All posts tagged Apple

Either you’re cool or you’re not.

If we listen to advertising, consumers have to decide whether we’re one of society’s cool people or humbly accept that we’re not. Well, I’ll just be over here with the uncool people. You know, the party-poopers. The nay-sayers. The “I’m going home” people opposed to the “I’m staying out” people. The warm tea – not the Jolt Cola – of life.

More and more, brands want us to declare which side we’re on. Are we on Team A who’s crazy fun, ultra confident, incredibly free, and comfortable with who they are or on Team B, a squad filled with the sweater vests of civilization? There’s no grey area, either. No place where we can be both. We’re either A or B.

Diesel Clothing

It all started a few years ago with Diesel Clothing and their “Be Stupid” campaign. In their Official Be Stupid Philosophy they point out that, in the world of the two opposing forces, “Smart may have the brains but Stupid has the balls.” Oh. I guess I can’t be ballsy and smart. Damn. Who should I side with? “Be Stupid”, they respond.


Bud Light

Bud Light extended the thinking by explaining the difference between “I’m out” and “I’m in ” be walking us through scenarios like, “I’m out is bright and early while I’m in is still out.” Geez. I love when I channel my inner “up-bright-and-early” self even though it doesn’t happen that often. Naturally, they finish it with, “I’m in has way better stories… and it’s own beer.”

See the spot here.


Recently, Hertz launched a campaign where they opted for a metaphor to define the two types of people instead of a catch phrase: “In life, you’re either the gas or the brake.” And if we didn’t get it, they actually showed a split screen of one kid jumping off a high diving board while the other lies terrified, clutching the end.

They justify the comparison in the end: “You may be flying by the seat of your pants or following a plan. But take it from me, with Hertz, you’ll always find your way. We’re at the airport and in your neighbourhood. The gas or the brake. Which are you?”

Well, does the gas person pick up their car at the airport? Or in their neighbourhood? I don’t know. So I guess I’m not sure which one I am but I hope I’m the gas.


Finally, we can’t wander into this territory without mentioning the grand-daddy of all of this. Apple’s “Get a Mac” campaign (which really should have been called the “Be a Mac” campaign) launched in May, 2006 and divided the world into Macs vs. PCs. Obviously, we all want to be a Mac especially when you see how PC is personified. Even that guy doesn’t want to be that guy. Here’s the very first spot of the campaign that aired.

I don’t know why this side-by- side human comparison thing bugs me so much. Maybe it’s because it just seems so polar with no wiggle room in the middle. And I guess I don’t enjoy having to pledge my allegiance to either one. Sure, I’m adventurous and all but I don’t want people think I’m THAT idiot. And while I turn up my nose at most of what the uncool people apparently stand for, I also find some peace in being totally uncool (as they define it) at times.

Here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying these are bad commercials. Hell, Mac’s campaign is legendary and I do like the grit of the others. They’re wonderful pieces of communication. I guess I just think the strategy is off. I think I’m different people at different times so neither depiction really resonates. The premise is choose a side. And I usually can’t choose.


Upcoming Events: I’ll be hosting the Art of Leadership (Toronto) on May 6 and the Art of Marketing (Vancouver) on May 9th. On June 15th, I’ll join Darryl Sittler, and senior executives from Allstream, Ciena, and Sun Life to moderate a discussion on Protecting your Network through Diversity.


The next Apple is…

I’ve been an Apple enthusiast for quite some time. A few weeks ago, I was backstage at a speaking event and I had my MacBook on my lap, my iPhone on my knee and my iPad on the chair next to me. A crew member walked by, shook his head and said, “You’re sad.” Perhaps. 

Obviously, Apple’s a great case study for a wide range of business topics including branding, advertising, design, innovation, business strategy, and more. That being said, I’m a little tired of talking about them. I use Apple in speeches all across the country and they’re kinda becoming a cliché. Mention their name and crowds start to auto-nod as if they’ve already heard it. It’s probably because they have. 

But who’s the next Apple?

I think it’s Dyson.

It all started when founder James Dyson was cleaning up with a vacuum and thought, “There must be a better way.”

There wasn’t. So he invented it.

Interestingly, most other manufacturers chose to ignore negative consumer opinion over vacuum bags. Hell, their business model depended on people buying them by the crate. Why address something that would eliminate a $500 million a year disposable bag business? Not companies focused on the bottom line. So they stayed the course.

Unfortunately for them, Dyson was rather focused, too.
Dyson became the UK’s best selling vacuum in 1995.

Can you say, “Disruption”?

Who doesn’t love the Dyson Airblade? I always wanted to help save the environment by avoiding paper towels in public washrooms but the gerbil-propelled hand dryers took 20 minutes to heat up and I’d only end up wiping my hands on my jeans anyway.

 Then, Dyson showed up.

They created a hand dryer that wiped the water from your hands with purified air traveling at over 640km/h. Throw in the fact that it uses 80% less energy and it’s easy to see why they’re popping up everywhere.

The Dyson brand promise is simple: We’ll make it better.

