Stars & Smartphones

When reading Kevin Tofel’s live blog of Blackberry 10 launch, I saw that Alicia Keys was invited on stage to help with the launch and give it a little bump. [She is the new global creative director at RIM, by the way.] It reminded me of the Windows Phone launch with Jessica Alba coming out as a celebrity endorser. I wonder why these companies think they need endorsement from these so called stars. It is not like they are huge influentials and make a purchasing decision easy. Interesting, at Apple launch events, the only star is the iPhone. 


  1. crateish (@crateish) says:

    January 31st, 2013 at 6:57 am Reply

    Those bringing up Foo Fighters, etc. They weren’t part of the ‘schtick.’ Keys was an iPhone using prop.

  2. christopher rizzo (@iCrizzo) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 6:49 pm Reply

    The difference when Apple has musical stars perform at their events is most people actually believe they use an iPhone. Also, they are performing after/before the events not presenting the products.

  3. kurtwestphal says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 6:34 pm Reply

    the use of celebrity on ‘this’ audience, is perhaps wasted, but celebrity opinion leaders do matter to the unvarnished masses. the question is, is the product pitch and its user experience so straightforward and direct, effortless and elegant, that the masses ‘resonate and buzz’ amplifying the celebrities celebrity. Or is it arcane and ponderous and difficult, in which case, the unvarnished masses have no intersection and are in fact repelled from the product, celebrity is orthogonal in this case. Sales and excitement for the former, Bad PR and sales misses for the later.

  4. steve crandall (@tingilinde) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 5:50 pm Reply

    It will be interesting to see if this is a one-time event or if she is the celebrity-spokesperson. It sort of reminds of of Carrot Top and AT&T in the 90s.. an attempt to show clue with a segment that is different from the normal core marketing segment of the company. After all, BlackBerry probably needs to expand into other segments than business if they’re going to make it.

    I’m certainly not a marketing/branding type, but I’ve read my share of papers along with Ogilvy’s book as background as a friend and I were searching for sponsorships for her professional beach volleyball career. There are some places where this works, places where it doesn’t and a variety of justifications.

    Sports heroes do well as they are repeatably in the public eye. They tend to have more credibility if they are tied to a specific product and stay with it. Fragrances and cosmetics have very successful relationships with spokesmodels. But a lot has been written on failure and how that happens. Failing brands tend to go for it, brands that are trying to expand to other market segments, brands trying to establish themselves. Many of the papers suggest the ideal products are commodity-like in nature. Soft drinks, beer, fast food and so on. Innovative products are almost always diluted by this approach.

    Jobs used famous people (dead and alive) to create a better sense of the type of person who might use the product, but he rarely identified them directly with a product (some exceptions in band signature iPods)

    BlackBerry seems to be doing this for attention as well as attempting to get cred with other groups while (hopefully) not offending their core group. This strikes me as a sign of insecurity.

  5. Derek van Vliet says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 3:36 pm Reply

    And also the Foo Fighters.

  6. Eric Jacobsen (@Eric_WVGG) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 2:09 pm Reply

    … perhaps that’s why so many of us found the Samuel L. Jackson and Zoe Deschanel iPhone apps so misguided

  7. Carter Gibson (@CarterGibson) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 12:39 pm Reply

    The simplicity of Apple’s marketing is still not understood by many of the tech titans and this is another good example. Apple knows that people following the announcement are primarily concerned with the product, not who is endorsing it.

  8. Robert Jakobson says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 12:34 pm Reply

    David Ogilvy stated in his masterpiece “Ogilvy on Advertising” that using famous folks in marketing is counter-productive since the attention goes to the star of the show and not to the product.

    That was roughly 30 or 40 years ago. How little have they remembered..

    It would have been brilliant if miss Keys would have ended the show with a song or two. That would have given the brand just enough of the touch of good taste they were looking for. Instead they overplayed their hand. Giving someone well known a leading role just because they are well known will smell bad to your clients. It is like you do not care enough to hire professionals, seeming like a cheesy “CEO demands this” move.

