28 October 2012

Personifying the Brand: Lessons from Apple

So you're marketing Apple's iPhone 5, and you can choose any voice in the world for your ad.  Who do you choose?

Let's assume you're going for celebrity-association:  the uncredited voice of a mainstream celebrity.  Do you want the street-smart smokiness of a Mary Louise Parker?  The dyed-in-the-wool outsider vibe of a David Duchovny?  The sage likability of the so-trendy Peter Dinklage?

There are a kabillion 'right' choices, give or take.  Yet Apple chose a Georgian-born, Michigan-raised leading-man-slash-character actor, whose career took a sharp upward turn just this year:

Jeff Daniels.

Casting Daniels is as much about the right personality fit as it is about the right voice.  Daniels, to millions, soared back to the summit of the popular noggin when cast this year as Will McIlvoy in Aaron Sorkin's The Newroom.  Like the Apple brand, McIlvoy represents the un-establishment establishment:

The very sound of Daniels' voice represents the trendy newness of Sorkin's controversial hit show (controversial in that it's shameless about its political point of view),    Daniels himself may not be the age of the target consumer- but then, neither were Gandhi or John Lennon or Albert Einstein as the world remembers them.

Smart marketing is done with a feel for the great conversation (what used to be called 'buzz').  Right now, at the 'gut' level, Daniels is the perfect fit.

* * * *

Speaking of Gandhi, Lennon and Einstein:  here's another very interesting tale of Apple voice casting.   Perhaps you've caught wind of a recording Steve Jobs did voicing their famous "Think Different" ad.

Word is that this Jobs version never aired.  Apple instead chose instead to tap the brand equity of Richard Dreyfuss:

There's a popular line-of-thought today that Apple were fools to go with Dreyfuss, who's good, in favour of Jobs, who's brand took off during his second tour-of-duty with Apple, and soared with his illness and death. (It was Jimmy Hendrix, ironically, who'd said "once you're dead, you're made for life."

Jobs would not have been the better casting choice at the time.  Dreyfuss was.  But Jobs is the most potent choice now, his place in the Great Conversation hs changed, which makes me think that if Apple wasn't responsible for the recent buzz over the Jobs "never aired" version of this ad, they're undoubtedly thrilled that it's getting all the buzz.

Great voice casting is about so much more than mere voice and personality.  It's about seeing where the popular parade is headed, then finding your place just in front of it.