Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Getting The Apple Juice

I have no envy for cellphone manufacturers like HTC, Samsung and Motorola. Historically they are in a very lopsided relationship, where carriers like Verizon, AT&T and Sprint dictate phone features, if they’ll promote it and of course the amount of “branding” that must be included in the advertising. Honestly, it’s a mess.

Love them or hate them, Apple has been able to avoid this mess. They’re dictating terms to the carriers, not the other way around. The dog, if you will, is wagging the tail, as it should be. Apple is in complete control of the iPhone’s design, name, specs and features. By having that type of control they’ve been able to build the brand while building the product. This isn’t easy to do. The Apple “juice” is what all the competitors want. You can bet Samsung and HTC what customers to recognize their brand and have an emotional connection to it a la Apple, the iPhone and the white earbud nation.

If you listen to agencies working on cellphone accounts you’ll hear a lot of whining about how they face a gigantic uphill battle in helping their clients get that Apple juice. They’ll complain about the rules, restrictions and influence the carriers have. They’ll talk about how their clients fold when the carriers push back and don’t allow the creative team enough latitude to create the Apple juice.

Personally, I think it’s bullshit. You can get Apple juice, if your smart. Motorola has done it 3 times. Once with the Startac, again with the RAZR, and recently again with the Droid product line. Motorola has some seriously real juice…not Apple juice…yet, but they’re headed down the right path. Motorola, like Samsung and others still answer to the carriers, and yet they created the kind of interest, passion and sales their competition believes is impossible.

I could wax on and on about this mess – and in doing so, offer up more than a dozen ideas for how to score Apple juice while still relying on carriers, but then I’d be doing the jobs of lazy folks, who lack innovative thinking, at the agencies who work for these brands/clients. However, to take pot shots without offering solutions is immature and not fair. So, with that, here are 3 things I’d do if tasked by Samsung to generate Apple juice:

1. Simplify the branding. Right now Samsung uses the following hierarchy for their cell phones: Samsung, Galaxy S, Product Name (eg Fascinate), name, Dedicated to Wonder, and of course Samsung Mobile. Oyve. Apple has Apple and iPhone. Ok, but that was an easy solution…and I’m sure the agency would say, but we’ve tried to get the client to simplify…but politics between division X and Y and politics between US and Korea (headquarters) keep getting in the way. To that I say, your job is to guide a client. A big part of building a brand is message hierarchy, you’ve got to figure out how to make that happen. If Motorola can do it with the Droid, you can do it too.

2. Outflank by leveraging a killer partner. For example, Samsung should be talking with Zuckerberg (I’m sure their agency has connections) to bring a Facebook phone to market. No, not a phone with a Facebook App or Facebook integration, I mean a real Facebook phone. As part of bringing that phone to market they should be pushing Facebook to pull Facebook apps for Android, Apple iOS and the like, or at a minimum reduce the functionality. We’re addicted to Facebook as a culture. If you could only stay connected to Facebook from a Samsung phone, you’ll get Apple juice pretty damn quickly.

3. Build a better phone. Yes, I said it. The product matters. It’s that simple. There’s a reason people fell in love with the Nexus One (manufactured by HTC), it was an amazing phone. I own the Samsung Galaxy S Fascinate on Verizon, part of Samsung Mobile, Samsung dedicated to wonder…it’s a great phone that was crippled by Samsung’s software. Ultimately all the Galaxy S phones across the carriers are the same. Sure there’s some nuances, but ultimately they’re the same…and each is crippled by the software. If you’re supposed to be dedicated to wonder, I wonder why you’re not dedicated to real uncompromising product development. Make a killer phone, get it in the hands of the right people and watch the juice happen. For example, why can’t I use my Galaxy S phone to control my Samsung TV? Just saying.

4. I know I said I’d offer 3, but this was such a no brainer I had to include it. Apple has a real retail presence. Samsung doesn’t. Where’s my Samsung store…full of truly knowledgeable associates instead of 18 year old part timers at the Verizon store? If you’re a brand inside of a brand inside of a brand (see Samsung sold in Best Buy by a Sprint representative as an example) you’ll never get the juice.

Getting the Apple juice isn’t easy. You’ve got to fight for it. You’ve got to be dedicated to getting the juice. But, it’s not impossible…if you actually had some innovative thinking. Or, as Rishad Tobaccowala says, the future doesn’t fit into the containers of the past.