Apple Needs a Fresh Marketing Vision, and We Have Some Ideas

Return to values


In a sense, Apple is a victim of its own success. It represents an ironic inversion of the state of the world portrayed in the brand’s legendary “1984” Super Bowl spot in which the company convincingly cast itself as the rebel, seeking to free us all from the tyranny of Microsoft.

Now, Apple is so dominant that its voice-activated assistant Siri gets tweaked in biting Microsoft spots comparing Dell’s XPS 10 tablet to the iPad, while Samsung ads feature disgruntled fanboys waiting in line presumably for the latest Apple product while admiring cool Samsung devices being used by others.

And though Apple once rocked the music scene with the iPod and iTunes, Samsung has stolen its thunder. On July 4, the first 1 million Galaxy users to download a special app got Jay-Z’s new album for free, three days ahead of iPhone users. Meanwhile, Samsung’s three-minute promo spot featuring Jay-Z and other artists in a casual studio gathering discussing music, creativity and life surpassed 25 million YouTube views in just a month.

“Now they [Apple] are the Goliath—now they are the one being challenged,” says Lance Jensen, CCO at Hill Holliday, who has experience with the ebb and flow of iconic brands from his tenure on Arnold Worldwide’s “Drivers Wanted” campaign for Volkswagen.

So what can Apple do to juice up the brand?

Ad experts urge a return to Apple’s core values, and renewed focus on products and their functionality while eschewing overly aspirational appeals. “You cannot talk about innovation in the past,” says P.J. Pereira, CCO at Pereira & O’Dell. “Rule No. 1 about innovation is don’t talk about innovation—show it.”

Pereira is both an Apple fan and a competitor, as his agency fashioned the “Beauty Inside” episodic social film for Intel/Toshiba, a Grand Prix winner this year in the Cyber category at Cannes. He’s bullish on Apple’s marketing prospects. “I’m very confident [because] part of the [creative] process is taking risks, taking time to explore different territories,” he says. “Apple is trying to explore what is next for the brand, to try something different for themselves.”


The dearth of new Apple products is perceived as one of its biggest problems. That will change this fall, with releases that include the iOS 7 mobile operating system (possibly running on the new iPhone 5S and/or iPhone 6, though Apple, in typical fashion, has been mum); a Pandora-like music service called iTunes Radio; OS X Mavericks, an enhanced op-sys for desktop units; and a new MacBook Air boasting all-day battery life. (There’s also the long-rumored iWatch. A possible glimpse of the device in a May TV spot touting the iPhone 5’s music functions briefly set the social sphere ablaze. No word on when we might be wearing Apple on our wrists, though.)

“It’s been a while since I’ve felt that big New Apple Thing Thrill,” says Angela Natividad, blogger at AdVerve and digital strategist at agencies including Darewin and E2C2. “But I will say the new iOS gets me curious.” Natividad notes that it is the first major design statement—and departure from Steve Jobs’ aesthetic—since his death. “For me, this is the cue to watch for what comes after. There may be surprises there,” she says.

While neither Apple nor TBWA offer a clue about what we might see in terms of advertising, the agency did provide a statement from the legendary Lee Clow, chairman of Media Arts Lab and director of media arts for TBWAWorldwide. Says Clow, whose association with Apple dates back to the epic “1984” spot: “Apple is one of the great, pure brands in the world. It was built on world-changing genius and a passion for perfection. Apple created products that changed all of our lives. The fact that competitors now make similar products, many would argue not quite as good as the originals, only means Apple now has competition. OK. Competition is what makes products better, and great brands stronger. So Apple will continue to invent. And our job continues to be reminding the world why only Apple is Apple.”

And the brand’s future may well depend on it.

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