Breaking down the new FaceTime ads – marketing value Vs feature value

Apple Insider has a post showing 4 new FaceTime ads – Do take a look. They are directed by Sam Mendes who directed American Beauty.

TechCrunch has a post which talks about how it seems as if Apple has hired Don Draper – Do give it a read. Here’s a key snippet -

Draper fires back,

Technology is a glittering lure. But there’s the rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash. If they have a sentimental bond with the product.

In the iPhone 4 FaceTime commercial, that’s exactly what Apple is playing up. As we’re all well aware, video chat, even on phones, is nothing new.

The FaceTime feature and the way it’s being advertised gives us a great chance to analyze and break-down Apple. These 4 ads are a really great way to understand everything that’s great and everything that’s not so great about Apple.

Marketing-created Perceived Value vs Actual Feature Value – Apple has both

We could break down a product’s perceived value to users into two components -

  1. The actual value of the product to users.
  2. How the value of the product is portrayed to users. 

Apple is very good at both. It helps better understand this if you consider Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Ethos, Pathos, and Logos -

  1. Ethos is your character – what people think of you.  
  2. Pathos is the emotional state of your audience – what they’re feeling.  
  3. Logos is the actual message – how strong and impactful it is.

With the FaceTime ads Apple is conveying a pretty strong message i.e. you get to share and experience some pretty strong moments via FaceTime. They make it a point to create moments that will have a very strong emotional impact on you and they link those moments to an Apple product. The ads reveal just how well Apple understands human nature.

It’s all about emotion and linking good, strong emotions with Apple.

They’re taking the single most important experiences of our lives and linking buying an iPhone 4 with being able to experience them better. Watching the 4 ads back to back breaks the effect to an extent because you realize exactly what Apple is doing. It also makes you wonder why people would not share those experiences in person – especially the birth of their grandchild and news of a pregnancy. 

Apple’s marketing works both ways

I’m obviously biased against Apple. As would be almost anyone who doesn’t like marketers and manipulation.

Let’s consider a few broad groups of reactions -

  1. People who get turned off by all the over the top marketing and therefore discount Apple products – Consider them worse than they really are (this group includes me). 
  2. People who love Apple and love the advertising and assume Apple products are better than they are.  
  3. People who fall for the marketing and assume Apple products are better than they actually are. 
  4. People unaffected either way by the advertising.
  5. People who try out one or two Apple products and then realize that Apple isn’t as good as it pretends.

If you fall under the category of person who thinks Apple products are magical and they couldn’t be better unless Apple themselves created something new then perhaps the advertising is working a little too well.

No matter how you feel about Apple you have to admit they are marketing geniuses and masters at understanding and influencing people.

Take the FaceTime ads.

FaceTime Ads are masterpieces in marketing and influence

Here are some things are left out – it only works on WiFi, both people have to have iPhones, that there are lots of products that can already do this. Skype has hundreds of millions of users using Video Chat and Apple are still going to claim to revolutionize things with FaceTime. It’s absurd.

Here are the things being conveyed at the subconscious level – you need FaceTime to better experience the most important experiences of your life, you need Apple’s iPhone 4, iPhone 4 is linked to the best experiences in your life.

The fact that it’s better to experience these important experiences in person and not over the phone is entirely left out. The fact that most people don’t need voice calling most of the time is completely left out.

Is Apple justified in all the claims it makes?

No, obviously not. The iPad TV ad states that you can experience every website in the world even though Flash isn’t supported. It talks about 200,000 apps even though there are only 7,000 or so iPad apps and the rest are iPhone Apps that have to be blown up and don’t scale well.

So it’s obviously marketing half-truth. It creates a strange situation -

  1. If you love Apple you give them the benefit of the doubt.
  2. If you dislike Apple you point it out as obvious misdirection.
  3. If you are unaware you tend to believe it.  

With FaceTime Apple are going to pretend that this is the first time video calling has been done even though lots of phones and Skype have been around for ages. If people point this out Apple will claim it’s the first time it’s been done right.

