June, 2013 Monthly archive

Apple Kool-Aid

Apple have just launched a long overdue new direction for their advertising and marketing. For the last few years Apple ads have been beyond dull and even condescending at times—remember the “If you don’t have an iPhone, you don’t have an iPhone” ads? That distastefully smug tone of voice left me cold, embarrassed even. Just this week I saw a billboard which pretty much summed up their ads of recent years; A plain white billboard with an iPad and iPad mini side by side, and some perfect plastic fingers typing an email. That was it. It seemed that Apple had become so arrogant with its success, and so proud of its products that they seemed to have completely forgotten about people. All their ads were simply product hero shots, often daubed with some over-thought copy that seemed to come from the desk of a maniacal middleweight marketing manager. The super shiny “Resolutionary” ad for the retina display was particularly bad.

Since Steve Jobs’ death in 2011, the tech world and the stock market have been wondering if Apple will continue to lead the way. It’s no doubt immensely hard to keep up with unrealistic expectations after the initial iPhone and iPad releases, but somewhat lacklustre new product releases, an iOS that has needed a major UI update for a few years now, and an onslaught of competition from Android and Windows Mobile has led to a plummeting share price. Time for a rethink.

So let’s take a look at these new ads. The recent iPhone 5 ads seemed to be the segue to this new direction; The all too familiar dreamy soundtrack, the sentimental ‘lifestyle’ photography of ideally hip young people living blessed lives—from San Francisco to London to China and Japan—they snap away with their iPhones without a care in the world, and then the calmly smug voice of Apple stating their claim… “Every day, more photos are taken with the iPhone than any other camera.” Hmmm, boasting, how dull.

The new TV spots continue with this ‘lifestyle’ angle but now with added ‘California’. The products now take backstage to people—by now the products are a foregone conclusion—if you’re winning at life, you already have an iPhone, an iPad, a Macbook, duh! Twee and dreamy soundtrack, check. Plenty of bokeh and soft focus on the photography, check. Candid voyeur shots into people’s lives, check. God complex voiceover hailing Apple as the conduit of all things good and worthwhile, double check.

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So, Apple has now transcended mere products, they now sell ‘experiences’. They sell the pathway to a perfect lifestyle. They are travel agents of the mind and all destinations are California. For years their products have stated “Designed in California”, and that is now their big claim. Even OSX has dropped the cats in favour of California, it’s now named ‘Mavericks’ after a notorious NorCal surf break. So elated with their ad voiceover proclaiming themselves as life-enhancing philanthropists working for a better world that they decided to include the entire transcript verbatim on their print ads. It wouldn’t surprise me if they drove a pope-mobile around the country with Tim Cook shouting it through a megaphone.

The copy is sickeningly cheesy feel-good and a whole lot of self back-patting for Apple, and so these ads are probably just about perfect for a mainstream American audience, a global one I’m not so convinced. The ads put the product into the lives of people (albeit idealistic, aspirational Californian people) in a non-obtrusive manner. The ads say that Apple products are as much a part of your life as your friends and your family. You can be proud to buy American (even though it’s all made in China). You can buy a piece of California, you can be a Californian. You’re no longer simply buying a product, you’re buying an experience, a lifestyle. By buying Apple you’re telling the world “This is me and this is how I live”.

The ‘Think different’ tagline of old seems a long way away now, this campaign rings more like “Stop thinking and drink the kool-aid”.