Google’s released a slew of commercials in the last year attempting to sell Android, its mobile OS. The commercials featured a tagline of “Be together. Not the same.” It’s pretty easy to see the strategy that Google is shooting for: to contrast itself as much as possible from Apple. Apple’s notorious for having a strictly-regulated environment with regard to its third party apps and for putting a strong emphasis on the unique experience afforded by Apple’s hardware and software. Apple’s emphasis on aesthetic is a centerpiece of the brand’s identity.
Google sets itself against Apple’s monolithic presence in these ads—the implication is that Apple is the same, and Android allows for the consumer to express their personality. When the software is viewed without context, it seems this way: a fairly open environment for creating apps, a plethora of devices available at a variety of price points, and different skins and software for the OS itself based on the consumer’s service provider.
And it seems to work: Android has 78% of the mobile market share, iOS 15%. But the commercial has no bearing on these numbers.
Android has a majority of the market share because it is the default non-iOS operating system that non-Apple manufacturers can put on a phone. Samsung, LG, and Sony install it by default. Consumers looking for something other than an iPhone, either due to personal preference or financial considerations, almost inevitably end up with an Android phone.
Already having the majority of the market before these commercials, the intent of this commercial is to try to lure consumers from other providers—such as Apple, the target of the commercial’s indirect jab.
And then we get to the reason the commercials fail—they show the concept of differentiation, but not what it materially means for the consumer’s lifestyle or self-expression. Phones are scarcely seen in these commercials; we instead get monkeys and orangutans, people high fiving, and Android characters in different clothes driving buses. The phones are never seen, and the viewer never gets a chance to see how the phones are differentiated or how the experience is different than that of an iPhone.
Google was trying to make a strength out of a weakness, which is the fragmented nature of the Android ecosystem. Different phones have different software with differing levels of usefulness, and there are virtues and pitfalls in each different skin of the Android OS. This is why the commercial was doomed to fail: it couldn’t either show the universal experience of using an Android smartphone or show the variation without many licensing fees from the various providers and manufacturers.
And commercials of people high fiving with no clear indication of the product being sold, beyond its name, tend not to be very successful. There is a strong strain of useful customizability in Android phones, such as changing messenger clients and keyboards. But if your selling point is a philosophical point in the form of a slogan, you’re doing something wrong.