Why Apple’s current TV Ads are a driving me crazy

Like many people, I really like the emotional TV ads Apple is running showing average people getting fit and healthy, caring for their kids and so on.  But it struck me that ‘average people’ is not what Apple is about.  For years Steve Jobs positioned Apple as the brand for those who, quite literally, think different.  He famously narrated the crazy ones Ad which said:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Now, look again at the current TV ads and you will see a lot of average people.  What Steve knew was that we don’t aspire to be average.  If Apple = average then it’s not a good outcome.    He knew we aspire to stand out and perhaps even be exceptional.  Now in a world where almost everyone has a smartphone and a big percentage have an iPhone, that does create a challenge.  But I’d argue that Apple needs to get back to ‘Think Different’ instead of making Apple a warm and emotional brand that lacks edge.  This is the brand Samsung has built and isn’t… well, different.

Apple will sell a boat load of iPhone 6s when they appear this fall. But I suspect they’ll sell a lot more if people view Apple as an aspirational brand rather than a household brand.  But maybe I’m the one who’s crazy!


Why content delivery is the next big battle

The Olympics has been both fabulous and frustrating.  It’s been a great games with some fascinating stories of triumph and heartbreak but NBC has once gain contrived to make it near impossible for you to watch the games real time.  Sure you can watch a lot online but not everything.  It’s also frustrating to know that there are other content providers such as the BBC who have the content you want but to find you simply can’t access it because of rights issues.  Put another way, the content you want has been created but the ability to access it on demand doesn’t exist.  Yesterday’s mens 100m final was a great example.  This event wasn’t shown live, instead you had to wait until almost midnight to watch the tape delayed version.  CRAZY!!!!  Of course the Olympics are a rare event and the prices paid by people like NBC require them to find ways of getting their money back BUT their approach is the same as many other content owners – force people to either watch it when we want them to or access it later via tape delay or some on demand service.  There appears to be no other option.  You can’t even click a button that says: ‘watch live for $5′.  All this got me thinking about how much other content is out there that people would like to access but they don’t because it’s just too hard to get.  In these Google and youtube infused days it seems crazy to be struggling to access content but we do.  Some of the problem is that searching is still too dependent on our ability to describe what we are looking for and the other part is there aren’t always systems that allow us to see the content when we find it.  Madness.  What we need is the technology to find the right content AND the technology to allow you to access it.  Here in California I have access to a mass of TV content that I don’t consume and don’t even want to consume.  I’d gladly substitute 99% of the unwanted content for another few percent of content I do want.  This all reminds me a paper Theodore Levitt wrote where he mentioned that people don’t want to buy fuel for their cars, they simply want to be able to drive somewhere.  In other words they would never care if they saw the fuel.  Likewise I don’t care what content I am given access to, I simply want the content I want.   Of the hundreds of channels on my TV I could have three or four and be perfectly happy if those channels had just the stuff I want.  In other words I want someone to do to the TV what Spotify has done to music.  Now Netflix is trying to get there but even that has a long way to go.  

I should be clear though, my argument is not just about TV content it’s about all manner of content that currently exists on the web that is either hard to find or restricted in terms of who can access it.  Hence my belief that we are now in an era where the content creators have done a great job of generating material but those responsible for enabling us to access it have a LONG way to go.  But when we get there we are going to experience events in a very different and even more exciting way.  Until then, I’ll just have to put up with Bob Costas and NBC for a bit longer.


Why content delivery is the next big battle

The Olympics has been both fabulous and frustrating.  It’s been a great games with some fascinating stories of triumph and heartbreak but NBC has once gain contrived to make it near impossible for you to watch the games real time.  Sure you can watch a lot online but not everything.  It’s also frustrating to know that there are other content providers such as the BBC who have the content you want but to find you simply can’t access it because of rights issues.  Put another way, the content you want has been created but the ability to access it on demand doesn’t exist.  Yesterday’s mens 100m final was a great example.  This event wasn’t shown live, instead you had to wait until almost midnight to watch the tape delayed version.  CRAZY!!!!  Of course the Olympics are a rare event and the prices paid by people like NBC require them to find ways of getting their money back BUT their approach is the same as many other content owners – force people to either watch it when we want them to or access it later via tape delay or some on demand service.  There appears to be no other option.  You can’t even click a button that says: ‘watch live for $5′.  All this got me thinking about how much other content is out there that people would like to access but they don’t because it’s just too hard to get.  In these Google and youtube infused days it seems crazy to be struggling to access content but we do.  Some of the problem is that searching is still too dependent on our ability to describe what we are looking for and the other part is there aren’t always systems that allow us to see the content when we find it.  Madness.  What we need is the technology to find the right content AND the technology to allow you to access it.  Here in California I have access to a mass of TV content that I don’t consume and don’t even want to consume.  I’d gladly substitute 99% of the unwanted content for another few percent of content I do want.  This all reminds me a paper Theodore Levitt wrote where he mentioned that people don’t want to buy fuel for their cars, they simply want to be able to drive somewhere.  In other words they would never care if they saw the fuel.  Likewise I don’t care what content I am given access to, I simply want the content I want.   Of the hundreds of channels on my TV I could have three or four and be perfectly happy if those channels had just the stuff I want.  In other words I want someone to do to the TV what Spotify has done to music.  Now Netflix is trying to get there but even that has a long way to go.

