Why Apple Needs Your Ears to Market Their Products

It’s become an industry joke that the next iPhone is not going to have drastically different features from its predecessors. Yet, people all over the world wait in line the day before a release to get their hands on the new device. Samsung capitalized on this in 2012 with its “Next Big Thing Campaign,” a series of funny television advertisements mocking Apple/iPhone users. The ads promoted the company’s new Galaxy phones. With the release of their iPhone 5, Apple put out a series of commercials highlighting “new” features many of which were present on the iPhone 4 and 4s such as the “Do Not Disturb” button.  Consumers weren’t too impressed. The most interesting commercial to me didn’t feature the Williams sisters or a symphony orchestra, but ears! Apple’s most important commercial for the iPhone 5 was a 30-second spot about the power of consumers’ ears.

Apple tried to seem revolutionary that they highlighted ears are shaped funny and no two ear lobes are the same, but we already knew this. Why did they take the time and money to make this commercial then? Because they need your ears to still seem cool! When iPods and iPhones first came on the social scene, you were cool and identified as a trend setter if you had the signature white headphones in. Apple helped people make the statement that you were part of the in-crowd if you had small white headphones in. White headphones showed a consumer was a music enthusiast and technologically savvy.  

In the early 2000s, it was no longer acceptable for people to walk around with big, bulky headphones you seemed out of touch with popular culture and just plain living in the past. However, this all changed in 2008 when Dr. Dre released the first line of his Beats® headphones. Now, as I ride the train each morning I notice more neon colored big headphones than small white ones. Dr. Dre made it possible for people to bring out their big, once outdated headphones that were hidden in the back of their closet. Why was this problematic for Apple? How is a Blackberry user supposed to feel alienated on the train if they weren’t able to identify Apple users by those shiny white flags hanging from their ears?  A new in-crowd was forming and it seemed to be more forward and a lot cooler than Apple could ever be.

Apple doesn’t just want your ears, they need your ears. They are facing heavy competition from the droid market and once again need to create an “in-crowd” that people want to be a part of. They are also facing competition in the music market and need to once again stake their claim. How are they going to do this? Convince you that only their iPhone 5 headphones can perfectly fit your ears, giving you the best musical experience possible. Unfortunately Apple, it’s not enough. Apple is going to have to find another creative way to have consumers do their marketing for them. The days that tiny white headphones are for cool people are gone.


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