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Idea: Show Customers a Picture of What They Can Do With Your Product

By Rex Hammock

In his witty jab at the outdoor advertising of his day, poet-humorist Ogden Nash parodied Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” (“I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree”) with these wonderful lines:

I think that I shall never see,
A billboard lovely as a tree;
Indeed, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.

I thought of Nash recently when I saw a billboard that’s a part of Apple’s “World Gallery” outdoor advertising campaign for the iPhone 6. They come as close as any billboards I’ve ever seen to actually being “lovely as a tree.” If you haven’t seen them, they are spectacular photographs enlarged to banner size, commanding attention on the sides of buildings on the nation’s most popular streets.

Other than a photographer credit line and small Apple logo, the only words appearing on the billboards are in the white border across the bottom of the photograph. The text is in a shade of gray so subtle it’s like a whisper against the breathtakingly bold photos:

Shot on iPhone 6

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but these three words and one number helped Apple sell 47.5 million iPhones last quarter without showing even one photo of the product. With this campaign, Apple continues to demonstrate an approach to marketing that focuses on making the customer the hero, not the product. Note Apple’s brilliant, but ironic, approach: The company that’s perhaps the world’s most lauded for its attention to the design of its products doesn’t even show its product in this worldwide marketing campaign.

And notice how nuanced, but precise, are the three words and number. Rather than use the phrase most consumers would use—”taken with an iPhone”—the copy uses the words “shot on iPhone 6.” A seasoned photographer will recognize those words as a reference to film, as in, “shot on Fujicolor PRO 400.” The message to customers is this: The iPhone isn’t just a better phone than any other phone, or even a camera better than any other comparable camera. It’s a medium on which you can capture images in ways possible only with film; a medium so special, images captured on it can be enlarged to Times Square size and not lose their beauty.

Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words. But Apple is reminding us that three words and a number can be priceless.

Bottom Line for Marketers: Apple continues to demonstrate with traditional advertising media that the best way to sell a product is to stop talking about how great the product is and start showing what customers can accomplish if they own and use your product.


Photos from Apple.com’s “World Gallery

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