Tag Archives: Apple

Has Apple Gone Too Far In Their Packaging?

As we know, Apple has established itself as the preeminent purveyors of great technology design.  They have that strong history of not only making great hardware and operating systems, they make them actually look great. It’s no coincidence that their competitors have borrowed from some of those designs.  While some have gotten close on product design, none have really matched the beauty of their actual packaging. Half the fun of opening a new apple product is the unraveling of the packaging as if it were a beautifully intricate flower. The design always served the product, until now. With the opening of the Apple Store in Santa Monica, CA, they might have tipped their hat and gone too far in packaging their product to be beautiful at first sight – but it fails to place the product in the best light.

AppleSantaMonica

When the store opened in December, you could already get a glimpse of the inherent issues.  In a video capture of the opening by YouTube personality, iJustine, they mention the heat and the noise near the end of the video.

Apple places a strong emphasis on marketing and innovation in everything they do, but this direction in store design did too much innovation while adversely affecting the product.  When you enter the store, it is especially beautiful at night, but still loud due to the flat walls and glass ceilings – it is a veritable noise chamber. When you visit during the day, it has that same loudness but the glare and heat are almost unbearable.

Now, months in, the issues are very clear. If you are trying to check out the products, you can’t see a lot because of that glare, and if you are waiting for the Genius Bar or getting individual instruction, the loudness and heat make you not want to stick around.  One woman even brought a box for her one-on-one to place around her product as she was well aware of the issues.

While this is not the first Apple store with a glass ceiling – there has been one in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for a number of years – it seems they did not really take everything into consideration and aimed for looks more than substance. Perhaps the bigger Santa Monica store concerns were never an issue in Manhattan due to more limited direct sunlight and extended cooler weather. It’s a shame that they didn’t take into consideration that there is more heat and sunlight in the beach city of Santa Monica.

AppleSM

I hate seeing Apple miss and I hope this is just a hiccup and not more indicative of what’s to come. If they continue to make decision based more on looks than substance, we will all lose out.

Transcending The Pitch And Becoming The Lifestyle

The delineation of Lifestyle Brands as a separate vertical is odd to me.  Its hard to think of “lifestyle brands” that don’t retain a product at its core. Some examples of lifestyle brands – to me – are: Nike, Gatorade, Coca-Cola/Pepsi, and some could argue Apple or Facebook. You could arguably suggest that Livestrong at its height was a lifestyle brand, but its core product was funding and awareness for Cancer research. Perhaps one of the more recent strong transitions to Lifestyle is Dove. Though the Dove brand has been around for a long time with numerous strong campaigns, it has been over the past decade that they have been able to transcend the pitch and become the lifestyle.

What started in 2004 as a way to establish itself in a new market, Brazil, utilizing creative from London, Ogilvy & Mather Brazil’s “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” had a lasting effect that has enabled the brand to create content and community without constantly pitching its products. Perhaps the best part is the fact that the Brazil team launched what seemed to be a local campaign leveraging existing materials that then went on to drive strategy for the brand globally.

RealBeauty

A recent example is their “Dove Real Beauty Sketches” program that has garnered phenomenal viewing metrics.  Rather than describe it, you can check them out yourself, but keep in mind that there is absolutely NO product description. The US 3 minute documentary has garnered over 54 million views on YouTube in just under a month and a half.  The longer 6+ minute version has had 2.6 million US views.  Just the sampling of other markets shows Brazil with another 5.3 million views of the short and 1.6 million views of the longer on YouTube.

Needless to say, the amount of views is of incredible value, but we can’t forget how they got there.  This was certainly not a matter of posting a cool video and just seeing the video completes jump. It was about an almost decade-long investment to build the community with content and programming that helped Dove to become a Lifestyle Brand.

So, with that in mind, the way to think in this technology and media age is how can your brand become “a lifestyle.” It becomes a matter of content strategy, release strategy, Social Media, messaging and campaign strategy. And it could take quite a while.

If done right, it can effectively allow the brand to not even deal with the concerns about brand loyalty. While consumers are becoming more fickle about brands, they are becoming less so about their lifestyles. Red Bull was able to achieve Lifestyle status through their media content and Dove was able to do the same – in large part through their Real Beauty campaign.

So, if marketing product properly and thoughtfully could enable it to transcend product placement and pitching to become a part of life – or lifestyle -, then what constitutes a purely lifestyle brand?

The Tablet War Shines A Light On (Digital) Illiteracy

I usually dislike espousing demos because I believe the world’s quickly-evolving anthropology is making demographics, as we know it, useless.  But, sometimes you just can’t get away from certain truths about demographics. This is certainly on full display if you generally lump older consumer into the Digital Illiterate bucket.  As opposed to Digital Natives (those who have really only lived and known the digital world) or Digital Immigrants (those who grew up in an analog world and are embracing digital), Digital Illiterates are those who might test the digital waters with their toe or only go so far as the shallow end – and they just might prove to be a huge growth opportunity that is being overlooked.  Having just brought a relative Digital Illiterate to an Apple Store so she could buy her first Apple product (an iPad 2), an untapped opportunity was illuminated.

