Are marketers really going soft?

Al Ries argues the famous Apple campaign was a failure and too soft.

I don’t usually respond to articles in the trades, nor do I get into ranting, but I must say that Mr. Al Ries’s latest Ad Age column offers some pretty weak arguments in favor of hard sell vs soft sell.

For starters he confuses taglines with marketing. Taglines are simply expressions of a brand’s behaviors and beliefs. Ideally they sum up everything a company does and makes with a line that describes the product (The Ultimate Driving Machine), promises an outcome (Red Bull gives you wings), shares a compelling belief system (Real Beauty) or offers encouragement (Just do it.).  But if the brands mentioned above prove anything, it’s that a brand’s behavior – products, service, accessibility, and inclusiveness – not its tagline that really matters.

Secondly, in an attempt to support his argument, he completely distorts one of the most brilliantly crafted marketing efforts of the last 20 years. Apple’s Think Different campaign. Ries argues the campaign was an utter failure, claiming its emotional appeal offered little motivation to buy products compared to A thousand songs in your pocket, the line that launched iPod five years later.

What Ries neglects to mention, of course, is that Steve Jobs launched Think Different right after returning to a company whose diminished stock price, demoralized work force, sorry product offerings and empty pipeline didn’t leave very many options.

But Apple did have a loyal community of believers who wanted the company to succeed.  And Think Different gave them hope. The campaign was never designed to sell products. It was created to inspire the base, the market and the company’s employees. Which, of course, it did. When iPod emerged, it came from a company that once again stood for something worth believing in. One could probably argue that Think Different inspired the likes of iPod in the first place.

We live in an age when consumers are more media savvy than ever. They know when they’re being sold to. And they choose to consumer a company’s advertising just as they decide whether or not to buy its products.

The argument we should be having isn’t whether a tagline is emotional or feature driven. It’s whether or not a brand has a vision, the determination and resources to make products that deliver on that vision, and an advertising campaign that inspires people to take notice, play a role and care.

Sorry Al, but someone had to call you out.

10 comments
todorov
todorov

Sorry Edward.

Apple have waken up not because of Think Different just because Steve Jobs have succeeded to jump in the gadgetsmarphonestatusseeks wave.And that is where they have build their success.Just in the right time with right products. Apple should have sold the same amounts of phones and pods and pads with other stupid saying as well. This idea that Think Different has worked out their success is very very weak. I know hundered of people who use Apple products and no one had ever disccussed the Apple slogan,not one. Apple succeeded to lead a category in the right time with their innovation consumer perception.Simple Let us see how this slogan will help them for the cloudy future.

Thousands songs in your pockets is just brilliant.

 

jephreymaystruck
jephreymaystruck

This is timely, I'm working with an organization to define their core values and mission, I keep going back to "their brand is what they do, not what they say they do". The tagline has to simple and catchy but if the product is phenomenal it doesn't matter much, people will talk about it.  The simpler it is the better though. Your post has cleared a lot up. Thanks.

 

Cheers,

 @jephmaystruck 

 

 

hse
hse

Many people feel that the hard sell is the only way to go online. Many have discovered that by softening up your approach, you can easily get new customers.

rebeccacaroe
rebeccacaroe

Edward, never apologise for stating the facts as you see them!  Al is a big boy, I'm sure you aren't the first!

 

edwardboches
edwardboches

@paul_yole Anyone can have an opinion but really?

JeffShattuck
JeffShattuck

I just read Ries' piece. It's incoherent, a rant, a drunk in a bar. You sum it up best: "When iPod emerged, it came from a company that once again stood for something worth believing in. One could probably argue that Think Different inspired the likes of iPod in the first place." Well said, and true.

For Him
For Him

 @hse You need to follow both your strategy unless you figure out the right one.

paul_yole
paul_yole

@edwardboches Think Different wasn't a slogan. Steve Jobs said it was a tool that helped create change within Apple. The rest is history.

edwardboches
edwardboches

@paul_yole al obviously did not read the book.

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