Apple’s ‘Your Verse’ Is a Case Study in Weaving Content Into Commerce
What will your verse be? It’s the question Apple asks their customers in their new content marketing campaign, a foray into brand storytelling that’s wholly centered on consumers and is woven into Apple’s commerce platform.
Marketers have long known that involving the audience is a core principle of a good brand story. With their iconic “Think Different” ads, Apple has a history of making users of their products feel remarkable. Their latest effort is no exception. In January, Apple launched “Your Verse,” an ad featuring a voiceover by Robin Williams that set out to demonstrate the various ways in which their customers use the iPad. The brand has since consistently released new stories on their microsite, all designed to showcase the iPad in different ways.
The stories are also front and center on the iPad product page on Apple.com. They’re literally the first thing you see when you go to buy an iPad.
In “Orchestrating a New Sound,” a conductor tells of how he uses an iPad app to make classical music “more approachable.” Another video recounts the experience of a hearing-impaired iPad user who travels the world with the help of translation apps. According to Joseph Barbieri, managing director of content & media partnerships at creative services firm Sid Lee, the videos bring together key elements of good brand storytelling: utility, entertainment, and purpose. “It’s a great example of how brand storytelling can be used to showcase product innovation, where the consumer is the protagonist,” he says.
In August, Apple launched two new videos featuring a Detroit community activist and a Chinese musical group. Both have been followed up by extended online-only versions posted to Apple’s YouTube channel. They adopt a documentary style, one tracking the activist as he maps the route for his pro-Detroit “Slow Roll” bike ride event, the other following musicians as they record the scratch of billiard chalk on a pool cue to integrate into their music.
The company has taken a similar approach for the iPhone, creating a short film called “Dreams” that peeks into the life of a jeweler, a doctor, a pilot, a veterinarian, and others to demonstrate how they use their iPhones in their work. The closing line? “You’re more powerful than you think.”
That’s the common thread running through each of Apple’s digital narratives: The story is all about you. The customer, not the product, is the star, applying his or her expertise to the device at hand. The user, the videos seem to say, is the power source, exerting his or her influence to make or do something great.
Increasingly, tech companies are eschewing traditional ad campaigns for branded stories that live online. Microsoft Stories—including “Snow Fall”-esque installments like “88 Acres” and “Station Q“—profile the company’s people and projects via interactive longform content. IT solutions company Logicalis U.S. generated $8 million in business by collaborating with a brand storytelling agency to create a “thought leadership e-book” for new and current customers.
What sets Apple’s new videos a part is a focus on telling stories that inspire. Brands frequently incorporate everyday people into their ads, but Apple has opted to profile consumers who use their products in spectacular ways. “Yes, they are telling their customers’ story through the videos,” says Anton Rius, digital marketing consultant at Seattle-based content marketing firm More Than Metrics, “but they chose some of the most inspiring people in the world, illustrating how they use Apple products to achieve incredible things.”
“You have to speak the consumer’s language, and you have to relate [brand stories] to [consumers’] own experiences,” Rius says. “Tech companies would do well to stop focusing on the features of their devices and begin to illustrate how their products enhance the everyday experiences of their buyers.”Image by Apple