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Why Apple’s Siri commercials are a cautionary tale for marketers

3 min read

Marketing Strategy

Last week, I wrote about how Apple is a master at announcing products. But the company’s marketing strategy isn’t infallible.

In a recent Monday Note blog post, former Apple executive Jean-Louis Gassée criticizes the company’s commercials that focus on the iPhone’s Siri feature, saying they stray from the advertising and marketing plan of focusing on the product that had become quintessentially Apple.

Apple has always focused on a personal approach to marketing products. The brand makes consumers want its devices by marketing how the latest device makes users’ lives better and easier. Apple convinces consumers that they need the latest iPhone or iPad. The brand doesn’t talk about technical features — it keeps the focus on the product. Instead of talking about the processor or the screen, Apple tells consumers how they’re going to use the product and the reason it’s better than competitors’ similar products.

In Apple’s Siri commercials, though, the company abandoned the method that had been so successful in favor of featuring celebrities such as Martin Scorsese, Zooey Deschanel and Samuel L. Jackson to advertise the iPhone 4S.

The issue is that the celebrities distract from the product. Apple is clearly trying to use them to demonstrate how Siri works and to celebrate the voice-command feature of the iPhone 4S, but including celebrities effectively takes away from the feature being advertise. Discussion of the commercials has been 50-50 negative and positive — this is not good news for a company that relies so heavily on buzz marketing.

Graph by Alerti

In promoting your brand, it’s important to remember that the focus must remain on the product. A major factor in Apple’s success is its genius marketing technique, in which the company successfully convinces potential customers that their lives will be better when they purchase an Apple product — a technique that helps the company build word of mouth. But recent mentions of Apple and Siri have been 91.84% conducted over Twitter. The network forms the backbone of its online buzz, so Apple really needs that social media dialogue to be positive.

There is much to be learned from Apple’s marketing successes and, in this case, mistake. Regardless of the channel, don’t settle for entertaining fans or boring them with technical specs. Instead, tell them how your product is going to revolutionize their lives and the reason they need it.