Apple just announced the new version of the iPhone. I predict that it's going to be very successful, not just because it's a hot product, but because the competition has no clue how to beat Apple.
First, they need a better product, and they're failing to produce it. Instead, they're trying to use marketing to position their second-rate products.
It's not going to work, not just because marketing can't compensate for a weak product, but because Apple's competition couldn't market themselves out of a paper bag.
Here are the 5 MARKETING reasons that the iPhone 4 will not face any serious competition in the smartphone marketplace.
CLICK for Reason #5 the iPhone 4 will Win Â»
And for an opposing viewpoint, check out this post:
A few months ago, I spotted a billboard while driving out of Los Angeles Airport. The ad had a computerish background, with the phrase "a whole lot of does" and the word "droid." My first impression:a teaser for a Star Wars-themed horror film. (Studio pitch: "It's 'The Birds' meets 'Bambi' on planet Tatooine!!!")
But the billboard was, in fact, a Verizon teaser for what's got to be the scariest, and most off-putting, brand image campaign ever created. Take this video, for instance.
While the first segment of the video is supposed to be critical of the iPhone, the criticism is presented in textual form, and includes things like "open development" which are meaningful only to unrepentant propellerheads. Meanwhile the happy music somehow manages to make the "iDont" seem, well, sort of fun, especially when...
uh oh, it's the Droid, which is apparently going to kill you like one of the robots from the Terminator. That scary little segment about the Droid at the end of the ad sets the tone for the entire Verizon Droid campaign, which reaches its apotheosis in the Verizon Droid website (Click here... will open new window).
Holy Crap! That's scary... right down to the blinking eye on the cell phone. Hek, I'm already frightened at the power that cell phone companies have when it comes to acting like Big Brother from 1984, do you have to make it seem like it's a device right out of a Terminator outtake?
(BTW, Verizon implemented its web page so it locks you on that page. You have to close the window or tab in order to get rid of it.)
Anyway, it turns out that somebody paid Lucasfilm a royalty to use the term "Droid." But in the Star Wars films, the droids were cute and friendly, so you'd think they'd try to build on that positive brand image.
Instead, Verizon has come up with a brand image that makes you feel that every time you make a call, Darth Vader is going to stick his mechanical tongue down your ear.
If you're going for the "early adopter" crowd, it makes sense to market to a demographic that's into getting the newest technology as quickly as possible. When it comes to smartphones, that's definitely the millenial/GenY crowd that made Facebook so popular and turned Apple's products into such huge hits.
For some reason, however, the marketing team at Sprint decided to launch an ad campaign that's largely unintelligible to anybody under 50. Check out this video:
I wonder how many people recognized the X-1 aircraft (or even the Saturn V) if they didn't see the movie "The Right Stuff" -- the 1984 movie that was popular when the GenY consumer wasn't even a twinkle in the mailman's eye. (Sure, your average aerospace geek will get the reference, but the aerospace geek is going to complain that Saturn V wasn't a first, it was a fifth.)
Even worse, Sprint bought a two-page ad in the "A" section of the New York Times (we're talking BIG money to place that sucka), which contained, along with a list of "first" things, this comparison:
"First is not to be confused with Stephen Furst, the actor who played Flounder in Animal House."Could anybody have possibly come up with a cultural reference that would be less interesting to anybody under 50? Animal House came out in 1978 and while it was enormously popular to those who attended college in the early 1970s, but it's just not all that interesting to anyone else.
Obviously, Sprint's marketing group (like many of the ilk) is full of baby boomers who think that the world revolves around them and their shared cultural experience.
Notice to baby boomers: GET OVER YOURSELVES! Especially if you're trying to market a "cutting edge" smartphone.
I don't know about you, but when I think of a smart phone, I don't think about a half-naked alien chick talking about reincarnation. But apparently that seems like a good idea to the marketing geniuses at Palm:
Palm, of course, was recently purchased by Hewlett-Packard, so it's unlikely that this "half naked alien chick with scary music" campaign will continue. On the other hand, HP is responsible for this particular piece of idiocy:
You'd think that somebody at HP would have noticed that you can't use a cell phone (at least not to "communicate") on a plane while in flight. (Yeah, I know that planes are finally getting Internet service, but this ad was in 2008.)