They made vacuuming better.
They made drying hands better.
They have even made fans better.

What I most like about them is that they don’t restrict themselves to any specific category. Vacuums. Dryers. Fans. I can’t wait to see what they’ll tackle next because I know that at the heart of it will be a well-designed product that solves a real customer problem by just being better. And if all goes well, we’ll line up for it at a Dyson store, book times with the Dyson geniuses, and look to them to save us from our daily frustrations. 

We’re waiting, Dyson. Please keep thinking. 


Thanks to @mylifeonlinenow for forwarding this article on James Dyson from Wired Magazine:


Once up a time…

Outakes from the last show of Cirque's Nouvell...

Image via Wikipedia

5 Tips for great corporate storytelling.

With more technology available to help us tell stories, we’ve lost the art of crafting the content of the stories and have relied on gadgets and software to tell them for us. Here are 5 tips that can help.

1.        Know your audience.
This is not only the first rule of comedy, it’s the first rule of storytelling. If you want to connect with someone, you first have to know what they care about and craft the story with that direction in mind. The same idea can be spun numerous ways. A marketing person will want to hear how your idea connects with customers. An HR Director will want to hear about the effect on employee retention. And your left-brain CFO will want to hear about the financial implications.

2.        Start with the end in mind.
Ideas are catalysts. When executed properly, they create something. So, tell that something. If I told you that I was taking you on a road trip to Las Vegas, your ears would perk up and you’d be excited. You’d probably want to hear more and immediately jump to questions, “Where are we staying? Can we see Cirque de Soleil? Is prostitution still legal there?” But if I chose to tell you in the linear fashion that many tell stories, you’d be bored by the time I said, “We turn right and head on to the Gardiner Expressway…”

3.        Describe the characters.
Even those who tell stories will often take the no-name brand approach, using generic people. “There was this guy…” or “we once had a client…” doesn’t add any colour to a story. We already know this. Ask anyone about their grade 6 class and you get first name, last name. “There was this kid in my class, Gregory Albrecht, who smelled liked pee.” Make your characters come to life and the story will, too.

4.        Move it forward.
While details are nice, you simultaneously have to ensure that you keep the story moving forward. My mom came from a great line of Italian – Quebecois storytellers but it could be painful listening to one of hers because of the wild tangents she’d take you on. Half way through, you’d be 8 generations away from the original plot, looking for an escape hatch to bring you back to reality. Move it forward.

5.        End with what you want them to remember.
“And they lived happily ever after” is often used in fables because that’s what we want kids to remember. It’s like a tagline. There’s a reason taglines are so important in advertising. They sum up everything that preceded them. If you only remember one thing, it can be the tagline because it should summarize all the details. Even Apple, which doesn’t have a corporate tagline, always end their spots on their logo. They want you to remember, “Don’t worry. What you just saw is an Apple product so you can rest assured knowing that it’s simple, innovative and fun.”

A couple of weeks ago, I worked with 600 sales people from Allstream in an interactive exercise that had them crafting and telling stories about the organization. We even picked 3 lucky contestants to get on stage and deliver them to the room. With little time to prepare and no rehearsals, they did it brilliantly. Here’s hoping you can, too.

Convergence. The New Primetime Sport.

Rogers Sportsnet

Image via Wikipedia

A little while ago, I had a few minutes, turned off the laptop and turned on the TV. Not something I do often but I decided to kick it old school. Why not? Sportsnet was on.


The show was Bob McCown’s Primetime Sports so I was actually watching a RADIO show from a Rogers owned radio station re-purposed as a TV product by Rogers to air on a Rogers owned TV network. Guess what they were talking about? Yup. The Toronto Blue Jays. Also owned by Rogers. And the cable that was serving the content? You guessed it. Naturally, when they cut to commercial break, the first spot was for Rogers Wireless. Ted would be so proud.


To recap:


I was paying for Rogers cable.
So I could I watch a Rogers owned radio program.
Re-purposed and produced for TV by Rogers.
To air on a Rogers owned network.
So they could discuss a sports team owned by Rogers.
That featured advertising for Rogers products.
All being sent through a PVR rented from the Mother Ship.


Is this evil or is this just old fashioned good business?


I know I may be in the minority here but I don’t think Rogers is evil. Not even close. Do I bitch about them? Of course. Who doesn’t? But what’s the difference between controlling our local content and Apple selling us a phone that connects to an app store, a music library, and a movie rental catalogue, and that synchs with a tablet, a web service, and laptop that almost exclusively features Apple software? I know, I know.. good service.


Bad service doesn’t make them evil, though. It just gives us a choice.


Capitalism is the purest form of democracy. If you don’t like their stations, their magazines, their sport teams, or their wireless plans, you have a choice. You can cast your vote by not buying. There are three new wireless carriers who all offer better deals and, presumably, better service. If enough people move, I can guarantee that things will improve.


Sadly, Canadians seem to be in an abusive relationship with many big institutions. We bitch and moan but we stay. I think that says more about us than it does about them.


So tune out. Stop watching. Start a movement. Or stay and live with it. The choice is yours.