First off, let’s be clear that Digital Illiterates (or Ignorants) don’t necessarily have NO knowledge of computers or Digital – they are just using a small percentage of the available capabilities.  They may only use email, surf the web, or (in a growing case around the world among older users) interact with Facebook.   The basic discussion of technology and the “new” thing often makes their eyes glaze over, or they just turn and run. And yes, for the most part, they are part of that older demographic.

With that in mind, I took a neighbor and her sister (both Digital Illiterates by my definition above) to an Apple Store yesterday so that the sister could buy an iPad.  When we got to the store, there were seemingly as many employees as there were customers – the place was packed.  Their initial impulse was to turn and run.

But let’s jump back to why this friend wanted an iPad in the first place.  It was because I had told her how easy it was to understand and work with – and that if she was thinking about buying it, it was much cheaper to buy it here before she headed back to London.  I explained that she would probably never need a regular computer again and because the interface is so intuitive, she would be able to get the hang of it quickly.

In the store’s controlled mayhem my guests were shocked to see so many people – but were even more shocked to find out that those employees are well-educated about the product and willing to spend as much time as needed to help in the sale and/or initial setup of the product.  Our Manhattan Beach Apple Store Specialist, Richard, was  the perfect person to help my very confused and cautious friend.  He not only processed the transaction, but helped her set up her account (correctly tying it to the UK App Store) and gave a tutorial.

It was interesting that we had this experience at Apple Stores the same day that Apple laid off their retail chief, John Browett. Rumour has it that Browett ruffled feathers by trying to cut back on store staffing and removing the customer service component – leading CEO, Tim Cook to reverse some Browett moves.  Obviously, Apple understands the value of the knowledge amongst the staff and the value of providing that type of resource to Apple users who are lucky enough to be close to a store.

Though I had known that Apple provided this service, it never occurred to me that a potentially enormous sector of consumers has no idea. The computer industry still retains a reputation as being scary and cold to those who are not “experts”.  Apple seems to have cracked that.

But it also illuminated the fact that Apple doesn’t seem to be making their ability to ease consumer’s transition to the digital realm – through both OS and Store employees – known to consumers.  If there were marketing programs in place to go after those Digital Illiterates, can you imagine how much they could increase sales?

Apple could be the only ones who can pull this off.  Their store staff is primed to do it – whereas the Microsoft and Sony stores have neither the staffing nor the know-how to shepherd the transition. We don’t even have to discuss Best Buy and other big stores when it comes to this same issue. I just haven’t seen any marketing from Apple that clearly calls out their advantage – leaving yet another piece to insider knowledge.

They’ve got to find a way to convey that store excitement through forms of media to draw in a diverse crowd (read “less than hip,” “not technically savvy,” umm…not young).  Apple already knows what happens when they get people in the stores.  I honestly didn’t see a diverse age range in the store – nor have I ever seen that in an Apple store.  To fortify market share even more, that needs to change. With a product like the iPad, they have a key platform to drive that new user sampling – but I have yet to really see marketing to draw that audience. It could be interesting to see how traditional media could be used to draw certain demos into the store to transition them to the digital media realm. Either way, the effective costs of properly targetting audience segments have come down in price to a point where it doesn’t make sense to not have multiple campaigns running concurrently – especially if you are one of the biggest companies in history.

Could it be as simple as the brand wanting to convey youth as opposed to generating greater sales?  I really don’t have any insight into their research that might be leading them one way or the other.  I do know that there is a growing amount of players on the tablet front and the tablet has turned from being a toy gadget to being arguably the only necessary digital product to serve most of the consumers’ needs – especially the needs of the Digital Illiterates.

Regardless of what you think of iPads against all other tablets, that “ease of use” benefit needs to be more largely sold to Digital Illiterates – at least in a way that doesn’t make them run – and nobody other than Apple is as primed to win that war through their stores. They maybe just need to do a better job of getting that <insert demo here> crowd in the door. Because, for every Digital Illiterate, there’s an opportunity to convert them to a Digital Immigrant.

Apple Changing Direction With Celebrities in Ads? That’s Funny…

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.

Executing the Scarcity Tactic in Marketing Can Do Harm

I can understand a company wanting to generate the buzz that Apple has been getting with their product scarcity tactic, but it’s getting out of hand. But the past couple of days, there’s been a major instance of a product release coming when stores aren’t even open or the product is not available online and in only one store in the country in daily limited supply. Both products have strong stories to tell, but they’re not stories that consumers are actively seeking out – like they do for Apple products. When there is a demand for 4 million units in the first weeks of a product release (New iPad) you can deal with some folks being upset they can’t get their hands on the product.  When there is very little demand, you can’t risk people being upset that the product is not available. As such, the scarcity tactic does more harm than good.

