A Brand Bowl Scorecard: Part II -- The Tech War
John is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
A couple of the Super Bowl’s more clever ads came from the world of technology, and this year it featured two ads from Blackberry and Samsung, leaders in the world of the Android. These two companies rolled out their newest gadgets, mostly phones and tablets. The stakes were especially high for Blackberry, which announced that it was going to change its ticker symbol, putting them back in the investment spotlight. Samsung, meanwhile, has devoted their entire company, it seems, to trying to taking down Apple by trying to give its products the hip polish Apple has (Samsung did this by putting Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and LeBron James in their Super Bowl ad discussing what kind of ad to put on). Similar to how beer companies (mentioned in my previous Brand Bowl article) roll out new products during the Super Bowl, tech companies do it with just as much vigor, as you can clearly see in this year's ads.
The holder of the most famous technology ad during the Super Bowl, and probably one of the most famous ads ever, was Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL) “1984” ad, where the Macintosh was first announced to the world. It was at that time that Apple became synonymous with innovation and individuality. After a brief downward spell in between the Steve Jobs eras, Apple hit it big with the iPod, then again with the iPhone, revolutionizing the music and phone industry at the same time.
This wouldn’t last for long, as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) came out with its own Android network to challenge the dominance of the iPhone’s app market and mobile internet services. The non-Apple players, like Samsung and Blackberry (NASDAQ: BBRY) (itself having had a renaissance in the post-iPhone world), are now nipping at Apple’s heels with the new Google technology, with cell giant Verizon stormed out of the gate with the HTC Thunderbolt, which combined Android technology with the largest cell phone company in the country, as well as landing its own share of the iPhone pie. Apple and Google always raise the bar in the tech world, which is why investment and technology writers wait for the next innovation with baited breath and a steady finger on their stock portfolio web pages--but it could be worth it to give the other phone companies a try, especially since Apple is starting to get a bit pricey.
Blackberry’s ad to launch the new z10 kind of surprised me. According to NFL.com, it was the #1 reviewed ad on their website (beating out Dodge’s “Farmer” ad, which I’ll discuss at length in a later post), but it wasn’t tremendously flashy, funny, or suave like some of the other ads. Rather than go through the mundane of what it will do differently from competing phones, it emphasized what it won’t do, like stop an oncoming oil truck, or make yourself appear out of a sewer. This approach sort of reflects Blackberry’s re-launch of sorts, which began, in earnest, with a new stock ticker. The new stock ticker caused the company shares to jump 15% after the announcement, and there is hope that it could signal a new bullish era for the company, especially since the z10 ad came soon afterwards. Clever marketing pays off, and Blackberry is definitely worth looking into if Apple is just out of your price range. The company has a way to go to win the cool prize, but they made their presence known during the big game, and that can reap huge rewards down the line for the company.
Already having lobbed a few salvos at Apple, Samsung continued with the theme of being cool in its ad. This time, though, they laid off the new iPhone 5, or anything Apple-related for that matter, and instead tried to focus on the Samsung Galaxy--or as they call it, “the next big thing.” It was a funny ad just because of the Rudd-Rogen banter over who was supposed to do the spot, though the mechanics of the phone were left out, leaving some people confused as to what the Galaxy actually is, or when it’s coming out. Granted, nobody ever said ads were supposed to make sense, or even be related to what you’re selling (again, going back to the “Farmer” ad from Dodge), but if you’re going to spend $15 million to advertise a new product, you should have that product be more prominent, or at least have an ad that leaves an impression on viewers who will find it on YouTube the next day and share it on every personal account they have. Samsung seemed to do neither particularly well, which makes the purpose of the ad a bit questionable. Forbes contributer Hayden Shaugnessy theorized that Samsung is trying to make a name for itself more in developing markets, where Apple doesn't hold as much sway, which is a potentially profitable gambit, and create an environment where Apple may have to do the catching up. The new Galaxy may be a pretty good phone, but it didn’t get the pomp that I think it deserved for a Super Bowl ad.
In the tech ad wars, I may have to give the edge to Blackberry here. It was a bold attempt to remake themselves in a constantly evolving industry. It also shows that Blackberry is ready for a big move this year against not only Apple, but also Samsung and the other Android players. Of course, this also means Google is going to be a winner as well because it is their system that has driven the Apple challengers with ease of development and availability to tech companies for installation. It will be an interesting year to watch for not only Samsung, but also to see if Blackberry’s facelift is successful, and how Apple tries to step its game up to keep itself different, which it has been able to do for the past three decades.
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