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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2008 at 7:40 am

The Larger Truth Behind Apple’s New Commercial

By Jeff Sexton
October 23rd, 2008

First, if you haven’t already seen Apple’s new Mac commercial, watch this:

YouTube Preview Image

Now, before discussing the ad, please name a brand developed in the last 10 years that was built largely on the strength of its advertising.  Go ahead and think a bit if you have to; I’ll wait.

You might be able to name one, dear reader, but I’m betting you’ll have strained a bit to come up with it, and that you’ll only think of just one (assuming you come up with any).

Now, name 5 brands created in the last 10 years (or that at least come onto the national stage within the last 10 years) and built largely on the basis of great user experience / word of mouth with very little to no traditional advertising.  Here’s my list:

1) Zappos
2) Krispy Kreme
3) StonyField Yogurt
4) Silk (soy milk)
5) Smart Wool

It’s not a definitive list by any means, and I’m sure at least one reader will write me with an example of some kind of ad or PR campaign run by one of those companies, but I trust you get the point: the new Mac commercial isn’t just a satirical poke at Microsoft’s non-response to its problems with Vista; it is indicative of the current marketing climate in general.

Unless you have a message that matters – in other words unless you have a product and customer experience worth talking about – why pay to broadcast it?  A false or inane ad message won’t just be tuned our or ignored: it will actively discredit you in the marketplace and might just prove a handy club for your competitors to beat you with.

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Comments (36)

  1. [...] First, if you haven’t already seen Apple’s new Mac commercial, watch this: Click here to view the embedded video. [...]

  2. So true Jeff, so true :)

  3. You’re spot on, Jeff, with this: “A false or inane ad message won’t just be tuned out or ignored: it will actively discredit you in the marketplace.” When traditional ad or pr companies go out of their way to engage in interruptive marketing, they fail to realize that interruptions are no longer tolerated. That’s why so many sites name and shame PR companies that send irrelevant news releases to bloggers, for instance. That’s why fake viral videos get slated. And that’s why openness, trust, and credibility are the foundation for any brand’s success in a world where blogs and twitter can wreak havoc with your reputation in a matter of hours.

  4. [...] Original post: The Larger Truth Behind Apple’s New Commercial [...]

  5. One brand built purely off the power of advertising- “Head On- Apply Directly to the Forehead”.

  6. [...] The Larger Truth Behind Apple’s New Commercial Uncategorized Add comments Click here to view the embedded video. Now, before discussing the ad, please name a brand developed in the last 10 years that was built largely on the strength of its advertising.  Go ahead and think a bit if you have to; I’ll wait. You might be able to name one, dear reader, but I’m betting you’ll have strained a bit to come up with it, and that you’ll only think of just one (assuming you come up with any). Now, name 5 brands created in the last 10 years (or that at least come onto the natio Original post:  The Larger Truth Behind Apple’s New Commercial [...]

  7. Dirty found one, Dirty found one!

  8. That ad is bloody great. I do like the new Windows ads running on UK tv with the “I’m a PC” with Pharrell, etc. but it would be refreshing for Windows to come out with an ad that had a go at Apple’s shortcomings. Bring on the Windows v Mac debate (again).

  9. Am I the only one that feels like this is Bizzaro world? The legions of zombie Mactards making fun of MS for spending on advertising?

    Where’s Rod Serling… really people!

  10. Richard,

    I like the Windows ad too, but it’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from Apple’s ads. First of all, how freakin’ long has Mac been running those commercials before Microsoft responded? Probably longer than Vista’s problems have gone (largely) unresolved.

    And what does the Microsoft ad actually say? What fundamental truth about the product does the MS ad convey? Nothing! It doesn’t say, “Hey, we’ve fixed Vista.” Or, “Here’s all the way-cool stuff PCs do that Macs can’t.” No. The current MS ad uses a large budget, slick production, and celebrities to essentially say nothing. I have both Macs and PCs in my home, and I can say that that ad communicate nothing that would make me run out and buy a new PC, let alone buy a Vista-equipped PC.

    If Apple’s point was that Microsoft tended to delay dealing with known problems only to respond with vacuous advertising, then the current MS ad proves that point rather nicely.

    And, William,

    The point isn’t who spends money on Advertising. The point is, who has something worth advertising in the first place? In other words, whose ads are built on a verifiable reality and whose ads are just so much BS? There is a world of difference between getting the word out on some spectacular product that’s worth talking about, and trying to “spin” one’s way out of a well-known product defect.

    -Jeff

  11. Brands built on advertising:
    Coke
    Pepsi
    Nike
    Gap
    Ford
    Chevy
    Dell

    Maybe these brands can stand behind their advertising…but the br4ands were built on massive ad compaigns. (less than a minute)

  12. For the record…groundswell media like blogging and online communities are getting embraced by large multinationals so those are going to be considered mainstream marketing opportunities pretty soon too.

  13. Peter,

    Not to be a jerk, but if you go back and re-read the challenge, it was to find brands that have been “created in the last 10 years (or that at least come onto the national stage within the last 10 years)”

    The newest brand on your list is Dell and it had it’s initial public offering in 1988. So if you want to actually follow the directions, I’d love to hear of a brand built in the last decade that was built predominantly on the back of advertising.

    -Jeff

  14. Sorry for spamming the blog comments here, but I guess the premise here is that Apple shouldn’t waste it money on “false” ads because they will get tuned out, or that this is somehow “below the belt”. I have used Vista at work from the day it came out. Yesterday I downgraded to XP because I couldn’t take it anymore. We have a Mac at home. If you think people will tune these out you are so wrong. My wife who is not a tech at all loves these ads…my guess is it hits a chord with lots of people.

