A recent post by @famouscampaigns on Instagram showcased two hoardings from Apple: one advertising the iPod in 2000 and the other one for iPhone & Apple Watch in 2020. It showed the advancements in technology and storage capacities in twenty years.
Many pointed out that it also highlights the consistency in Apple’s advertising over the years. While the focus was on aesthetics of the two hoarding designs two decades apart, there are a few other consistent characteristics of Apple’s advertising over the years:
Product as the hero
Isn’t all advertising focused on a brand and showcasing it’s merits you ask? Yes, of course – theoretically. But as consumers we all know that we simply ignore a majority of the commercial messages aimed at us. And in a handful that we remember there could be issues like not recollecting the brand name and misattribution. These are largely due to insipid ads which fail to break the clutter. But even in the case of interesting, clutter-breaking ads, sometimes, the brand gets relegated to the background as the idea is not anchored around it.
In the case of Apple, all of its marketing communication – be it on own assets such as website or on media, is focused on the product – nothing else overpowers the narrative. Even when celebrities are featured in an ad, their usage of an Apple product becomes the story rather than the celebrities themselves (as is the case with most endorsement ads).
In many categories of advertising, especially those which are considered ‘lifestyle’ brands it is common to see vague or tall claims such as ‘for those who have everything’, ‘make a bold statement’ and such like. One can replace the logo of such ads with that of the competitor and they would still work. But one rarely sees such ads for Apple products – the claim is specific with the product as the centre piece.
Even when the ‘product’ is the corporate brand as with the Think Different campaign, the equation between the celebrity and the brand was on equal footing.
‘What is the one thing you want the ad to convey?’ or ‘What is the single minded proposition? or variations thereof is a common section in the creative brief format of every ad agency. But marketers love to say a lot about their product in every given opportunity. However the consumer has the attention span and inclination to have just one take away. When a product has several features to talk about – like say, the Apple Watch, several ads are made, each focusing on one feature while the campaign is held together by one idea.
Beyond laundry list of features, the benefits – visually
There was a time when ads for computers and mobile phones were nothing more than a laundry list of technical specifications. That has changed for the better now with many brands in the category showing the benefits of such specifications – speed, superior camera quality etc. Apple has always shunned the approach of merely listing specifications but has dramatised the benefit. Two examples come to mind: the envelope analogy to dramatise the thinness of MacBook Air when introduced and the Shot on iPhone campaign to showcase the quality of photography on the iPhone.
Evokes an emotion
Apathy towards most advertising is manifest in the fact that most of them leave the viewers cold. In contrast, most of the ads from Apple (and even the content on their website) evoke a smile or some emotional reaction – even if a negative one from users who aren’t pro-Apple.
Leave a little unsaid
The best kind of advertising is that which gets the viewer or reader involved and gets them to connect a few dots in their minds without the advertiser having to spell everything out. Many of the ads of Apple have this trait as seen in the Shot on iPhone ad among others.
Word play, pun, charm, humour
An under-celebrated factor in the image building of Apple is the quality of copywriting and design on their own website. The tone of voice and style is carried over in mass media advertising too.
CES the annual trade show organised by the Consumer Technology Association in Las Vegas is one event where major tech brands take part. Apple has skipped the event for many years. But when they put up this hoarding in Las Vegas last year, it generated quite a lot of buzz (and smiles).
Distinct brand assets
During the 90s and up to the launch of OS X, Garamond was the font of choice for Apple across the website and ads. The makeover since then has seen subtle changes and is seen across all the assets – be it hoardings on digital media.
Adding to mystique and cult status
Apple is among the few brands which have achieved a cult status over the years. Obviously the biggest contributor to that are the products themselves – then come everything else. Steve Jobs’ reputation and personality was also a factor. Apple’s advertising has also played a role in creating a larger than life imagery, building the hype and brightening the halo around the brand.
In 2007, iPhone had an unprecedented six-month window before announcement and product launch. During the Oscar event that year, the ‘Hello’ commercial helped to add to the anticipation of launch.
Earlier this year the iPhone 11 Pro was used to shoot a 5 hour film in one continuous take, on one battery charge. Such efforts, beyond just a regular 30-second ad adds to the halo around the brand.
There are many factors which have contributed to the success of Apple as manifested in the financials and the desire to own one of their products. A consistent, clear communication strategy and execution is one of them.