Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Is mocking the iPhone still in fashion for rivals?

Years back, we analysed the situation when rival brands were snapping at Apple's iPhone. Jump to 2019, and the snapping is still trending. But why?

Eight years ago we raised a question - Why do brands enjoy mocking Apple's iPhone? We asked the question at a time when upcoming brands like Micromax and Karbonn were taking potshots at the rather established iPhone. Now, eight years later, the attacks still exist, although the attackers seem to have changed. This, nonetheless, still renders our question valid.

It's about ambush marketing; the attacker almost always punches at its equal or above its weight class. And in the iPhone's case, the brand has chosen not to respond to all attackers. It has engaged opponents like Google and Samsung on certain ad skirmishes but has left others alone.

According to reports, iPhone's market share in India is a little over one per cent and it has been struggling to make its mark in recent times. The brand has been having issues with global traction too. But what pushes rivals to attack? The brand has become that widely criticised star that opponents can't get over. So is it really a case of covert admiration then?

Among the latest examples is Chinese smartphone brand OnePlus - the brand dared Apple to ask Siri, iPhone's voice assistant, about India's top, premium smartphone. The search results threw up news updates about OnePlus' soaring sales in the premium smartphone category, surpassing rivals in India to grab the top spot. The news reports cited a 2018 industry report by Counterpoint Research, a global market analysis firm.

Is mocking the iPhone still in fashion for rivals?

OnePlus mocks iPhone
Click on the image to enlarge

In May 2019, in a global attack, Google presented its flagship model, the Pixel 3a as a less expensive option with a better outcome against the pricey iPhone. This was communicated in a series of ads and Google even placed its billboards displaying the price, right next to Apple's.

Samsung has attacked Apple on multiple occasions. In 2018, in its ads, Samsung mocked a host of iPhone X's features including "dongle life", fast charging and more.

Asking experts:

Is mocking the iPhone still in fashion for rivals?

Rahul Vengalil

Rahul Vengalil, founder - WhatClicks (a digital agency), says, "I don't believe that these ads are aimed at converting iPhone fans to android or vice-versa. The Apple iPhone may have only a small market share, but it is a brand that is highly aspirational for consumers. This also means that a lot of consumers are following the brand, i.e. they watch the ads, follow the features and know the offerings from the iPhone. When other brands take a dig at the iPhone, the assumption is that they are able to strike a chord with these consumers. In other words, there is a reference point in the consumers' mind for comparison and when that reference point is supposedly the best phone in the world, it is an easy sell," he adds.

Is mocking the iPhone still in fashion for rivals?

N Chandramouli

N Chandramouli, CEO, Trust Research Advisory, a brand intelligence and data insights company, says, "Apple was a product and marketing innovator creating aspirational products in Steve Jobs' time. If you owned an iPhone, it stood for something special and was a reflection of the consumers' personality. The only reason other brands earlier took a dig at iPhone was because of its cost, because they could not break the iPhone customer's penchant for the brand."

"Over time, the consumers have changed, some brands like Samsung, One Plus, have come out with phones by deeply understanding the consumer and packing so much punch that it has lured away consumers, and an iPhone today is passe and is no longer aspirational. Also, in the same time, Apple's innovations have been sub-par. Apple's inability to understand the consumer's changing desires and needs, is a leaders' inertia, a paradigm blindness, where they rest in their own cocoon of success. Now, the jibes from the competition are truly not needed, as the iPhone is losing the relevance it once had."