The bigger fail of the two is AT&T’s launch with Microsoft of the Lumia 900 Windows 7 phone. They supposedly spent $150M to promote the product’s launch date on April 8th. That would be fine if the 8th was not Easter Sunday. Did they think that people would separate from family to buy products – even if stores were open?  The NY Times did their own research to find that there were just no units to be found in the few Manhattan stores that were open. I personally don’t buy that it was smart marketing to launch a big product on a commercially dead day. There certainly is not any buzz that’s coming from the lack of found product.

They had to have spent a pretty penny on the Nicki Minaj performance in Times Square.  It’s too bad they couldn’t have drafted any of that into sales through the weekend at those 30+ stores within five miles of Times Square.

Nike also did something weird with its marketing schedule. They launched a video yesterday on YouTube that stands as their key video campaign element for the Nike+ FuelBand product. The “Make It Count” campaign centerpiece conveys a great Nike spirit:

Whether the production was as clandestine as they would lead you to believe – with the director, Casey Neistat, taking the entire budget to travel around the world with his best friend – doesn’t really matter.  With nearly 150K views in just over a day, they are doing pretty nicely from a numbers sense. It is a great long form piece if you want to capture the Nike Brand, but I don’t know if it does a great job at conveying what the FuelBand actually is.  When I went to the site to find out, its features made me interested but there was no price and they didn’t have any in stock.  They do point out that stock is updated on the site as it becomes available and each morning the NYC Niketown gets an extremely limited quantity.

I don’t know that I would be interested in checking back regularly for this product as I don’t have to have it and can stand to wait for a while. But I would imagine both Nike and AT&T/Microsoft/Nokia dearly hope that people will feel they must have it in order to drive the opening weekend numbers.

The problem in both instances is that they have executed big bangs for the product launches with no way to leverage the excitement to drive conversions to purchase. I know I’m being cynical when comparing the scarcity “theory” between these products and Apple products, but I just can’t get my head around the fact that there is such a huge disconnect between marketing decisions and distribution capabilities. If this new marketing phenomenon is all about a press release, then it certainly will do harm to many bottom lines.

MTV’s Large-Scale Light That We Should All Pounce On

MTV and MoMA (specifically their PS1 imprint) have gone retro with some great “new” programming that will hopefully do wonders for the arts in general.  In partnership with non-profit public arts group, Creative Time, they are bringing back a show from the ’80s that celebrates the video art form. The Art Breaks programming consists for 30 second interstitials that will air on MTV shedding a light on the urban art scene, among others. What first began in 1985 will begin anew.  I know I saw them when they first came out and had no idea who Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring or Kenny Scharff when they were shown in Art Breaks on MTV in my mid teens, but there was certainly no other way I was going to be able to experience them otherwise.  Even while I attended arts schools, these artists weren’t celebrated in schools – yet these artists were the ones who were resonating with me. Those early experiences played a heavy part in my art appreciation now – and certainly play themselves out in my current love of collecting art. This sort of contextual promotion of the arts on a large-scale is absolutely needed and the model MTV provides should be pounced upon as often as possible by brands and media outlets.

Image from Original MTV Art Break series clip featuring Basquiat

With schools reducing expenditures for arts classes and experiences when they are needed most, somebody must jump into the fray or else our future is in major trouble. If you don’t think that’s the case, take a look at the state of the arts over the past few decades when government money has dwindled and appreciation for the arts has been made available only to ever smaller groups of students.  There is an increasing limit on new and provocative works of art, film or theatre.  Different forms of imagination are being pushed to the wayside with a growing “normalness” all around. As a sign of the times, there are many people who are great at the technical aspects of business, but not so great at the imaginative parts and the amounts of companies that take off exponentially are dwindling. But those existing companies can do much to address it. Even sports entities can get into the act – just look at what Leroy Neiman did (and still does) in joining the sports realm and art. He was able to do it through magazines, like Playboy, that were the zenith at the time.  Others can do the same if given the opportunity on big enough platforms today.

Even Apple – who has so much in their reserves – should be doing more to contextually bring the arts to the masses.  Perhaps instead of providing dividends (or as much as they might be providing) they should be providing financial resources that enable kids and young adults to have more experiences that raise the level of imagination.  In the least, Brands should be looking to do their part by marrying the arts and their products in ways that make sense.

There have been instances in the past where brands might have done something with the arts on a smaller scale.  Some examples are a program Hot Wheels did with Gallery 1988, or hotels bringing art into the mix (but you would hope the guests are already attuned to what is out there), or even what Disney is doing with artists for their Vinylmation Figures line, it may not be enough.  They are either hitting people in too pointed or niche of a way, or the luxury brands are hitting the people who, while a great benefit to society, are the people who are least in need.

