Ion Torrent’s Apple Spoof

So I ran across Ion Torrent’s / Life Technologies’ spoof of Apple’s “I’m a Mac” commercials, where Ion Torrent rips into the Illumina MiSeq a bit … okay, more than just a bit, the Ion Torrent attempts to pretty much tear apart the MiSeq in comparing it to the PGM. If you haven’t seen it, take a look…

UPDATE: As of 4/11, Ion Torrent has made the video private and it is no longer available for viewing. It seems they didn’t appreciate the mixed feedback they were getting. … UPDATE #2: And as of 4/12 it’s back! I guess Life Technologies decided a little bit of controversy might not be such a bad thing after all.

I commend Life Technologies’ marketing team for their guts to start an advertising war. It’s something rarely seen in the conservative world of life science marketing. If they believe they can out-market Illumina, then this tactic should benefit them long-term assuming they actually succeed in doing so.

That being said, there is a problem… Life Technologies just put a whole lot of cards on the table with that ad.

Part of the reason Apple’s strategy was so successful is, beyond the obvious requirement of getting the audience’s attention, it was a rapid-fire assault of consistent marketing messages highlighting various reasons why a Mac is better than a PC. People wanted to see Apple’s ads – most were very unique, some were funny – and Apple kept them coming. They used them in fantastically creative ways, such as on the New York Times homepage. They were about 30 seconds each and mostly focused on one small aspect, such as a positive review, hardware compatibility, bundled software, security, OS stability, etc. They showed their hand slowly which allowed them to sustain the campaign.

Life Technology / Ion Torrent did not do that. In their minute and twelve second ad, they talk about price, run speed and the 6 month delivery time of a MiSeq. There go your three big competitive advantages, all right there in one ad. Now perhaps this was calculated. Perhaps Life Technologies expects Illumina to pull a Microsoft and have a weak, if any, response, but counting on them to do so would seem premature at this point.

If Life Technologies spoofed the ad well and captivate their audience with this ad, which I think they’ll succeed in doing, then they could have drawn a lot more value from turning a single, highly effective ad into a highly effective ad campaign. They could have continued to engage the audience in the future, releasing a series of ads every month or two for a year. While I could see this video going semi-viral in the scientific community (albeit not nearly as successfully as Bio-Rad’s PCR music video), a sustained campaign could multiply that success. As it stands, especially if they continue to play their cards this quickly, I don’t think they’ll be able to turn this ad into such a sustained marketing campaign. If I’m right, they now need to hope that Illumina doesn’t have too many cards up it’s sleeve.

Illumina, in the meanwhile, needs to not pull a Microsoft. It certainly can. The brand image, while perhaps more polished than Ion Torrent’s, certainly isn’t of an old, dated, out-of-touch behemoth. It can strike back very well with a bit of creativity…

"If you’d like to discuss Ion Torrent’s “I’m a PGM” video, other video advertising in the life sciences, or viral marketing with Carlton, feel free to contact us and we’ll be sure to pass along the message to him. More info on BioBM."

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