    Sure it is better to brag about your own products if you have something to talk about. Apple does this with the iPod/iPhone ads. The reality is that Windows needs to fix it crap OS because it really sucks, and Apple just loves poking them about it.

  15. You right Jeff…my bad

  16. No problems, Peter. Actually, I think we may be talking at cross-purposes; my point wasn’t to criticize the Mac ad, but to praise it not only for it’s marketing brilliance, but for it’s ability to capture the current zeitgeist.

    So, actually, thanks for the comments, they’ve spurred me onto a follow-up post to further clarify things.

    -Jeff

  17. Jeff -

    Apple is the absolute king of spinning nothings into somethings. They are brilliant at it.

    Take for instance their amazing new manufacturing process for the MBP – wait for it…. CNC milling aluminum blocks! Viva la reveolution!

    I have 2 macs and 4 pcs in the house. 2 Vista and 2 XP. They all work fine for what I use them for. The macs are more expensive for the specifications.

    I will also say that if linux is like catching and gutting your own fish, MS is buying your fish from the market and cooking them yourself, and Mac is like getting served your fish at the resturant. Everyone has thier own choice where to get their fish. My trouble with the Mactards is they think everyone cooking or catching their own fish must be stupid because all you have to do is order the Macsurf special from the menu.

    In short, they discount other peoples experience becuase they don’t share the same value system when it comes to computing. So, the ad company clever – the Mactards thinking buying a mac makes you clever – silly.

  18. GEICO

  19. Dockers, one of the largest selling clothing brands, was created entirely by marketing.

    Malcolm Gladwell has a fascinating article about it:
    http://www.gladwell.com/1997/1997_07_27_a_khaki.htm

  20. [...] Source: GrokDotCom "The Larger Truth Behind Apple’s New Commercial [...]

  21. Paul,

    Geico’s been around since the 30s, and was a publicly traded company since at least as far back as 1976, and became fairly well known for their 24-hour, 365-day telephone service for claims, sales and service in 1980. Granted, their more aggressive advertising didn’t start until 1993, but even that oversteps the constraints I laid out by 5 years.

    All of which isn’t to say that I totally disagree with you, Peter, as I think Geico is one of the strongest candidates I’ve heard, but even then, it’s a far from clear winner.

    And as for Dockers, are you kidding me, Greg? They’ve been advertising incessantly since the 80s. SNL’s “Bad Idea Jeans” skit was nothing but a parody of Dockers’ cheesy commercials of that decade.

    Remember, guys, I said within the last 10 years. It’s OK if the Brand existed before then, but it can’t have established itself as a nationally known brand before then. Both Geico and Dockers disqualify on that count, though Geico comes a lot closer to making the mark.

    - Jeff

  22. I was gonna say Geico but ya beat me to it ;)

  23. How about brands built on YouTube? *cough* BlendTec *cough* any others?

  24. Linda,

    Yeah, the idea of building brands solely based on “New Media” is largely garbage, too. And for the record, I still think “Interruption Advertising” is viable. What I don’t think is viable is the ability for that advertising to work absent a superior customer experience/superior product/great WOM. But if you have all those other things you CAN build an awesome brand/company absent major advertising drives.

    - Jeff

  25. [...] 3: Mac slams Microsoft for covering up real problems with Vista by creating fancy advertising [...]

  26. Airborne probably belongs in this category, but I agree with your point 100%. And I am a die hard Mac user.

    In fact, one of the biggest reasons I left being an in house executive in favor of agency work was battles with our CEO about the impact of cutting customer service to increase margins.

  27. Airborne really is interesting as it was built on a extremely savvy marketing plan and the company has now agreed to pay $23.3 Million in settlement fees because the product failed to do what the company claimed it would. So, Jonah, you definitely win the prize on this one. In my opinion, Airborne really meets all of the criteria I had.

    Still, there are some ways in which this is the exception that proves the rule. And while I’m tempted to go into them all here, I’d rather use it as a follow-up post. So till then, congratulations, Jonah, you named the first real exception I’ve come across.

    -Jeff

  28. Jeff, you are an idiot! you are right none of the companies you listed have marketing!

  29. Eric,

    Allow me to clarify: I was not saying that the companies I listed didn’t market, but that the growth of their brands was fueled primarily by word of mouth, great customer experience, and non-traditional advertising or PR, instead of from aggressive traditional advertising. That’s not the same thing as saying the companies “don’t have marketing.”

    -Jeff

  30. In New Zealand we have a saying: “We have no money, so we have to think.”

    The ones that don’t think, usually have to spend lots of money in advertising.

    But hey, I’m not complaining. After all I did start my career in advertising :)

    Sean
    http://www.psychotactics.com

  31. [...] a nasty cold.  In an earlier post I challenged readers to come up with a brand that was built within the last 10 years largely upon [...]

  32. [...] a nasty cold.  In an earlier post I challenged readers to come up with a brand that was built within the last 10 years largely upon [...]

  33. [...] The Larger Truth Behind Apple’s New Commercial [...]

  34. [...] The end goal of branding is to implant enough good associations about your product/brand/offer in the mind of the prospect to get them to buy from you once. You get one shot because actual experience either reinforces or destroys branded associations after the first purchase.  Lot’s of recent brands have been built on extraordinary customer experience and very little to no advertising, but almost no brands have made it with mediocre experience and lots of branding campaigns. [...]

  35. These mac commercials are truly entertaining and strike home even to PC users! I’m not a convert yet, but they are tinking away at my armor that’s for sure!

  36. I thought that was a great ad. There are loads of comparison websites that have now become big due to investing largely on tv ads. But I agree I think word of mouth is the best, just takes longer.

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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