple does not. Back in the dark days, before Steve Jobs returned, the company really had become mediocre.

The success of iMac proved that Apple wasn’t dead yet. From that point on, a series of successes put Apple into the black and removed all the question marks surrounding its viability.

The kinds of products that were fueling Apple’s rise — iMac, iBook, AirPort, etc. — made one thing abundantly clear. Apple would continue to grow as long as it continued to innovate.

Schiller’s zinger was the 2013 affirmation of this belief. It was spirited and confident. Continue reading →


7
May 13

The iPod-ization of iPhone

It happened to iPod — time for iPhone to get the family treatment?

For months, we’ve heard that Apple isn’t the innovator it used to be.

iPhone has fallen behind. Samsung is now the real innovator. iPhone 5S is an also-ran before it’s even launched.

Of course, Apple’s “problems” are more perception than reality. But perceptions do fuel momentum, and the negative buzz about Apple has been (a) tarnishing the brand and (b) driving the stock price lower. So what’s Apple to do? Will we really have to wait until 2014 to see a major upgrade to iPhone?

We can’t predict the future. However, we all know the past — and you’ll find some important clues there.

Back when the very first iPhone was about to launch, it was assumed by many inside Apple that iPhone would follow the path of iPod before it. The first year or two would be devoted to evolving and perfecting the device — and then the iPhone line would be expanded to address various types of customers.

iPod’s biggest years came after it had expanded into a family of products. Continue reading →


2
May 13

Feeling jcpenney’s sorrow

[Sorry, but it seems that jcpenney has destroyed the evidence. The ad discussed here has been yanked from YouTube. Fortunately, they can't censor the news story containing the ad — so I'm publishing that here instead.]

Whether you love or hate jcpenney, whether you love or hate Ron Johnson, this commercial gives us a good, juicy topic.

jcpenney is in a sorry state. Literally. It is now running this public apology, admitting mistakes and begging its old customers to come back.

This ad definitely defies conventional wisdom. To many, it feels too much like an oil company apologizing for spilling a few million gallons of gunk into the environment.

Most marketers in jcp’s position would be sensitive to sounding desperate and take a more positive approach. There are many bold and happy ways to send out a similar message of change.

So this move by jcpenney is either unexpectedly brilliant or astonishingly dumb. I think this is open to debate, and would love to hear your opinions.

Is jcpenney in such sad shape, on the edge of extinction, that it must do something extreme? Or have its marketing skills crumbled under the pressure and sunk to an incredible new low? Continue reading →