One can only imagine what the combination of Palm and HP's marketing groups will come up with. My best guess: a Bizarro Superman theme. (E.g. "Me now use cell phone as screwdriver.")
RIM, the company that makes the Blackberry, recently released the following video in support of its Storm smartphone:
What's wrong with that? Plenty.
Competitor-centric ads simply make the competition look good. All they do is establish in the viewer's mind that the competition is the industry leader and the upstart is desperate to be viewed as superior.
The bigger problem here is that RIM doesn't understand how to deal with its market position. Blackberries have got the lion's share of the corporate market for smartphones. Their ads need to extend and strengthen that position, not position the Blackberry as an also ran in the "sexy consumer" segment.
While it's true that iPhone is penetrating the corporate market, RIM running ads against iPhone is like IBM running ads against Macintosh right after the Macintosh was launched. Why give even more credibility to the iPhone.
As the market share leader in corporate smartphones, Blackberry's needs to constantly hammer on how it's better for serious business usage -- and spend the lion's share of its energy making that a reality.
For RIM, going after iPhone is just plain stupid and simply makes the case the iPhone is the future of the smartphone -- in the business world as well as the consumer world.
Here's a cool, funny video showing how Microsoft's Windows Mobile is easy-to-use:
What's wrong with that, you ask?
Here's what wrong -- Windows Mobile is the exactly opposite of "easy to use", which makes the ad into an accidental satire.
Today's New York Times quoted Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as saying that, in essence, every computing device is a PC. Well, that's been Microsoft's guiding philosophy ever since the days of Windows CE, and it's resulted in a set of products that only a programmer could love.
According to the the "Staying Connected" section of the support page for Windows Mobile, here's a list of what you need to know in order to pull off the stunt shown in the video:
* Overview of ActiveSync and WMDC
* Install ActiveSync (for Windows XP)
* Install Windows Mobile Device Center (for Windows Vista)
* Synchronize your data with an Exchange Server
* Synchronize your data with ActiveSync and Windows XP
* Synchronize your data with WMDC and Windows Vista
* Start and stop synchronization
* Select synchronization information types and settings
* Synchronize by using Bluetooth
* Synchronize by using infrared
* Change your synchronization schedule
* Mark an e-mail folder for synchronization
* View information about synchronization status
* Overview of Information Rights Management (IRM)
* Activate Information Rights Management by using WMDC
* Activate Information Rights Management by using ActiveSync
* Connect to a proxy server
* Set up or edit a proxy server connection
* Delete a proxy connection
* Add an intranet URL exception
* Edit an intranet URL exception
* Delete an intranet URL exception
* Overview of Connect to a Virtual private network (VPN)
* Set up a VPN connection
* Edit a VPN server connection
* Delete a VPN server connection
* Overview of certificate management
* View or delete certificates
* Overview of exchanging info using connections
Now we know why so many people in India have an engineering degree. They need one simply to hook up a Windows Mobile device to their PC.
I post about the smartphones because, in the world of sales, few tools are more important. The truth is that I'm hearing over and over that the iPhone is the device of choice for sales professionals.
Most of the companies developing sales technology (CRM, Sales 2.0, etc.) are chosing the iPhone as the first target, even though Blackberry is more common overall in the business world (for now.) That tells you something.
Now, is it possible that some other smartphone will come around and kick Apple's butt? Yeah, maybe. And, to tell the truth, the battle isn't going to have much to do with how the products are marketed, but simply the way that high tech business works.
The way it looks now, iPhone is emerging as the standard and the rest are fragmented into multiple platform, each of which is struggling to reach the all-important point of "critical mass."
Under the circumstances, iPhone will probably end up as the "last man standing", with some niche players on the fringes.
The only thing that could prevent this from happening would be a a killer product that's massively better than the iPhone, has a massively better support architecture, and (frankly) a marketing campaign that doesn't suck wind.
Don't hold your breath.
If you enjoyed this post, you'll probably enjoy: