PS: I go into a rant about why apple launched this service in the first place. But If you want the thoughts about the new series, just scroll down ⇓ enjoy
As planned, Apple launched its service Apple TV+ on the first of November. Much to the delight of many viewers, we got a chance to watch three episodes at once of one of this season’s much-anticipated series “See” starring Jason Momoa.
The Apple TV+ subscription service can be called the first Major shot fired at Netflix as we are still waiting for Disney to launch theirs on Novembre 12th. Novembre will go down in history as the month when the streaming wars started and we still don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing for us, the viewers.
It doesn’t matter what Apple makes or launches because we know that even their least successful products get significant market share just because they are from Apple. Like it or not, when it comes to brand equity, Apple is the undisputed king and I want to argue that their branding genius is manifested in the choice of their flagship series for this new service.
Why is this a branding stunt
I always refer to branding as “The art of pointing”. What that means is that branding is a special type of communication where we try to plant ideas without actually disclosing them. It’s like hacking the consumer’s mind. Now, everybody does that all day without even knowing. A brand designer’s job is to do it deliberately and with purpose.
The first rule I learned about logo design is that the only thing to avoid on an airline’s logo is a plane. It’s too obvious. It’s too direct. What you want to do instead is to find out what the company is all about and try to transmit those ideas through visual mediums that refer to them. If your brand is about family values, community, and social interaction, then you might want to go with curvier stokes with warmer tones. That’s kind of where you start in branding
But as ideas get more complex, brands try to burry them deep under more subtle mediums that aren’t as easy to highlight. They transmit their ideas, their “hacks”, under multiple layers of straightforward communication that seem to be pointing elsewhere. It’s just like any magic trick. It’s all about misdirection. As the conscious mind is busy with the obvious stuff, we’re loading the unconscious mind with all sorts of ideas. This calls to mind the invisible gorilla experiment
So what is Apple trying to say here?
As I said, the messaging on these types of projects is on so many layers. None of them can be called the “real” message because they can all be real. But if we were to understand what the hidden layers are, let’s first take a look at what things seem to be:
The first layer: A shot at the streaming market
This one is straightforward: you get a great (supposedly) streaming service for $5 instead of the $12 or $13. Apple is also reportedly going to give away a one-year free subscription to everyone who buys a new iPhone, iPad or MacBook. Not only will they get a tremendous market share for their streaming service, but they’ll also give people more incentive the shell out the big bucks on an Apple device because of the 60$ discount you’ll be getting. You can also count on Apple making a Voodoo new feature for the Apple TV+ when they run on their devices. That’s already a great case for the new service, right?
The second layer: A potential solution to their Cash Problem
If you didn’t know about this, here’s an oversimplified summary: Apple and most tech giants like Google and Microsoft use a very cunning — yet 100% legal — tax scheme to avoid US taxes. The result of that scheme is that Apple’s money ends up stranded in Ireland. Money sitting in a bank account isn’t good business. Companies need to have their money working for them to grow. The regular solution to that issue is that companies use their big piles of cash to acquire smaller companies that earn them even more money. Think Microsoft’s acquisition of Linkedin or Google’s recent acquisition of Fitbit.
In Apple’s case, this is different. The first reason is that Apple makes more profit than Alphabet, Microsoft and facebook combined. Yes, combined. So they’d still have money leftover if they bought Spotify, Slack, and Mercedes Benz. Add to that the fact that what makes them who they are is their culture. They can’t be running around buying mature companies that have their own way of doing things. It wouldn’t work. Apple is a huge unit that operates cohesively. It’s their brand. It’s unlike Alphabet which chooses to have independent companies working semi-independently. learn more about this in Polymatter’s video. So what can they do with the $245 billion they keep handly in Ireland?
Now, I think that this should give you a good idea about why they chose to launch their own streaming service. Not only do they get to invest all that money in the cash-intensive business that has fat margins which is movie production, but they get to be safe from Netflix ( and Disney and HBO for that matter) because they know they can outspend them in production.
The third layer: Building an attention platform
Here’s the thing about the information economy: If you have people’s attention, you can make money. It doesn’t matter if people are listening to you talking about snails or bagpipes. If people give you their attention, monetization is the easy part.
Apple already owns a platform. Think about all the time we spend using their products. But the thing that they never controlled was what we do on those platforms. The move started with Apple music which is already ahead of Spotify on the iPhone. Now, we’re going to see the same move, for streaming movies and Netflix is going to be in trouble very soon.
Statistics show that the biggest thing in social media is video. Do you think that Apple doesn’t want a piece of that? Youtube is dominating when it comes to millennials and it’s catching up to Facebook’s as the number one social network (if you can call it that). Can’t this platform be apple’s way in on what is surely going to be the future of social media?
The fourth layer: Leveraging the Attention
Here’s the thing about movies. If you get people to watch the things that you pick for them, you can leverage that to transmit whichever ideas you want. Apple will be able to use the massive attention it will undoubtedly have to brand their ideas deep down into the minds of the unsuspecting consumers and I would like to argue that it already started doing that with the new series “See”. How is that you said?
The strange analogy between Apple TV+’s “See” and the Apple brand
Really? Apple… See… Doesn’t that ring a bell?? Alright, let’s break it down even further, shall we?
If you have been off the grid and don’t know what the series is about, it’s pretty cool. IMDB’s description puts it like this “ Far in a dystopian future, the human race has lost the sense of sight, and society has had to find new ways to interact, build, hunt, and to survive. All of that is challenged when a set of twins is born with sight.” Here’s the trailer
Isn’t that a little strange to you? Do you think that Apple chose this series just because it was the best possible idea? Don’t you think that the company that is known for its “vision” for the future chose the series about “vision” to be the first their customers “see” on the new platform? No? Well, let me tell you a story about the man who made Apple, the late Steve Jobs.
In a conversation with Newsweek’s Access magazine in 1984, Steve Jobs made a bunch of future predictions about technology including stuff about computers, networking, and startups. But his most bold and ridiculous prediction was about digital assistants like Siri or Alexa. He called them “agents” and had pretty much an accurate idea of what they would be like. His specific words were:
“I’ve always thought it would be really wonderful to have a little box, a sort of slate that you could carry along with you”
“In other words, it will be as if there’s a little person inside that box who starts to anticipate what you want. Rather than help you, it will start to guide you through large amounts of information. It will almost be like you have a little friend inside that box.”
Do you want to talk about Vision? This guy thought of these things before Cell phones, personal computers, and the internet were a thing. It is said that he once had a board meeting where he told everyone that a person would be able to perform their work tasks from the palm of their hands. He was, of course, fired later on for such heresy (among other things).
Apple’s history has always been about anticipating things, even more so than making trends. Remember the Macbook Air? The iPad? heck, Apple invented the iPod when people were running around with a freaking Walkman strapped to their pants! But I guess my favorite of them all was Apple Pioneering of white headphones. Yes, that’s right. Not wireless earbuds, just regular earbuds, but white, because all (or most) of them were black at the time. It’s the greatest marketing gimmick of all time. Do you know what that is? Vision.
I’ve watched the first three episodes and the analogies are uncanny. It’s about these twins gifted with the gift of sight, and who will bring it to a world living in darkness, tyranny, and superstition.
I know I might be overreading into this, but isn’t it strange that the first thing they release is in the core of their identity? Isn’t that what branding is all about? Building in your true colors, your real values and your core messaging deep down under layers of “regular” communication?. I don’t know for sure. But what I do know is that Apple knows that if they still want to be known for innovation and leadership even though their flagship device, the iPhone, brought absolutely nothing new to the smartphone space in two years, they better be doing something else to be convincing these people that they “think different”
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