Often, our memories escape us when thinking about our beloved brands. Certainly, some commercials and jingles that we’ve seen for brands will be etched clearly in our memories. For others, that might not be the case. Perhaps that’s why – as Apple’s better-than-expected quarterly earnings announcement continued the upward climb of its stock price - the buzz of discontent with the star-studded iPhone 4S commercials is reaching a crescendo. In a couple of instances, I’ve even seen people lamenting that Steve Jobs must be turning in his grave with this supposed about-face. The funny thing is that they’re lamenting the use of celebrities in Apple ads, as if they’ve never been used before, when they’ve been doing so all along.
Perhaps the biggest concern for people is the use of Zooey Deschanel in a rainy day commercial showcasing the Siri product. One of the more succinct critiques abounding can be found on the Death + Taxes blog. I actually think the spot goes along with her established character and almost seems like a co-brand for her television show, THE NEW GIRL. I was a little more wierded out by the use of Samuel L. Jackson in another commercial – where he was using the assistance of Siri for gazpacho. Perhaps it is still within his “character” too, but his “brand” is emblazoned in my mind as bearing guns and dropping plenty of F bombs.
But, while Apple has set itself up well recently as a series of products for the everyman and made its largest statement with its ground-breaking 1984 commercial, they do have a history of using celebrities to pitch their wares.
They have ranged from the iconic musicians (U2, Eminem, Bob Dylan, etc.) in silhouette for the iPod release, to the celebrity as “A Mac” against the PC (Justin Long – pre Barrymore relationship and starring roles), and even “actor as geek” (Jeff Goldblum explaining simplicity of the iMac – funny to see phone jack for modem…) On a different note, but somewhat related: While doing the research for this, I even found a commercial for the Apple Lisa product featuring Kevin Costner before he became famous.
William Wei of Business Insider put together a 60 second history of Apple’s use of Celebrities in their ads. Does it say something about the company or brand that we can think that their history does not rely on celebrity if Goldblum was used and the iPod campaign was a little groundbreaking in itself? Check out the video to get caught up on their history.
As a brand, it is something to weigh when people have certain expectations of not just your products, but the way you market them. I think what sets Apple so far apart in this realm of “confusion” about celebrity usage is the fact that they have done such varied campaigns over the years. From groundbreaking TV ad creative to groundbreaking online advertising (remember the ESPN.com page that shifted and broke apart as a game was played on the iPhone a number of years ago? Their recent billboards around big cities show only an iPad and a finger reaching out to touch it.
Apple found itself in trouble a number of years ago when their computers were reaching only 3% of the market – in part because it was relying most heavily on the design and graphics community. Since they have really broadened their product offering and communications to enable use by many different kinds of people in many ways, the change has been evident in their stock rising about $600 per share.
Are these celebrity spots the exclusive way they will move forward in the future? Probably not. Will every Apple marketing product be fantastic? I would be shocked. If you look at the wealth of campaign elements for the iPhone 4S and Siri, they have had more annoying spots (remember the Rock God one?) than the better ones that show many more good reasons to have Siri (when it works.)
The key is, they keep trying different things and are seemingly able to hit where they need to hit. For that reason, I can’t see Steve Jobs turning over in his grave. I just think its funny that such a large number of Apple lovers would think so.