When talking about good advertising strategies, it's rare that Apple won't come up. They've helmed some of the most creative ad campaigns of all time, and any entrepreneur stands to learn a ton just by observing how they market their products.
While their specific ad strategies have changed over the years, there are four qualities that seem to form the backbone of their campaigns. These four lessons stand out as particularly helpful to business owners looking to take their marketing a cut above the rest.
1) Keep It Clean
When it comes to effective advertising, less can be so much more. Many companies feel that they need to maximize their impact by producing ads chocked full of graphics and copy. But notice that Apple's ads are always pristinely clean. By using simple, unobtrusive fonts and making ample use of negative space, they draw the eye of their potential clients right to their product, which is where it belongs.
While the product is also elegantly clean, it stands out among the negative space.
This clean style that Apple perfected is so effective that it's become pretty ubiquitous. Even Microsoft, Apple's longstanding rival, is not above copying Apple's clean aesthetic to stay in the game. Cut out all the fluff so that the people can get at the product.
2) Keep It Simple
Apple's copy is simple, but inspiring. The company doesn't feel the need to put its technical specifications under the spotlight. Instead, they deliver succinct, provocative tags that spark the imagination of the user. Their copy is easily digestible. It doesn't overwhelm the reader. Apple doesn't "innovate technological solutions", they "Think Different".
The difference between these two approaches is critical. The first tries to impress you with a bunch of technical jargon that will likely just leave you frustrated. It's a big mark of insecurity. The other approach, already confident that its product is impressive, puts copy in front of you that engages your imagination, creating a bond between you and the brand.
While this simple style is synonymous with Apple, you'll find it in tons of successful ad campaigns--maybe the father of which was the "Think Small" campaign, launched to break the VW Beetle into the American market in 1959.
3) Keep It Real
This point should almost go without saying, all the great marketing in the world won't save you if your brand and product aren't where they ought to be. Apple's ad campaigns are great, but they're supporting what's already a great product. And that is the ultimate foundation of Apple's success.
As another example, take the mattress company Casper. They've gotten a lot of attention for their ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements, but what's keeping them going is that they have a solid product to offer that's innovative, well reviewed, and meeting the needs of their market.
Elegant, effective marketing should be nothing more than a reflection of an elegant, effective product. People loved Apple's "Get a Mac" ad campaign, but part of that was because it rang true: Apple's UX was lightyears ahead of its competition, and that's a big part of why people related to the "I'm a Mac" guy. In other words, don't try to get your advertising to save a sub-par product. Your ads should be showing off what is already great and exciting.
4) Keep It Light
Apple's ads are also funny and light--breezy in a way that suggests the confidence and familiarity of an old friend. To advertise the iPhone 7's water resistance, for example, they wrote that the 7 not only "makes a splash" but "takes a splash" too.
Obviously, humor like this isn't going to win any comedy awards, but in a way, that's also the point: this is the kind of advertising that's clever without calling attention to itself. Again, it's a matter of confidence: Apple is confident enough in its product that it doesn't need to take itself so seriously.
The home security company Nest, which Google bought in 2014 for $3.2 billion, also gets this principle. In advertising its home security camera, Nest doesn't wow you off the bat with the camera's specs. Instead, it slips you a clever and effective tag-- "Even the bad guys will stop and stare".
The lesson here is clear: if you actually believe in what you're selling, don't scream for attention. And at the same time, leave somberness and sobriety to public service announcements: your customers want to have fun.