There is a huge opportunity to generate arts awareness in products or advertising, but an even larger one is in the sponsorship of festivals or events.  But, I’m not talking about sponsorship just to get the name recognition.  There’s got to be some partnerships to promote arts awareness and education in general. By just sponsoring an event and not incorporating any of the outreach that would lead to a larger scale, it just doesn’t hold the power that more programs like Art Breaks on MTV would bring.

There are probably a slew of programs that I don’t even know about, but those should be lauded and celebrated. The incorporation of young artist designs on Volcom shirts are great, but they are few and far in between. The same could be said about the partnership with Levi’s Jeans support of ART IN THE STREETS at MOCA.  Its good, but not enough.

We’re all missing out in the long run if there is nothing to drive interest in the arts among the masses – and the 13-24 demo is a perfect place to aim for.  Does it do the best thing for the brands who execute the programs? That will depend on who is doing it and what the context is. But there are certainly creative ways to make it a win-win.  In ever-smaller circles, much emphasis is being placed on the value of art by the likes of Damian Hirst/Warhol/Gaugin, the sales of performances of the dance masterpieces by Ailey/Tharp/Joffrey, or the resonant brilliance of Glass/Handel/Shostakovich, but the true value of expanding the reach of the arts like these and more goes far beyond a sale.  It goes to the very core of our society not turning into IDIOCRACY. If you’ve seen that movie, you know what I mean.  If you haven’t, you should.

The classic meaning of the Patrons of the Arts is almost gone and the void is ripe for filling by the brands and mediums that have the reach like no others.  It’s time to step up and grasp the change for the benefit of our future. If MTV is, we all should…

The Silly Demand Dance

Will the strategy of limiting supply to generate buzz ever end?  In this age of “Everything I want, I want immediately”, will people stand (or fall) for trickling distribution of an item that can’t get to market quickly enough? It seems that Apple is leading the category in anticipation through limited supply – with the latest example being the iPad 3 – oops, the new iPad. It just seems to be such a silly dance we do with Apple annually where the demand can’t be meted by the supply.

We smartly gave up on the clubs with the velvet-roped lines outside and barely anyone inside as we realized it was all about buzz.  But we’re still collectively mesmerized by Apple. When one of the largest distributors of devices continues to run out of product at launch, we put up with it for who knows what reason. I agree that their products are phenomenal, but do we all need to have them on day one?  Perhaps because of the Samsung ads poking fun at the people who wait in line at Apple stores for new product releases, many more people pre-ordered so they could have the product on the first day.  Alas, they have run out of those devices and cannot get them to consumers who didn’t get in on the first phase of pre-orders until the following Monday at the earliest. And, if you haven’t pre-ordered yet, don’t expect one to get to you for weeks.  The funny thing is that units are in the cities where they are supposed to be delivered, but were put on hold at the Fedex locations so that they would not be delivered until Friday.  A friend who pre-ordered early enough to get his set for delivery on Friday actually got an email saying that his product was picked up in the local Fedex hub and would be delivered yesterday – only to get a follow-up email that it was placed on hold for that Friday delivery.

Courtesy of Washington Post

From a stockholder’s perspective, I’m sure the demand and buzz is great as the price shot up $20 a share in the past three days of trading. This brings us back to the point of strategy.  Is it Apple’s strategy to greatly limit supply at the beginning to drive buzz and stocks higher?  Was it also their strategy to push delivery back on pre-orders to drive people to the lines when they recognized that people were getting wise and pre-ordering because they didn’t care to spend any more time in lines?

I don’t know that I buy the thought that it was unexpected or that the supply chain wait is a product of that demand.  They are releasing day and date in a few other countries – a reasonable excuse for greater demand. In this age, there are so many ways to gauge interest and projections based on numerous touch-points.  Additionally, with Apple’s finger on the pulse of their consumers could not have been this amazed about the demand for the product. Not having a sense that your product is going to be a huge seller doesn’t seem like a good business plan for me – especially for a company like Apple.

Sadly, other technology companies are following suit with limited supply and distribution – seemingly in order to build buzz.  Most recently, the demand for the Leap Pad left a lot of people without the holiday item they coveted.  I can more understand Leap Frog’s surprise about demand and its subsequent scale than I can Apple’s.  I don’t know that I give Leap Frog that much credit for playing off scarcity to build buzz, but who knows?

I do hope that Apple doesn’t pull the same thing if and when they ever release the iPhone 5 (June?) as the dance is getting pretty boring.  I can buy the excuse that you just can’t build enough units quickly enough.  I don’t buy the one of shock about demand.  The dance is just getting overdone.