Not so long ago (well, maybe 30 or 40 years) we already have a differentiation between products and services and when it came to advertising the difference was -basically-, that you could "touch" the former but you could just "experience" the latter.
Coca-Cola, Toyota or Tupperware were clearly products, that you could touch, feel, taste. Thirty years ago, services were things like American Express, StateFarm or Bank of America. Services were also called the intangibles.
Computers, and later on the internet, change this quite a bit. Companies selling their products directly online now were in need of branding their products but also to take care of their online service. On the other hand, software is at the same time a service and a product. It is not by chance that a lot of software out there allows you to have a free trial: it is their way of allowing us to interact with the product, to measure it against similar ones or against our own expectations.
And then there is the hardware. We can argue that hardware is a product because we can touch it, but that is not so true when it boils down to things like chips or processors. We can touch a processor, yeah, but... how many of us has ever touch one? Processors for us end up being more of a service as they translate into performance.
The intangibles are not easy to work with in advertising. They can be easy (or not) to explain, to show in action or to talk about, but not to so easy to position in a catchy, short, non-boring way.
Maybe that is why I truly love the new campaign from Intel "Our Rock Stars Aren't Like Your Rock stars". It's simply brilliant. If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:
What makes this campaign so good? To start with it's catchy, it easily gets your attention. Also, they make fun of themselves ("yes, we are geeks") but without getting to the extreme ("we know what rock stars are and how to react to them").But the true genius is that they are able to communicate a philosophy in a very simple way. They are positioning the company in a way that not also is good for the products but for the brand beyond the products. What I mean is that -for example-, it may also help in attracting more candidates to any job opening they may have. And they are talking in plain English.
Not so brilliant, but good enough, is the Cisco campaign for their "Collaboration Technologies" a follow up from another good enough campaign "The Human Network". My favorite ad from this campaign (due to personal and professional reasons) is without doubt, this one:
Anyone that knows me, knows already the personal reasons. "I Will Survive" is one of my favorites songs ever. But from a professional viewpoint, I think that choosing that song was a great idea and not only because it "translated" well to what they were trying to say but mostly because it is a song that resonates with most of the target they are talking to. Kids are not afraid of new technologies changing the way they communicate but as we get older, we tend to resist these new ways. The commercial succeeds in both getting the attention and delivering the message.
They are both exceptions to the rule. Online services (like websites or services delivered online) and computer products (with the exception of Mac), normally can't avoid the trap of overexplaining themselves and they end up being boring even for their own target.
Intel and Cisco have successfully managed to talk to their target in a really different way. Hat tip to both the ad agencies involved and the companies' management that decided to go this way!