In the world of technology advertising, the focus is often on showcasing a product's features and superiority. However, Apple Welcome Home TV commercial, promoting the HomePod, takes a different route by emphasizing the emotional connection it creates and the magic of music in our lives. What led to this unconventional approach, and was it the right strategy that helped Apple shine at Cannes Lions 2018?
With the rapid advancement of technology, the Smart Speaker trend has been on the rise and has become a common fixture in our lives. Tech giants like Google and Amazon introduced their smart speakers, Google Home and Amazon Echo, on November 4, 2016, and November 6, 2014, respectively. Apple, not wanting to be left out, launched its HomePod in February 2018, marking its entry into the smart speaker market.
However, Apple's entry at this point was considered somewhat late, as other products like Google Home, Amazon Echo, Sonos, and Bose had already achieved significant success in the market. Currently, Amazon leads the smart speaker market with a 61.9% market share, followed by Google at 26.9%, Apple at 4.1%, and Sonos at 3.8% (according to Voicebot 2018). Specifically, Apple's two main competitors, Google Home and Amazon Echo, showed impressive sales figures in Q1 2018, with Google selling 3.2 million smart speakers and Amazon selling 2.1 million Echo devices. In contrast, only 600,000 HomePods were sold by the end of Q1 2018 (according to digitaltrends 2018). Competing products had advantages such as lower prices, virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant with quick and responsive voice recognition, and diverse language support, which shaped the market and set higher standards for the smart speaker industry. Meanwhile, HomePod, with its higher price point and Siri's limited responsiveness, voice recognition, and language capabilities, put Apple at a disadvantage compared to other products.
However, did Apple recognize this, and why did they choose to launch HomePod with a campaign that focused on music?
Communication Objective: Increase brand awareness and highlight HomePod's core attribute as a high-quality sound device.
Marketing Objective: Increase Apple's penetration into the high-quality audio device market.
"Music has the power to change moods, immerse me in a different world, temporarily escape the daily hustle."
As life becomes busier and more hectic, people get caught up in the whirlwind of work and daily responsibilities. Over time, their moods tend to fluctuate, often leading to feelings of frustration and exhaustion. In such moments, music becomes the go-to solution for urban dwellers. Music has the power to change moods, immerse individuals in a different world, and provide a temporary escape from the daily grind. This is the indispensable role of music in modern life. Apple identified this psychological insight and used it as the basis for promoting the HomePod.
Apple's products have rarely been the first to enter the market, yet they have consistently achieved success through effective brand positioning and business strategies. Apple typically chooses to enter markets or industries where it has an advantage or a clear path to success, rather than attempting to compete in larger markets where it lacks an edge.
If Apple were to position the HomePod solely as a "smart speaker," it would likely face stiff competition due to Siri's limitations compared to rivals like Alexa and Google Assistant. Therefore, in this campaign, Apple shifted the HomePod's positioning to become a "high-quality sound device" to target the "high-quality audio speaker" market instead of the smart speaker market. Two factors influenced this decision:
Apple already had a strong foundation in delivering high-quality audio. Products like the iPod, AirPods, and Beats headphones were testaments to Apple's excellent audio quality. Focusing on promoting this strength would enhance HomePod's competitive edge.
The "smart" aspect, specifically Siri, would be viewed as an added value for HomePod rather than its primary feature. By emphasizing high-quality audio, Siri could become a differentiating factor that made HomePod stand out from other products with a "high-quality audio" positioning, such as Bose and Google Home. Apple may still have plans to compete in the Home Assistant field, but they might be waiting for Siri to be perfected and ready to challenge competing rivals.
Welcome Home – a warm invitation to the HomePod.
Based on the brand positioning and strategic analysis, TBWAMedia Arts Lab's creative team decided to build a narrative focused on the transformation of emotions through music. They wanted to visualize the emotional impact of music. Thus, the Welcome Home video content was created, featuring a simple yet emotionally resonant story centered around the transformation of space through dance. Welcome Home is an adventure through dance perfectly synchronized with music. While the technical production was complex, the main character of this video, HomePod, appeared in a simple, unobtrusive manner. This natural and straightforward appearance successfully conveyed the product's features and importance throughout the video. Every magical moment in the video originates from the HomePod. Without HomePod, these unique experiences would not have happened.
The promotional activities for HomePod included four teaser videos and one content video, Welcome Home.
Before unveiling the Welcome Home content video, Apple released four teaser videos: Distortion, Beat, Equalizer, and Bass. These teasers provided a glimpse of the HomePod's elegant design and highlighted its strengths in high-quality audio. Each 16-second video featured catchy music, including Holy Water by Hembree, Ain't I by Lizzo, All Night by Big Boi, and DNA by Kendrick Lamar.
To successfully highlight the role of music and audio quality, the narrative needed to be simple and relatable. Hence, the Welcome Home content video was created, focusing on the transformation of space through dance. Welcome Home tells a simple story, concentrating on the alteration of space through a dancer's movements. It is a dance journey that seamlessly blends with music. While the technical aspects of production were intricate and demanding to emphasize the power of music in changing moods and spaces, the main character, HomePod, appeared natural and humble. This simple portrayal effectively communicated the product's features and significance throughout the video. Every moment of wonder in the video is made possible by HomePod. Without HomePod, these unique experiences would not have happened.
Within 24 hours, Welcome Home turned HomePod into a global cultural phenomenon:
Ranked 1st on YouTube's Trending list and remained in the Trending section for 14 days, becoming the most-watched advertising video on the platform in March 2018.
Generated over 900 articles discussing HomePod in international media.
Received hundreds of thousands of spontaneous reactions on social media, flooding newsfeeds with colorful fan art inspired by iconic scenes from the story.
The song featured in the video, "’Til It’s Over" by Anderson .Paak, topped the charts on radio stations and online music streaming platforms.
At Cannes Lions 2018, Apple Welcome Home campaign received numerous prestigious awards:
Brand or Product Integration into Music Content – Grand Prix
Use of Licensed/Adapted Music – Silver Lion
Production Design/Art Direction – Gold Lion
Cinematography – Bronze Lion
Film Lions – Gold Lion
With its creative brilliance and precise brand positioning, Apple successfully shone at Cannes Lions 2018, earning recognition through a series of esteemed awards.
In conclusion, Apple Welcome Home campaign for the HomePod demonstrated how a unique and emotionally driven marketing strategy, shifting the focus from smart features to the transformative power of music and high-quality audio, can resonate with audiences worldwide. This approach transformed HomePod into a cultural sensation and earned Apple recognition at Cannes Lions 2018, underscoring the significance of creativity and effective brand positioning in marketing.