You have to stand back and look at the elements -

  1. Doing an important feature. There’s no doubt the feature is important.
  2. Doing it well. Again, it seems the feature has been done well.
  3. Selling it extraordinarily well. This is where Apple really shines – No company could come even close with its advertising.

Apple is doing all three things. However, let’s be honest here – It’s the marketing that’s the magical part.

Apple is 40% quality product and 60% marketing genius

In my opinion Apple are better at marketing than they are at making great products.

Are their products great? Perhaps.  

Are Apple great at making people believe their products are great? Absolutely. 

Human nature has a fail-safe where we never want to admit that we’ve fallen for trickery. In fact, we do everything to convince ourselves that we made the right decision. This is probably why Apple creates such fanatical users.

There’s no doubt the iPhone is a very good phone. However, Apple’s marketing and people who’ve bought into the hype want us to believe it’s a revolution and it’s changing humanity. Well, it’s just a phone and it doesn’t have particularly good reception.

The marketing genius – Steve Job’s ability to see people’s nature and play on that – is the core of Apple.

Can we detach and look at things without emotion?

You either think Apple makes the best products in the world or you feel that Apple sells and markets products better than anyone else.

In either case the emotions get in the way of seeing things correctly – If you dislike Apple then how could you ever know if their products are magnificent. You couldn’t – unless you detached yourself from their use of over the top advertising that seems tailored to work on gullible people.

If you are madly in love with Apple it’s the same problem – You wouldn’t really know whether their products are magical or not unless you stepped back from your emotions.

Taking on Apple is only possible if you use the emotional level or use Reality

Most of Apple’s competitors are competing on the logical level. Whether its Droid Ads or Kindle Ads they are ads that either ignore emotions completely or barely scratch the surface.

Apple however digs in deep – iPod ads with cool dancing, the ‘I’m a PC’ ads that associate Apple Macs with being cool, the new FaceTime ads that tug at the heart-strings. Apple are playing at the real level at which we function – emotions and irrational subconscious desires.

They are also getting better and better at it – iPhone 4 ads are much more impactful than any previous Apple ads.  

It’s a rather unfair fight.

Apple’s competitors need to start operating on one of two levels -

  1. A super emotional level. The same level as Apple except with added punch. An Android ad that shows a person talking on his Android phone and getting home to have one of these ‘special moment’ conversations in real life instead of on the phone.
  2. Via Reality. An ad that shows the user can’t find WiFi or loses it at an important moment. Then switches to Skype on the PC or an Android phone that works over 3G (don’t know if the latter’s possible).

Amazon are being too passive in their advertising. It’s time to show a really despicable annoying person with an iPad on the beach sitting down to read and realizing it’s not readable and then having all the people he/she bothered laughing at him and pulling out Kindles. Enough of the singing, dancing Mary Poppins nonsense.

You can’t just let a company weave illusions around your potential customers and get away with it. Everyone who’s used both a Kindle and an iPad and isn’t LCD compatible knows which one is a much better reader – It makes no sense to let the iPad keep fooling readers into thinking it’s a better eReader.

One Response

  1. Skype isn’t exactly a substitute, since no mobile phone Skype supports video. As an FYI, it’s a carrier restriction in many cases. Facetime works GREAT over a MiFi device. Their ads, of course, do mention WiFi in a footnote, but then, you wouldn’t REALLY expect an AD to highlight a downside? That’d be like Amazon having a huge stop sign in the middle of their Kindle ads with big, bold lettering entailing “Slightly slower page turns then LCD or regular books”. Nah, it’s not a deal breaker, nor something you would want to highlight.

    PS: Facetime is a published set of protocols, already tightly based on already openly published protocols. The only reason there’s no Android third party app is it hasn’t been released yet. I’m sure it’s being worked on, since Android devs seem fairly smart and it seems like a (soon to be) large market by virtue of some tens of millions of Facetime compatible handsets being shipped.

    This is all highly reading and/or PDF formatting related, though, of course.

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