Complete this couplet: Designed in California/…
Have you met anyone that likes Apple’s new brand campaign?
(Here’s what it looks like:)
Big, clear and with a distinctive tone of voice, rationally what’s not to like?
Except ‘like’ isn’t rational, and among the Apple-carrying members of the marketing world we’re meeting, the campaign is leaving CMOs, Heads of Brand, designers and commentators feeling vaguely uneasy. Like Day 1 of measles.
Twenty years ago, there was something disarming about a man in a black Polo-neck jumper presenting the future of his company to a room full of suit-wearing analysts and journalists. Fifteen years ago, there was something resolutely naive about running a TVC with an animated silhouette grooving to tunes. And who wasn’t lusting just a little bit after the very first iPhone, launched in 2007?
But then we found out the cost of those black polo necks. The-six-models-in-five-years roll out of the iPhone started to feel exploitative (although, if the queues outside the Apple store for each new phone’s launch had been any longer, by the time the people at the back reached the front, they would have been first in line for the next generation). And recently we’ve found out the cost of manufacturing in China.
Meanwhile, Apple’s still pretending that we’re all just a girl in a bed, catching up on our friends’ status updates.
Apple wants us to believe they’re engineers and artists. But everyone knows that with a corporate machine of that size, there are also people whose job it is to make the decisions that will make the money that will feed the machine.
By rejecting as artifice the High School rules of grammar, they’re suggesting that what drives them instead is an iconoclastic, freewheeling passion. But taking your language styling from the average design agency’s one-note way of writing is no proof you Think Different. Instead of being immersed in the moment, Apple appears to be immersed in 1999.
While Apple says, ‘it’s the experience of a product that matters’, the experience of the ad is like reading fridge-magnet poetry, written by someone missing a few key pieces.
For a long time, Apple has been trading on plain, good guy transparency. And when you get found out, pretending to be genuine is the worst kind of artifice. A friend who teaches design to inner city young adults asked them, why do you all have Macs?
“Because it makes us more creative.”
At the end, the ad runs a headline/strapline, often misquoted as “Designed in California.”
But since “Made in [somewhere]” is a more familiar construction, “Designed in [California]” sounds like the the first half of a couplet, a warm-up to the more potent second line. And by leaving this second half unspoken, it prompts the reader to voice it themselves:
“Designed In Califronia/Made in China.”
By choosing an irregular construction for its endline, Apple hasn’t avoided the big problem. It’s underlined it.