Defensive Strategy

Corning’s Gorilla Glass Campaign: Good Thought, Weak Execution

10 Apr 2012  

Corning is running a rather striking campaign for Gorilla Glass, its high-tech materials for mobile devices and televisions. The latest ad features a large gorilla and a big number two.


Does it work?

Well, the thought is right. Corning is trying building a brand around its unique glass. This makes a lot of sense. First, differentiation is critical; products that are not unique are forced to compete on price and this is a challenging task indeed in a world of tough competition. Second, Corning has identified an important benefit; breaking glass is a huge problem in the world of devices. Third, using a brand is a good approach for the simple reason that brands last. A competitor might copy Corning’s technology at some point, or even develop a superior product, but a competitor won’t be able to copy the brand. If people value and ask for Gorilla Glass then Corning will have a valuable asset for many years to come.

Unfortunately, Corning’s execution falls a little flat. The current print ad misses on a basic marketing challenge: it doesn’t establish a frame of reference. What is this product, anyway? One of my students thought the ad was for a health club. With the exercising gorilla, banana and water bottle, that is a reasonable guess. The benefit isn’t particular clear, either. And why is there a huge number 2? Awareness of Gorilla Glass isn’t particularly high. Explaining that there is a second generation of a product most people haven’t heard of makes little sense.

The bigger problem is that the direct to consumer strategy seems questionable. Will people really pick one device over another because it has Gorilla Glass? People might pick Gorilla Glass when repairing a shattered unit. But today, at least, I suspect few will consider that a major factor when picking a new phone.

The biggest problem of all is that Corning doesn’t force its customers to say if they are using Gorilla Glass. In particular, Corning can’t say that Apple devices use Gorilla Glass. This is a huge issue. I understand that Apple doesn’t want to be dependent on Corning; Apple wants to build its own differentiation and prevent suppliers from establishing any. As soon as a competitor develops a comparable glass product, Apple can ruthlessly drive down prices and supplier margins. Why did Corning give in on this? If Corning really has a unique product, why not take a stand?

Corning could build a great business with Gorilla Glass. But the company has to do better marketing and be ready to stand up to Apple if it hopes to protect the business long-term.

3 Responses

  1. Y. Shaban says:

    You’re absolutely right, that ad is a complete waste. Can’t even believe Corning actually published it!

    On the Apple note, however, it’s tough to say no to a company who’s going to use your product on 150M devices per year (not including the iPad). Even if Corning charges just $3/piece (just a guess), that’s almost half a billion dollars of revenue. Plus it probably helps them sell their glass to Apple’s competitors as well.

    Everyone in the mobile-tech industry knows that the iPhone has Gorilla Glass and even Apple has recently admitted to using Corning’s glass, although not specifically Gorilla Glass.

  2. Nice to be reminded that without a frame of reference, the viewer does not have anything to compare or understand what the brand promise is. Maybe if Corning when back to the American Tourister Luggage ad they would see the clear message.

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