I should be clear though, my argument is not just about TV content it’s about all manner of content that currently exists on the web that is either hard to find or restricted in terms of who can access it.  Hence my belief that we are now in an era where the content creators have done a great job of generating material but those responsible for enabling us to access it have a LONG way to go.  But when we get there we are going to experience events in a very different and even more exciting way.  Until then, I’ll just have to put up with Bob Costas and NBC for a bit longer.


Is your brand middle aged?

Look at your typical middle aged person and you will notice a few things:

 

  1. Their physical condition is showing signs of ageing.  They weigh more than they did in their 20s and they are less flexible.
  2. Their hairstyle and dress sense gets stuck and they start to experiment a lot less.  They’ve developed a look that they like (or can at least tolerate) and then they stay with it… for a very long time.
  3. Their values were created at a certain point in their development and getting them to change their POV is almost impossible.  They have strong beliefs and they’re tough to change.
  4. They are more cautious.  They buy safer cars, stop doing things that are more risky etc.

 

 I can say this because I’m middle aged.  I don’t think of myself as being middle aged but whenever I spend time with younger people I realize just how middle aged I am.  I have a theory that brands are the same.  Brands can get tired and a bit flabby.  They are not as exciting and or as interesting as they were.  The logo and general way the brand is presented has, in too many instances, changed little in the last decade.  The values of the business are great but they’ve lost their punch and they’re not making any real contribution to the bottom line.  How does this happen?  Why does it happen?  Is it a good thing?  I’m afraid the answers to these questions are not great for most brands.  Brands start to atrophy because the people driving these brands are themselves, often, middle aged.  They are reluctant to ‘risk’ the brand. They are also less likely to see that the brand is starting to ‘get stuck’ with a certain ‘haircut or dress sense.’  Brands need to adapt to their customers.  This means they need to reflect where their customers are, not where they are. 

 

How can brands stay fresh?  Here are some suggestions:

 

  1. Spend time with people who should become your customers in five years from now and make sure that senior executives witness these sessions.  Listen to the their stories about brands and the ways they interact with them.  You’ll learn something.  After all, tomorrow’s customers will be today’s customers before you know it.
  2. Do good brand analysis that truly establishes a baseline that marketers can use and share it with all your marketing partners so they are all on the same page.  Make sure this analysis is centered on where your next wave of customers coming from, not where your old customer base is.
  3. Get all your marketing partners contributing to the ‘state of the brand’ analysis.  By this I means that your agencies often have a great perspective on where the brand is but they don’t always share that with all the right people.  You need a forum where some pretty bad and good things can be shared about a brand.  This forum must be accessible to all your partners so they can also take the insights
  4. Take some risks.  Brands need to learn to be willing to fail in their marketing.  Safe marketing doesn’t change the status quo.  Safe may be fine if you are the market leader but for brands that are challenging they have to be ready to take risks, just as teenagers do every day.  These risks won’t kill the brand and could lead you towards a whole new paradigm.
  5. Experiment with new technologies – the amount of technology now available to help marketers is incredible.  Your brand is a core business asset; you should be looking at investing in it.  Businesses invest in technologies for the workforce, why not the brand?

 

We can all spot brands that are stuck in the past, or are struggling to keep up.  We need to all look in the mirror and make sure our brand isn’t one of them.  If it is then it’s time to get to work.  We live in an era where the willingness to take risks is reducing because of the state of the global economy but the ‘do more of the same’ strategy is rarely a good one and in these ultra competitive times, potentially suicidal.  The state of the brand defines its life expectancy.  If your brand is entering middle or even old age, then you need to try and reverse the course of nature.  Fortunately for all of us, you can do that with brands, provided you have the nerve… 


Hostage marketing comes to an end

Dish Network just introduced its Hopper technology that enables customers to skip through the ads in shows they’ve recorded on their DVR.  It’s causing uproar in TV land as producers worry that with no ad revenue there’ll be no way of funding their shows in the first place.  The ‘old’ TV model relied on customers being held hostage and thus being forced to watch ads.  With the advent of VCRs and then DVRs, customers could, with some luck, skip most if not all the ads by fast forwarding through them.  The Hopper technology simply improves on something we all try and do anyway so it’s hard to see why there’s such a fuss.  Businesses that rely on taking customer’s attention hostage are doomed.  Let’s imagine that you couldn’t skip the ads just for a minute.  If that were the case and there was a two minute break in your show, isn’t it likely you’d use that two minutes to visit the bathroom, check email and or make a cup of something to drink?  In other words customers have choices that don’t involve watching annoying ads, so trying to find ways to prevent them from skipping them is like shutting the proverbial stable door…  Wouldn’t it be better if advertisers accepted that the old ad model was broken and instead focused on creating content that people actually wanted to see and engage with?  Ad agencies are very capable of creating such content but they need to be given the latitude to do so.  That said, they also need to propose a new approach to their customers rather than proposing the ‘old way’ yet again.  Advertisers and TV producers may complain about customers skipping ads but they should watch those ads and as themselves how many of them would they ‘choose’ to watch if they were given that choice?  My guess is that, if they’re honest, they’ll answer a big fat zero.  So instead forcing a diet of content on consumers that they don’t like, marketers need to focus on giving the customer content that they want to engage with.  If they do people will start looking for technology that gives them ads rather than the opposite.


