Last week I took SanDisk to task for
its silly iDon’t advertising campaign
—a gambit that tries to sell the company’s Sansa e200 flash-based portable music player by suggesting that if you own (or consider owning) the world’s most popular music player you’re a mindless sheep. Eric, the online voice of the campaign, attempts to brush it off as a bit of fun, a little bit of something in the spirit of Apple’s legendary 1984 commercial. He’d more accurately compare it to Apple’s disastrous (and pretty creepy)
Lemmings television ad, in which blindfolded business folk (those who are blind to the Mac’s sterling qualities) march off a cliff. As Apple (and Mac users) have learned, making the consumers of a particular product the target of your derision—rather than the product itself—is no way to make friends and influence people.
But we’ve been over all that.
Today I’d like to leaven my criticism with a little sympathy. After all, if I were faced with promoting a product in a space so completely dominated by a competitor’s product, what would I do?
It’s a very tough market. Just about any company with a soldering iron on the premises has released a portable music player. But unless your company’s name starts with
, ends with
, and has three of the four crucial consonants found in the word
sandwiched between, you’ve got a lot of spare inventory to move. What would you do to help nudge it out the door?
Initially you might try to build a better mouse trap. SanDisk and others have done just that by adding features the iPod lacks. On some other players you’ll find such attractive features as a removable battery, an FM tuner, recording capabilities, ultra-fast charging, and removable media. Some other players support audio and video formats incompatible with the iPod—Ogg Vorbis, Windows Media, and certain flavors of MPEG, for example.
Despite your efforts to convince them otherwise, however, it could turn out that while the technically-astute portion of your potential customers appreciates such niceties, the bulk of today’s electronics buyers are likely to peg Ogg Vorbis as a character in the first go-round of Star Wars rather than a music codec.
So how about putting your player in a better light by comparing apples to oranges? A number of companies boast that their players hold twice the music as the iPod in the same amount of storage space. Read the fine print and you discover that these figures are based on files ripped at a low bit-rate—64kbps WMA files versus the iPod’s default 128kbps AAC format. Hell, why stop there? Why not claim that your player can hold 8x times the number of tracks of an iPod and hope that potential customers are unaware that 16kbps music files offer the fidelity of a transistor radio played down 17 feet of drainage pipe?
No go? Twist the truth a bit more and claim your player is part of a less restrictive system than the competition. Surely your MegaMuzikPlayer is better because it can use music purchased from a multitude of online emporiums. (What are the chances your customers will understand that
Dark Side of the Moon
Dark Side of the Moon
, regardless of where you buy it?) Or hint that because your player supports a copy-protection scheme used by countless other players, it’s “more open” than the iPod. The informed know that one form of DRM is much like another, regardless of how many media services use it, but we’re talking emotion, baby, not facts.
Still not selling? Strap on your swagger, proclaim that you’ll bury your competitor, and, when you fail to do it, run to your lawyers and file a lawsuit claiming that you invented the air that circulates within your competitor’s product. Patent trolling ain’t pretty, but it’s won the day before.
And should, even after all your efforts, the iPod’s market share continues to climb and you’re stuck with a warehouse of unsold inventory? You might try to do things the old-fashioned way. Pray that another portion of your business is making money, invest in R&D, get a couple of good ideas that aren’t knock-offs of the other guy’s, build the machine that you’d want to own, make it easy to use, and tell the world about it.