Mixed Signals is Erin Straza’s weekly musing about marketing miscellany in advertising, branding, and messaging.
When Apple’s iconic TV spot premiered back in 1984, it portrayed mindless folks sucked in by the unnamed (but obvious) computer dictator of the day.
The message was clear: Apple had come to set the captives free through its Macintosh computer. Through the new Macintosh, computer usage (and users) could be redeemed.
That messaging tapped into the desire we all have to be free and not bound, to be known and not stereotyped, to be empowered and not controlled. The market leader was portrayed as cold and heartless; Apple was shown to be of the people, by the people, and for the people.
When the underdog uses this messaging, it works. It worked for Apple, for many years.
But things are much different for Apple today. Now, in 2012, Apple is no longer the underdog. The new underdog is slyly using Apple’s 1984 messaging in the hopes of bringing down the new market leader.
In Samsung’s latest campaign for its Galaxy S2, Apple is now that unnamed-but-obvious computer dictator.
Samsung is using the underdog strategy to its advantage. Being the underdog gets you the sympathy vote. (And with a message as humorous as this one, it also gets some high fives for creativity.) Being the market leader makes you suspect due to your position of power; sympathy is hard to come by.
The response of the leader in such situations is key. For Apple, it would be fruitless to kick a toe in the dirt and whine about being picked on by Samsung. The best response Apple can give is to continue developing superior products, sustaining its reputation for innovation without groveling for approval.
Likewise, it would be fruitless for Christians to grovel for approval or whine about being picked on by the underdogs. But we can continue to pour out the superior, wondrous love of Christ, being exactly who God set us free to be.
And it would also do us good to remember that today’s underdog is tomorrow’s market leader — and vice versa.