Apple is running a striking new campaign; it is hard to open a newspaper without seeing the two-page spreads.
The ads are dramatic, highlighting Apple’s commitment to design. Here is one:
This is it.
This is what matters.
The experience of a product.
How it makes someone feel.
When you start by imagining
What that might be like,
You step back.
Who will this help?
Will it make life better?
Does this deserve to exist?
If you are busy making everything,
How can you perfect anything?
We don’t believe in coincidence.
Or dumb luck.
There are a thousand “no’s”
For every “yes.”
We spend a lot of time
On a few great things.
Until every idea we touch
Enhances each life it touches.
We’re engineers and artists.
Craftsmen and inventors.
We sign our work.
You may rarely look at it.
But you’ll always feel it.
This is our signature.
And it means everything.
Designed by Apple in California.
There is a lot to like about this campaign. It is visually distinctive; the ads grab your attention. The branding is fairly strong, despite the fact that there is no Apple logo. The focus is on the brand, not product features.
My concern: the ads are all about Apple. There are no real customer benefits. The campaign isn’t about customers at all; the campaign is about Apple.
The tag line, “Designed by Apple in California,” doesn’t add much value to customers. Who cares? I suppose the line differentiates Apple versus Samsung, though I suspect people don’t really care where a device was designed or manufactured.
This campaign feels a lot like Apple’s Think Different campaign: the lack of clear benefits and product features.
The big difference, however, is that the Think Different campaign focused on inspirational, creative people. The new Designed by Apple campaign is about Apple.
I get nervous anytime a company focuses on itself.
* * *
This week I am off to Michigan for some time at the lake with the family. After a busy spring I am ready for a few days off.
The next session of Kellogg on Branding executive education program is September 29 to October 4. The program helps participants build and manage strong brands. It is particularly useful if you are new to the world of branding or looking for a refresher on best practices.
You can learn more about the program and sign up here: https://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/execed/Programs/BRAND.aspx
Actually, this ad resonates with me as a consumer. I am tired of using products that are not perfected, because the company rolled out to market too soon, or is trying to be a maker of every product. From a business perspective, I understand why they do it, but as a consumer, I wish companies would focus on their strengths, and I think Apple is focusing on the fact that they do that, for those of us who are tired of products that overpromise and underdeliver.
Hi Tim. I tend to disagree with you and the other folks. Unfortunately after Jobs, Apple couldn’t come up with a disruptive innovation like iPhone or iPad. This is a fact that I agree with Dave. However Apple should not sit and wait, while Samsung is catching up quickly in terms of quality and design and eroding Apple’s point of difference. Thus I believe that this is a good defensive tactic addressing current Apple users with the objective of preventing them to switch to Samsung products. They are trying to boast the Apple users by implying that “you are design conscious people as we are”. “You are paying extra for Apple, because you don’t want to use copycat products like Samsung”. At least that was the feeling I felt watching this ad as an Apple user. I felt that I belong to this design conscious group and brand. Of course, we need to check, how many Apple users felt this way. I know that it is not as good and aspirational like “Think different”. However, it is a timely defensive strategy during a pipeline drought.
Tim, I agree with you for the most part. This whole campaign feels self-indulgent and boastful. I’m especially thinking about the ones that say “more people listen to their music on an iPhone than any other device” and “more people take pictures on an iPhone than any other camera.”
I’m not sure of the target for these ads. Apple devotees will probably love them, but they don’t really tell you anything you don’t already know and feel. The ads seem intended to differentiate versus Samsung by referencing those “who make everything.” It makes sense to reinforce the differentiation that’s grounded in design. It’s also a valid brand building approach to make your philosophy clear and to establish the important brand associations around “feel”, “perfecting”, “focus” and several other key brand attributes referenced in the ad. Yet, this also makes it feel defensive and stagnant as mentioned by Dave. On Apple.com, you can see a longer version of the TV ad that was presented at the Developer conference. They really loved it, but as insiders, it feels like they are talking to themselves.
Perhaps the most out of character (off-brand?) aspect is that Apple is great at “showing us” how their products fit into our lives, and we draw the conclusions they intend and “feel” the way they intend. In this campaign, they are “telling” us.
It just feels like a rare misstep. Ironically, Microsoft is running a hard hitting campaign that demonstrates (yes, shows) the advantages of a Windows tablet versus an iPad (the humorous ones with the Siri voice). Rather than their prior razzle-dazzle spots with hip music that don’t make any compelling point, they finally have a hard hitting, benefit based message. Strangely, the roles have been reversed.
It will be interesting to see if Apple gets back to their game rather than reacting to the competition.
Tim, great analysis as usual. Doyle Dane Bernbach masterfully created ads similar to the Apple ads (like the famous VW Lemon ads). The key difference is that it looks like the Apple campaign had too many editors, adding too much copy, without allowing the reader to experience the simplicity of the design. It is always about what the customer feels, not what the company wants us to know. Kevin
Love the ad, but have to agree with davetuchler above. As a shareholder it scared the life out of me. The undertone is to put the current products on a pedestal. I could see Samsung laughing all the way to the bank. OUCH! By the way, Tim Cook’s performance is going to be highly rated on how the stock price does. I hope the campaign helps him…..and us. Have a great time at the lake Tim. Enjoy the rest, relaxation and family time!
Agree. As an Apple shareholder I was dismayed to see these ads. There’s a feel you get when a company is on a roll; these ads don’t feel that way. They feel like a placeholder to keep some share of mind until (if?) Apple can launch its next breakthrough product, which is really the only thing that gets and holds people’s attention in this space (and which I hope is soon). Don’t tell me you’re cool – – show me.