Ted Simon - Just a Marketing Minute

How to Succeed by NOT Succeeding at Viral Marketing - Apple's iPad

Some times you can be more successful by NOT being successful.  That's the case with Apple's iPad and their lack of viral marketing for their recently aired tv commercial.

In today's AdAge Digital, there's a column written about Apple's tv commercial for the iPad that ran during the Oscar's. The post calls out Apple for the company's apparent lack of willingness to actively participate in the social media explosion and try to secure huge viewership for its ad on the Web, i.e., "go viral."

It's a back-hand chastisement, a form of what they call "social aversion." The article even quotes an expert in the field as saying: "They [Apple] have willfully abstained at a time when everyone else is hopping on this bandwagon." The fact that "web viewing has stalled" is apparently cause for much handwringing among these circles.

Guilty as Charged
Oh, boo hoo hoo! If we'd all take just a marketing minute to think clearly about this, it would not be such a big fuss.

Since when did "hopping on a bandwagon" demonstrate business intelligence, creativity, leadership or insight into how to market a brand? Or, convey any success on a business?

I say Apple is guilty of whatever these folks are charging them of. And, I say: good for you, Apple! You are not falling prey to SNOS, Shiny New Object Syndrome (see my related post "Social Media - Beware of Shiny New Objects")! All Apple has done is think strategically (perish the thought!) about its marketing for the iPad.

Lack of "viral-ness"...so what?
The fact that there isn't a lot of "viralness" to the iPad Oscar commercial means little to their business. After all, since when did web views of a tv commercial become part of a business strategy?  Apple doesn't need that. The iPad is already all over the Internet. There has likely been few products that have been buzzed about, shared about, socialized about as much as the iPad (except maybe the iPhone...hmm...same company...how did that happen?).  It's time to reach for the broader, non-geeky public to create another "must have" product sensation.

Now, I do have to say that the commercial itself is not all that incredible. If you've seen the slew of iPod Touch or iPhone commercials, this looks pretty similar, only bigger (and with e-books). It's okay, but it's not something that I'd really go out of my way to talk about. But, Apple's fanatics will do that work for them eventually and pass it/share it/post it all around. Give it more than a day, people.

I'm thrilled to see that Apple is not putting tons of energy into trying to force the commercial to go viral (that usually backfires - see this post on "Viral is as Viral Does"). I'm thrilled when I see any company being STRATEGIC, and using their strategy to drive the tactics rather than vice verse. The author even acknowledges this in his article: "For Apple, it's all about driving the viewers to Apple.com, and a potential sale; dissemination of the video itself is secondary." Don't know about you, but I LIKE that line of thinking from Apple.

Apple is not guilty of the dreaded SNOS so many companies are falling prey to in our social media-mad world. No siree. Instead, Apple focuses on CREATING those Shiny New Objects so many people covet. In my opinion, THAT'S the approach worth sharing.

So, what do you think? Do you think Apple is taking the right approach in their marketing launch for the iPad?

When Sex DOESN'T Sell - Method Pulls Viral Video Over Sexism Complaints

Sex sells (or so they say).  Except when it blows up in your face.  Here's an example of how that can happen despite what might have been good intentions.

I'm a big fan of Method Products. Love their positioning, their product quality, their mission, their packaging. Buy a lot of their products. I also admire how they have built a company around a clear, timely mission (green clean) and outflanked many of the behemoths in the process. All good.  But, nobody's perfect.

Method's viral video "Shiny Suds" that was "applauded by marketers at the Association of National Advertisers annual conference last month" (according to Ad Age) was pulled down by the company and its agency, Droga5, after complaints of sexism (including a vocal minority who went so far as to even condone rape).

I look at all this and have to say...okay, people on both sides...just a marketing minute!

First, to all the applauders. I'm with you to a point -- I think it is strategically and tactically brilliant for Method to align itself this way with the Household Product Labeling Act (requiring ingredient disclosure of cleaning products). It's a good thing for consumers and totally in line with Method's position. And, who can argue with using a viral video tactic to get the word out?

But, while I can applaud the strategy, the execution misses the mark. There are a thousand ways to execute the strategic idea in a clever, pithy, memorable manner...and they chose a bunch of leering bubble scum oggling over a woman in her shower? Huh?! If the consumer insight is that people should be concerned and/or feel threatened by the chemical residue left by many household cleaners, okay...find a better way to portray that than a naked lady. Sex does not, and should not, always sell. It's the "easy way" out.

As for the vocal minority...ok, I can agree that this may not be a very good ad (that's my opinion and I'm sticking to it). But, c'mon folks...I hardly think the good folks at Method are condoning rape. Guilty of a poor choice of execution?...I'd agree. Questionable taste?...okay, I'll give you that. Condoning rape?...I'm sorry, that's a biiiig stretch (and please don't derive any sexual innuendos from my choice of words...none intended!).

This is a great case study for all of us. In today's world the ubiquity and availability of social media channels to communicate our messages and move people to act are limited only by our creativity. At the same time, that creativity still needs to mind some long-standing principals, such as "honor the consumer." Otherwise, you end up with a vocal minority crying foul...or worse, rape.

P.S. I hope that Method and others keep pursuing strategies like this one - they demonstrate how creative thinking CAN be applied in the marketplace and I salute them for their past and continuing efforts.