February 05, 2009

7 Lessons From Apple

The New York Times had a nice piece yesterday about how Apple has been kicking Microsoft’s ass in advertising for about a thousand years.

Here are some lessons from that rivalry.
1. Apple’s advertising is always about product benefits and differentiation. It is never idiotic “branding” like the Gates/Seinfeld atrocity, or “I am a PC.” No lifestyle bullshit, just clear differentiation between its products and its rivals’ products. And always done beautifully.

2. Apple knows who they are. Even though they have much bigger rivals, they are assiduous in not trying to be like them. They are content to be who they are and don’t pretend to be someone else. Their personality is clear, consistent and unapologetic. If you like us, great. If you don’t, so be it. This is an enormously important aspect of their strategy that most marketers are clueless about. It is never a good idea to try to be the second best Anything. It is far more compelling to be the best Something.

3. Steve knows good ads. Although I’ve never worked on any Apple business, I’ve heard that nothing important gets done without Steve Jobs’ approval. It is essential that a client organization has someone who can recognize good advertising in its early stages. It is perfectly clear that most CMOs can’t.

4. Bad names last forever. We are so used to the name Microsoft, we have forgotten what an alarmingly awful, cringe-inducing name it is. When you start with such bad taste, it’s hard to ever recuperate.

5. Everything starts at the top. I’m willing to bet that Apple’s marketing department is every bit as confused, screwed-up, and ineffectual as every other marketing department in America. The difference? They have Steve.

6. Great products make everyone a marketing genius. Duh.

7. Great agencies make everyone a marketing genius. Kudos to TBWA/Chiat/Day for its Apple work -- the longest run of great advertising in the history of the sport.
One last lesson: as Microsoft clearly demonstrates, you don't always have to make good advertising to be successful. Dammit.

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