/ 30 July 2012

There’s a lot of conversation in certain circles about Apple’s new “genius” ads. Are they good? Are they bad? I sense a danger for Apple in these ads, a change in the promise that Apple is making to its customers. This change has been underway since the iPhone 4S announcement, but these ads really highlight the shift.

Take a look at a typical ad from a while back, before the 4S (smart cover):

This ad describes Apple’s smart cover for the iPad without a single word. It is joyful and sparse. But most importantly, it promises something the customer can actually experience. In fact, it under promises, because the actual experience is even more fun and magical than the ad.

Apple’s ads used to do this a lot: under-promise. Then the company could delight the customer by over-delivering.

Look back at these older ads and ask yourself: how would a real-life experience compare to the story being told in this ad?

Now look at two recent ads from the past couple weeks (busy day and mayday):

While the humor and production values are arguable great, and the explicit stories are more or less on message for Apple, the customer experience will never equal what is seen in these ads. No customer is going to get anything like Mr. Scorsese’s speed or success rate with Siri and nobody on a plane is going to find their own personal Apple genius shuttled up to first class. Instead, Siri will frustrate as often as succeed and a genius is a lengthy wait away at the nearest Apple Store. Apple has over-promised.

The dangerous trend in these ads is that Apple is making its advertising more attractive than its actual user experience. It can only under-deliver. It can no longer delight in real life.

I think Apple should reconsider this course. It should refocus on ads that leave room for the customer to be delighted by the experience they actually have with the product. In this way, customers become evangelists for Apple’s products, rather than apologists for products that never quite live up to their ads.

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