This is why you're confused (how to NOT market phones)

When you work in marketing, you hear Apple’s name a lot. They’re good at marketing products. Really, really good at it. They not only make you aware of their new products, they make you want them. I realize a lot of geeky people read my blog entries, so put your tech opinions aside and look at phone marketing from a non-techy’s point of view. Apple does it right. So many others do it very wrong. I’m looking at you Verizon.

Apple’s method is to ignore the numbers. They don’t show you stats, or list features in one overwhelming list. They focus on the experience. What is it like to use an Apple product? How can it change the way you use a phone, communicate with others, or consume media? Their commercials focus on people, regular people, doing neat things with their software and hardware. The excellent Siri commercial shows people doing things you likely already do, just in a simpler, “gee whiz that’s cool” way.

And it works. I’ve used Siri, it’s not that amazing. In fact it didn’t work just as often as it did. But the commercial made me want to try it, just to see. I’ve used the Apple method at work several times. A recent example: I was doing some copywriting for a satellite Internet company and we needed to communicate how their service was faster than the dial-up service  most rural houses have to live with. They had an existing chart on the website that showed kilobytes per second, 2MB downloads and other numbers most regular folks don’t understand. I looked to Apple for inspiration. How do these faster speeds (which are still way slow when compared to cable or DSL) affect their lives? Instead of numbers, we used real world terms, things they’re probably familiar with:

-Download a song from iTunes in less than a minute
-Stay in touch with friends and family through Facebook
-Download a wallet size photo in seconds 

When you use terms people understand, and show them how your service makes things better, your marketing works, most of the time. There are some places where stats and numbers shine, and some audiences respond to them better than others. But on the whole, I think the simple stuff gets people in the door. That’s why I don’t understand why Verizon insists on their increasingly complicated Droid commercials. Watch this:

That was a really cool commercial, right? The first time I saw it I thought I was watching a movie preview, or a clip from a new TV show. No, I was watching a phone commercial. Huh? What does that commercial tell me about the phone? It’s powerful and it looks pretty thin. That’s it. We don’t see anyone using it, we don’t see any apps, we know nothing about it. In fact the only thing it does well is further confuse customers with Verizon’s Droid/Android marketing.

Android is an operating system, created by Google. Droid is a brand name Verizon uses to market some phones (made by several different manufacturers) that run Google’s Android operating system. Most of the casual phone buyers I’ve met think Droid and Android are one and the same. They are not. In fact there are more phones running Android that aren’t marketed as Droids on Verizon. Confusing!

It doesn’t stop with phones though. Verizon’s got another collection of terrible ads showcasing their 4G LTE service. Like this one:

The average consumer doesn’t know what 4G is, though some know it’s a good thing, because many carriers have been marketing 4G for a while (though it was really 3.5G on most networks, but we won’t get into that). Most people just want the phone with the most GBs. Verizon missed an opportunity here to keep it simple. Their 4G LTE network is the biggest and fastest in the country. Show two phones loading the same web page. Show someone downloading a movie in seconds. Show someone talking and downloading something at the same time. Simple! Effective! But no, someone in Verizon’s marketing department thought people jumping out of planes with lightning orbs would work better. It doesn’t.

Here’s another example, one I find especially ironic.

Jane Phonebuyer doesn’t understand all the crazy stats they’re marketing, so instead of explaining them or showing her how they make a difference, they just bring in a nerdy kid who reinforces the fact that all that stuff is confusing. Instead of showing consumers why they should want a product, they’re telling them. Any writer, storyteller or marketer that has half a brain cell should know that showing is always better than telling.

That’s why I’d like to applaud Samsung and Google. The Galaxy Nexus is coming out soon, and it’s a pretty big deal as far as Android phones go. They made a commercial for it, and it’s great.

Your average consumer probably doesn’t know that Google works with one manufacturer every year to create a pure Android phone. This phone usually carries the Nexus name, and it serves as the flagship phone for all others to copy. Nexus phones come with the newest version of Android straight from Google. Unlike most Android-powered phones, Nexus phones don’t have obtrusive UI skins and pre-loaded apps. It’s like the difference between buying a Windows computer from Best Buy, and buying a Mac from Apple. The computer from Best Buy will come loaded with software you’ll probably never use. The Apple computer comes to you clean, just the stuff you want. I think the Galaxy Nexus ad above does a decent job of communicating that.

There seems to be a new Android-powered phone out every week. What makes one better than all the others in real world terms? Carriers and manufacturers should be answering that question with their marketing, it’s that easy. Don't over complicate things. I know, some of those ads look really cool Verzion, but they just don't make any sense.