What on earth is going on at Apple and Facebook? Did Google bribe the companies' brand management teams to destroy their credibility, coolness and trustworthy factor in one fell swoop?
I'm talking about the recent Apple commercials showing an Apple Genius helping a series of befuddled middle-aged men and Facebook's decision to enter the online gambling market.
Facebook--a company slammed regularly over privacy violations, and running a service where it's vital to build and nurture trust among its users. This doesn't gel with online gambling. When I think about Internet blackjack I picture pop-up ads, blinking banners, and a group of slick hair Mafioso sitting in the Cayman Islands where their computers are going ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching, as people lose money and get infected with malware.
Facebook's earnings report disappointed the market, and there are questions about where new revenue streams will be, but online gambling? Reeks of a desperate way to get money.
I'm a fan of Facebook and haven't had any big concerns with how they have used my data. In short, I'm an ideal user for the company. Yet this move toward online gambling rattles me. Facebook wants to share my information with Adidas? Whatever. Let Intel turn my pictures into a virtual museum exhibit? Great! Might provide data to an online gambling site? NO.
It's a slippery slope from online gambling, to pornography, to selling Viagra knockoffs. How frantic is Facebook for money? All those millions spent addressing trust and privacy issues--undone by a decision to chase gambling revenue. This seems so astoundingly obvious that there must have been internal debate about whether to pursue this route. If only we could understand what drove their decision.
Now to Apple...a company arguably built on its image of being cool, easy-to-use, and inspiring. (Note to Apple-bashers, I'm not saying these qualities are true, I'm talking about perception.) The recent series of ads shows Apple customers as idiots, the Genius as a patronizing jerk, and leaves the viewer with feelings of awkwardness and failure. In one ad a guy has been ripped off, in another the wife-in-labor is used as a punchline, and another focuses on a man who forgot his wedding anniversary.
All of us will be or already are "middle-aged". These commercials show that in Apple's world, the middle-aged male is an inept Phil-like character from Modern Family. To the younger folks it's pointing out, "Hey kids, your dad is buying Apple". Gone are the Think Different images, the runner hurling the hammer into big brother, and the humor of the PC versus Mac guy. In its place is a vision of Best Buy, soccer moms, and suburban strip malls. They were commercials aimed at making you buy a computer. Did their own staff forget that they've never been about hawking computers? Apple's success is from selling a lifestyle.
Gambling and middle-age. This is the MySpace-ing of Facebook and Dell-ing of Apple.