Hewlett-Packard (HPQ)'s first advertising for the Palm Pre 2, launched Feb. 17, contains no surprises: It looks exactly like Apple's (AAPL) advertising for the iPhone 4. In fact, virtually all the advertising in this category (from T-Mobile, Microsoft, and HTC) looks identical: There is a closeup of the device as a finger skims through its features, on a plain background. Only Blackberry is currently running ads that don't look like Apple's.
Much is at stake. In 2009, Palm USA ruined its brand with a set of bizarre, creepy ads featuring Tamara Hope whispering at the viewer from what appeared to be a Magritte painting. A 29 percent sales decline led to the firing of the ad agency that made them (Modernista) and the acquisition of Palm by HP.
The sameness of the Palm Pre 2 advertising is unusual. Normally, companies are keen to make their branding as distinct from the competition as possible. In the smartphone business, however, there has been a convergence around Apple's cultural dominance.
The iPhone may not be the top-selling mobile device on the market, but it sure sets the standards. The craven similarity of the Palm Pre 2 ads to the iPhone campaign -- along with everyone else -- suggests that HP's brand managers feel their only possible strategy is to convince people that although their phone is not actually an iPhone it is, in all other respects, as much like an iPhone as possible.
Here is the Palm Pre 2 ad (which, interestingly, was completed prior to Oct. 21, 2010):
It essentially copies the form and style of Apple's iPhone 4 advertising:
Microsoft (MSFT) launched Windows Phone 7 with some original spots about the crazy way people will ignore while engrossed in their phones, but its latest ad is basically "iPhone for Windows," flipping the white backdrop for a dark blue one:
T-Mobile, of course, has for a longtime been stealing from Apple's successful Mac vs. PC campaign:
The company's explanatory videos go a step further, borrowing the iPhone's black-device-on-white-background styling:
HTC's campaign for the HDC 7 looks the same also:
Apple is actually increasing the visual clutter by promoting the iPad with the same visuals as the iPhone:
Blackberry is one of the few handset sellers that hoes its own row, with ads that focus on the type of people who still use RIM's keyboad device:
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