Has your marketing got engaged?

Last night I did something unusual.  I sat an watched TV.  For a whole hour!  It wasn’t live TV of course.  It was something recorded but still it was TV.  It was great.  I just got to sit there and be entertained and because it was off the DVR I could skip all those pesky ads.  My teenage daughter joined me for a while but she spent equal amounts of time engaged with the show and with her friends online.  Nothing unusual there.  But the experience really brought home to me the problem many companies are facing with their marketing.  For decades marketing departments looked at forms of media that were non-interactive.  Consumers simply looked and listened.  We read stories around which adverts were draped, or we watched shows interspersed with ads that we sometimes watched.  It seems many companies are approaching the challenge the online world has created by producing marketing that assumes we are passive consumers of marketing, rather than people to get engaged with.  This is strange because what I’ve just said is nothing that new.  People have been saying for a while that the online world is all about getting engaged with consumers, yet for some reason it seems the vast majority of marketing dollars are still spent on forms of marketing that are passive.  Why?  I think the answer has two parts:

1.  Brands are struggling with ROI – the new marketing model requires new tools to measure its effectiveness.  There are no shortage of tools but there is a shortage of any agreed standard when it comes to measurement. Furthermore the goal of linking campaigns to sales still eludes most marketers.  It’s definitely possible.  We’ve run some highly measurable and thankfully successful campaigns for clients but it’s sad to say that too many campaigns are still run that go unmeasured and therefore hard to justify.

2.  Failure to innovate – many brands view innovation in online marketing as some clever pop up ad that you can’t avoid.  We all know that’s not innovation.  Innovation is where brands start with a clean sheet.  Instead of taking their old world tactics and applying them to the online world, they start with an online mindset.  They create and/or find content that engages with their audience.  We recently created a campaign for AMD that involved a virtual scavenger hunt.  It is designed to engage with developers so it hooks in to that community in a way that appeals to their inner geekiness.  In other words we gave developers a reason to interact with AMD and thankfully it seems they’ve jumped at that chance.

Now as a consumer I should point out that I don’t want to spend my day interacting with brands but I do expect that when I am looking for, or at something online that brands will try and engage.  Brands that sit and wait for my attention will struggle to get it.  So ask yourself a simple question:  how engaged is my marketing?  As far as I know there is no agreed percentage that is the new standard but if the answer to that question is: less than my competitors, it should be cause for concern.  Another way of answering it would be to brainstorm how engaged your brand could be and then analyse the gap between where you are now and where you could be.  For many brands engagement will be a journey but one they have to get on board with fast.  Otherwise they will become as irrelevant as the TV ads I skipped past while I watched TV last night.


Why marketing must Learn from the EU

We all know what a mess Europe has been in the last few years.  The lack of central controls has resulted in some slow and often poor decision making, that has dragged the region into another recession and has cast doubt on the future of the single currency.  There is a lesson in here for all those running marketing at a regional or global level.  If they want to run a coordinated campaign across more than one country, they need to take control and be willing to make decisions that will be unpopular at a local level OR they need to accept that their campaigns will not be consistent.  Just as the EU learned, all too late, that it needed to enforce economic controls on Greece, or risk collective failure, so CMOs need to enforce marketing controls.  

The failure and success of some brands is seen when they pitch their business around the world.  Some brands involve local countries but make it clear their vote will only assist in decision making, not define it.  Others are overly democratic and allow local countries to veto certain agencies and thus create a ‘lowest common denominator’ decision, where the least offensive agency wins.  This does nobody any favors and results in two years of misery for everyone but the chosen agency (actually even they don’t really enjoy this process).  

Just as Angela Merkel realized, it’s important to show leadership on critical decisions, so must CMOs.  Now it may be that the company’s internal structure (who holds the purse strings is of course the definition of internal structure) may work against a company running marketing programs across regions.  If that’s the case, then efforts to have a regional or global agency are doomed before they start.  Organizing the financial and human resources are the first step a CMO should take BEFORE they embark on finding the right agency partners.  At the end of the day, agencies cannot make up for the inherent weaknesses of internal structures.  If anything they will amplify them.  If, because of politics, a CMO can’t affect the right changes here, then they should focus instead on having each country make the very best LOCAL decisions and stop worrying about the regional or global brand efforts.  For the agencies involved, perhaps the advice they must all stick with is to avoid pitching business where there are a dozen decision makers spread across a region.  We’ve seen how dysfunctional the EU has been lately.  Businesses that employ the same basic process will fair no better.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,685 other followers