strategy


3
Oct 17

Stretching the truth with iPhone X

 

Since the dawn of time, advertisers have stretched, exaggerated and mutilated the truth to get consumers’ attention.

Hey, that’s life. It’s also why advertising is a consistent bottom-dweller in every “most respected profession” survey.

But there is hope for mankind.

Some companies have a refreshingly strong sense of advertising ethics. They believe that their products are so good, an honest portrayal is the most effective advertising tool.

Apple has always been one of those companies. That’s one reason I was so attracted to it when I was a baby copywriter.

Apple advertising was always creative and fun, but it was also intelligent and accurate. That’s what made it the industry’s “gold standard” for marketing.

That’s why it makes me nervous when I see today’s Apple playing loose with words and images to sell a product.

Case in point: the “all-screen” iPhone X. Continue reading →


17
Apr 17

The Great iPhone Naming Opportunity of 2017

 

For seven years, iPhone naming has ping-ponged between numbers and S’s.

Then, last year we got the iPhone SE, with a moniker that lives outside that naming scheme.

Combining the latest product rumors with what Apple has “trained” us to expect in naming, many expect the 2017 lineup to include an iPhone 7S, iPhone 7S Plus, iPhone 8 and iPhone SE.

Clever, Apple! Your master plan is working flawlessly!

Year after year, you ingeniously fed us those bad iPhone names, knowing that we’d come expect this level of complexity. Only then could you shock the daylights out of us with a stunningly simpler set of names that actually make sense.

[We now return you to reality.]

If you’re a regular here, you know my feeling about the whole “S” thing. It’s a perfect example of a company shooting itself in the marketing foot. Continue reading →


6
Apr 17

Refreshing the brand, extreme edition

As an ad guy, I’ve had the fun of developing brand campaigns for many major companies.

Trust me, there is no standard process.

However, it’s safe to say that the first task is for all parties to agree on what the brand stands for. In theory, this should be easy, yet many of the biggest companies find it perplexing.

(See my story about Microsoft’s internal brand struggles three years ago.)

The who-are-we debate can rage for weeks or months before creative work can actually begin.

I had night-and-day experiences developing brand campaigns for Dell and Apple. At Dell, the strategy phase went on for months without reaching a decision. The process became so arduous, the process simply sputtered to a halt. Continue reading →


11
Sep 15

Apple’s pre-holiday festival of stuff: afterthoughts

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 12.40.38 AMThe pre-holiday Apple event was only part of a much larger drama that’s been played out many times before.

First came the rumors. Then came leaks with substance. Then came the presentation — less surprising because of the leaks — which disappointed Wall Street and dropped the AAPL stock price. Then came a frenzy of articles pro and con, followed by a day-after bump in AAPL stock when Wall Street (momentarily) came to its senses.

What else could there possibly be to talk about? I’m sure we can think of something…

Adjective Overload

A frequent complaint of Apple event critics is the excessive use of hyperbole. Hard to argue this. Then again, when one unveils brand-new products, hyper-adjectives are just too tempting for mortal men. That’s how we humans show enthusiasm. Continue reading →


7
Aug 15

iPhone’s annual cycle of advertising

By now, you may have noticed a pattern in Apple’s iPhone advertising.

When the new models launch, the ads blast out what’s new. (Like last fall’s ads for the bigger screens.) But by the time summer rolls around, the big news isn’t so big anymore.

That’s when we get the “filler” ads, which take us to the launch of new models in the fall.

Ad people have wrestled with this issue for eons. Creating launch ads is fun and exciting, while creating the ongoing ads is more of a challenge. It’s hard to be magical when the magic has faded.

In the summer of 2014, we got spots like “Strength,” which simply highlighted a certain aspect of iPhone. The year before that, we got a series of ads like “Photos Every Day.”

Now we have a new campaign to fill the space between summer and fall.

This year’s motif is logic. Apple has presented three ads that explain why iPhones are superior, all culminating in the line “If it isn’t an iPhone, it isn’t an iPhone.”

The problem is, a spot that’s high in logic is typically low in magic. Thus, the lukewarm response we’ve seen to the newest campaign. Continue reading →


5
May 15

One day they’ll understand Apple

Well, okay. Maybe that headline was a bit too optimistic. Let me re-phrase:

They will never understand Apple. Ever.

I suppose we can just chalk it up to human behavior. As the original Macintosh team at Apple liked to say, it’s more fun to be the pirates than the navy. In Star Wars terms, one could say it’s more fun to be the rebels than the Empire.

Given the size of the company today, Apple can easily be seen as both the navy and the Empire. So I get why the sport of finding the cracks in Apple’s armor is so popular.

That said, I remain amazed that so many fail to grasp how Apple thinks and behaves — though they’ve seen the same scenario play out time after time. Continue reading →


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 →