Snapchat is a camera. Or at least that’s what Snapchat says it is in the company’s latest marketing push that includes the company’s first ever TV campaign and an educational landing page that answers the question: what is Snapchat? I’m sure if you asked any social media-savvy Millennial or Gen Zer to define “Snapchat” that they would be able to rattle off a quick description of the photo sharing and messaging app. But would “camera” be one of the first terms they’d used to explain it? It wouldn’t be for me.
It’s clear that a goal for Snapchat with it’s “A New Kind of Camera” campaign is to redefine the app’s capabilities into a simplified term that sounds more accessible to folks falling in the Baby Boomer and Gen X demographics. While I’m not completely sold on the idea that Snapchat should be considered a camera (technically speaking), what this campaign does evoke for me is the concept that advancing technology has the ability to redefine past innovations. In Snapchat’s case, it’s attempting to alter the connotative meaning of the word “camera” from something that takes pictures with a flash and a bulb to one with VR and messaging capabilities. Ultimately, it’s harnessing the power of an existing, beloved product category to build brand awareness for its own, more technologically complex product.
Apple took the opposite approach in its “What’s a computer” ad. Instead of latching on to an existing product category as a tactic to market it’s own brand, it tries to rename a broad product category—computer—with the Apple brand. The ad depicts a “post-pc world” in which the term “computer” has become obsolete to the younger generations of the time due to the rise of iPads and advanced iOS. Apple’s prediction of a computerless world fell short with consumers— sparking criticism and some hilarious reactions--mainly because it’s just not believable.
What lesson can these two ads provide marketers? Perhaps there’s value in just calling products what they are: Snapchat is an app and iPads are computers.