The Art of the Launch


Yesterday Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Gear Smart Watch. If you’re looking for a review, look elsewhere. What I want to talk about is how Samsung continues to attack Apple (by becoming Apple).

When Apple became the powerhouse they are today, they did it with the help of big product announcements. Apple was not always first to market. They did not launch the first cell phone. They did not launch the first MP3 player.

What Apple was good at was the actual announcement. Yes, they made superior products. They made products that were visually appealing and easy to use. But the way they marketed those products was unlike any other company in history. Press events and fanfare, large budget television commercials leading up and following the launch. They created demand before there was even a product to sell.

So while other companies may have beat them to market, Apple always managed to “appear” to be in a market by themselves.

But now there’s Samsung. Over the past couple years, Samsung has been slowly stealing some of Apple’s thunder. Their advertising blitz against the iPhone has worked. They are starting to compete directly in R&D, coming out with new products and new features even before Apple. And now, with the release of the Smart Watch shortly before Apple is expected to release their iWatch, they are figuring out the announcement.

I imagine that several years ago, someone at Samsung saw an opportunity to beat Apple by being Apple. And I think they are there. They have taken what Apple does so well and copied it, even surpassing it in some areas. The battle between these companies is going to be long and hard fought, but one thing is clear. Apple is not in a market by themselves anymore.


Steal This #4 – Samsung’s Attack Ads


Welcome to the latest edition of my new weekly blog series, Steal This. Each week I’ll highlight a marketing activity that a company is using and suggest ways that you can model it and make it work for you. Last week’s topic was – Zappos VIP Service.

Today’s topic is: Samsung’s Attack Ads

Over the last year, we’ve all grown familiar with Samsung phones through their advertising campaign. If you could put yourself in the shoes of the ad team at Samsung before it all started, I wonder how you’d feel about the proposed direction of the campaign. Going directly at Apple, a company held in high regard by a large number of consumers, seemingly untouchable in many ways, was a big risk. Certainly there is a long list of companies who have advertised directly against a market leader and lost.

But now, looking back on the last year, knowing that Samsung’s market share in the smartphone industry has grown significantly, we can consider the ads a success. They have the fastest growing smartphone. They have not only taken a bite out of Apple’s market share, they have changed the way people look at Apple and the iPhone, opening the door for increase competition moving forward.

So how can you steal it?

Samsung’s success was helped in part because they launched a multi-billion dollar attack. You are not likely to have the same resources at your disposal. But you can “call out” a competitor in the same way they did.

Whose market are you after? Where is their weakness? How are you better?

Those are the questions you have to answer. Get into the mindset of a customer. The brilliance of the Samsung ads are that they “attack” Apple for some of the very same things that Apple fans love their products. They question things we’ve taken for granted. And make light of them.

As always, tell me what you think of this week’s idea and suggest other marketing programs to “Steal” in the comments below.


Steal This #2 – Sell the Emotion like Apple


Welcome to the first edition of my new weekly blog series, Steal This. Each week I’ll highlight a marketing activity that a company is using and suggest ways that you can model it and make it work for you. Last week’s topic was – Amazon Recommendations.

Today’s topic is: Sell the Emotion like Apple

Apple does not market features. They don’t waste your time telling you how many gigabytes of data your iPhone can store, how much the iPad weighs, how long the battery lasts without a charge on your Macbook.

Apple sells you on the way it feels to own Apple products. Their commercials feature “real” people using Apple products in everyday life. They are accompanied by fun songs and an emotional voiceover telling you how amazing their products are because of all the daily activities they impact. They market the emotion associated with owning their products. And they do it better than most, if not all, other companies out there.

So how can you steal it?

Maybe you don’t have Apple’s advertising budget  (over $1 Billion in 2012) or name recognition, but you do have the ability to “Think Different” about your marketing.

Start over. Think first about the people that you serve. How do you make their lives better? How do you make people feel?

Using that as a starting point, craft marketing messages that express and show the true joy or relief that people feel when they do business with you. Use images of people that your customers can relate to. Use headlines to express emotion and values. Incorporate testimonials that support the emotions you give your customers.

Once you start selling the outcome rather than the product itself, your brand will become more than just the sum of its products. It will take on a life of its own.

As always, tell me what you think of this week’s idea and suggest other marketing programs to “Steal” in the comments below.


What Should Apple Do?

It happens to many strong companies. A competitor comes along and starts to “call you out”. Right now, Apple finds themselves the victim of ads from Samsung. And here’s the bad thing for Apple, they’re working.

You would have to be crazy at this point to say that the opposite is true, that the ads are not successful. Samsung has gained share in the smartphone market, and have picked up momentum in sales compared to the iPhone.

Apple and their advertising agency might say publicly that it has no affect on what they’re doing, but internally, trust me when I say they’re taking notice.

So what do you do in a situation like this?

Here are your options:

  1. Respond. The downside of this is that it may be seen as a concession. An industry leader acknowledging a smaller competitor can help the competitor more than it helps the leader. The plus side is that you can address the “claims” being made against you.
  2. Ignore. The downside here is that you continue to lose ground, the competitor continues to find success, and the gap between you closes. The plus side is, at least you don’t help them.

But I think there is a third option here for Apple. Take some of your own advice and “Think Different”.

The style of Apple’s advertising has not changed in many years. It’s time to get the most creative minds in a room and come up with something new. Don’t call our Samsung, but don’t sit on your laurels and expect glory days to come rolling in.

And if you’re Apple and you’re reading this, I’m available to consult you on this transition.

The Difference between Investors & Customers

Investors want you to do more with less. Customers want you to give more for less.

Investors want you to grow. Customers want you to focus on them.

Investors want you to cut costs. Customers want you to cut price.

Pleasing everyone all the time is difficult. If you’re someone who has to worry about pleasing customers while at the same time pleasing owners or investors, I feel for you. But the one key way to do both at the same time is to offer a product that dominates the market.

Apple (until maybe just recently) is a standout company in this aspect. Customers loved them. Investors loved them. Their competitors hated them – but respected and envied them.

That’s the goal!