i'm with the brand

Verizon takes a bite out of Apple, forgets to put down own roots
November 27, 2009, 8:02 am
Filed under: Advertising & Branding | Tags: , ,

You really know you’re doing a great job when your competitors see their best bid for attention in borrowing your own vernacular to express themselves. Verizon’s recent string of ads appropriates (purportedly mocks?) key elements of Apple’s iconic branding and recent iPhone/AT&T Apps commercials to point out the brand’s failures–but who really wins?

A recent TV spot for Verizon’s Motorola Droid phone turns Apple’s famous “i” into a series of “iDon’t”s litanizing the shortcomings of the iPhone. The only thing is, with an aesthetic and verbal style ripped straight from Apple’s own commercials, the message is muddied–who doesn’t do these things? Is this an Apple commercial about a competitor’s phone that doesn’t do these things? Or what? Ugh not worth it, switching channel. But what do I remember? Apple, not Verizon, not Droid. Thanks for the free attention, V, I’ll be over here counting my money.

In another spot, Verizon’s refrain “There’s a map for that” slams AT&T for the iPhone service provider’s spotty 3G coverage, mimicking the “There’s an app for that” tagline of Apple and AT&T’s varied and long-running Apps campaign. However accurate the claims made, it’s a branding mistake that comes off more smug than playful and enticing, as if they’re so desperate to use that particular phrase that they didn’t bother considering whether it was the most appropriate to get their message across. If the iPhone is for the effortless and breezy, Verizon and their whateverphonestheyoffer are for the trying-too-hard.

The  lack of cohesion or campaign follow-through on Verizon’s part in pulling from such disparate Apple brand elements  suggests an unfocused urgency to find any way to make inroads, even if it means a haphazard pastiche of quasi-relevant mocking that rides Apple’s brand coattails to get Verizon’s own short-term business message across. As such, the fact that these ads exist seems more a badge of distinction for Apple, an indicator of its branding ubiquity and success, than an Achilles’ heel deftly pierced by Verizon’s arrow.

Perhaps people find these ads clever, perhaps it’s a matter of taste. There’s no arguing that they have led to at least some immediate business results, but they also represent a missed opportunity for Verizon: to depend so heavily on the competitor’s unique verbiage and iconic visual language gives the competitor audience brainspace, lends credence to their dominance and legitimacy to their brand, and ultimately just doesn’t seem the most judicious and sustainable method of articulating and building a brand on its own terms.

For an interesting pro/con take on the escalation in the iPhone/Droid ad battle, check out The Week.


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