    As far as the new OS is concerned, I recently lead the publishing of a solution with roughly a similar heavy dominance of gestures and “cool” effects based on cutting edge scripts and it bombed. It bombed hard. Since I am not a successful celebrity, I lost a lot of self-belief, not to speak of the respect of clients and my client’s customers, the confidence of my developers. It was so hard seeing something every stakeholder thought was innovative, not ornamented but animated nicely with touch of easy gestures — very modern, with a sense of proportion, fail so bad, so quickly. Like slipping into quicksand.

    I expect the same failure for Z10. Gesture based interfaces are still good for “special apps” like Clear for iOS but can not be taken as the main method of interaction. It will inevitably fail for now, even if the reason is that it is simply ahead of it’s time. That sinking feeling, I know that, I want to avoid it for the rest of my life.

    I would love people to understand gestures and animation of daily tasks intuitively, but they do not. And we are not here to change people. So we have to take the direction iOS has taken, where everything being obvious is more important than everything being over-simplified visually thanks to effects, gestures etc.. . Even if it looks uglier than a gestures based interface. It is simply how the order of things works right now.

    The more experience I gain in design the more I appreciate why iOS is built the way it is visually. It may seem boring, it may seem to lack in innovation — but it is obvious, it is the right way to order things for the mobile world. That is why Android copied it and nobody calls it copying — because when you copy the right thing to do it only seems appropriate (I still think app discovery and app search are broken in both leading mobile OS-ses, but those are small but significant parts)

    Sorry for trolling on your blog, could not help myself..

  9. Keith Whamond says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 12:26 pm Reply

    Nonsense. John Mayer, Foo Fighters, Coldplay… They’ve all played at Apple events, presumably for money.

    1. Om Malik says:

      January 30th, 2013 at 4:11 pm Reply


      Did you see then perform or pitch the products? That to me is the difference

  10. netgarden (@netgarden) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 12:02 pm Reply

    In general, it does seem to be the “Brand Clueless” indicator. One thinks of Intel’s naming of as Director of Creative Innovation in a similar way

  11. toomanyairmiles says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 11:22 am Reply

    Venkata. Jobs never claimed personal credit for a product and always complemented the team who created it, who were almost always in the audience.

    Most importantly he also always showed real joy and real passion in the products he was demonstrating – that was the best part. You came away thinking about what you could do with this amazing product, not about Steve Jobs.

    You don’t get that from anyone else.

  12. Chris George (@caldecav10) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 11:17 am Reply

    Au contraire, Venkata has a perfectly valid point regarding the reality distortion field that Jobs exuded…

  13. Nicholas Modesto (@NicholasModesto) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 11:09 am Reply

    Jobs was the master sales/pitch/presenter, but the star of the event was always the device or product that was being unveiled.

  14. Kip Beatty (@kipb) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 11:07 am Reply

    To be fair, Apple has brought many celebrities up at various launch events. No, not the iPhone, but for plenty of other keynotes/events.

    1. Om Malik says:

      January 30th, 2013 at 4:12 pm Reply


      To perform at the events yes, but not really to pitch a product though I do think they had teamed up with U2 once

  15. anthonyburger says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 10:58 am Reply

    They seem desperate to fill in the gaps of their product with a celebrity. Why don’t they just fill in the gaps. That always speaks louder than any celebrity.

  16. Jim Silverman (@jimesilverman) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 10:54 am Reply

    uh. and foo fighters?

  17. Barry C. Cook (@bccook) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 10:53 am Reply

    I’ve seen Chris Martin and Randy Newman perform at Apple events, and heck, the Foo Fighters performed at the iPhone 5 launch.

    1. Om Malik says:

      January 30th, 2013 at 4:13 pm Reply


      As you said perform and not pitch

  18. Venkata Ramasubraman (@venkatas) says:

    January 30th, 2013 at 9:50 am Reply

    Wasn’t Jobs the star?

    1. Om Malik says:

      January 30th, 2013 at 10:45 am Reply

      You clearly missed the point Venkata :)

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