iDon't: Poor strategy, worse execution
In the past few months there have been posters plastered around my area of Manhattan promoting the idont.com web site. The site itself itself proclaims
Calling all free thinkers, contrarians, and malcontents. The time has come to rise up against the iTatorship. To resist the monotony of white earbuds and reject the oppressive forces of cultural conformity.What, you might ask, is this web site asking us to do? Will it give us open-source instructions for creating our own digital music player? Of course not. The site is an advertisement for Sandisk's Sansa e200, and it comes courtesy of that countercultural juggernaut, Grey San Francisco, part of Grey Global, which is itself part of WPP. They're about as underground as Berkshire Hathaway.
Now is the time to break-free from restrictive formats and a single source for music. It's time for choice, for freedom, for self-expression and - for all independent spirits to stand up and say "iDon't." You don't need to follow. There is now an alternative.
I think the campaign fails on two fronts: first, you have a campaign that tries (like the Honda Fit/Toyota Yaris campaigns) to reach an ill-defined group of people (youngish, independent thinkers, etc.) by trying to be all hip and edgy, but it completely fails in the execution—"Hey, groovy dudesters, don't be a sheep who buys into that iPod bullshit, buy our product instead!"; secondly, by deriding iPod users, they've shut out a huge group of potential costumers, namely those people who are considering transitioning from an old iPod to something new. With iPod owning 80% or more of the market, that might not be a good idea.
The desperation is palpable: in this week's print version of the Onion, there are no fewer than three ads for idont.com—zombies, donkey, and the Flocking Hell comic strip. You can almost see the sweat dripping down their faces as they try to be edgy but only succeed in digging themselves further into the hole. It's like some sort of seven-layer burrito of irony.
Take the Flocking Hell comic strip, for instance. Its format looks suspiciously similar to Red Meat (which is also in the Onion) and other alterna-comics. And the main thrust of it, which equates not following the pack (being a "sheep" or a "lemming") with buying a heavily-marketed product (the ultimate purpose of the whole iDon't campaign) is incongruous, to say the least. Now, I realize that the use of incongruence is a time-honored advertising technique, but somehow I don't (or perhaps iDon't?) think don't think this is the best application of that approach.
In the end, the appropriation of countercultural elements for a marketing campaign is often sloppy at best and at worst, counterproductive. As I've said before, simply using a certain tone or biting a certain style in your marketing materials will not give the product being marketed any kind of instant street-cred.
OK soda, anyone?