Ad Redux

There was once a small, innovative company who was first in their field. They had built a product out of an idea, a spark of something that would change the world. Before beginning, they offered it to other companies, who rebuked and called them “crazy”. They go on to build the product and sell millions of it despite originally being told their was no market for it.

The competitors were wrong and quickly began to see the error of their ways. They rushed to enter the market. And what did the small, innovative company do? They ran an ad welcoming the competitor(s).

For those who know the history of computers and advertisement around it, you might be thinking the small, innovative company is Apple, known at the time of their ad as Apple Computer. In August 1981, Apple ran a full-page newspaper ad titled “Welcome IBM. Seriously.” when IBM entered the marketplace with a personal computer. The ad was tongue-in-cheek and probably meant to scoff IBM’s lack of vision for completely missing this revolution coming.

If you thought it was Apple, you are correct. But only partially correct. It appears another company has decided to take this same approach. If you have read a running or fitness magazine or website, you have probably probably already seen this ad. A small, innovative company is once again welcoming their competitors to the market.

More than 30 years since the original ad, Vibram has decided to embrace nostalgia and run a very similar ad. (Either that or their agency has just ran out of ideas.) For those that don’t know, Vibram introduced the running world to its FiveFingers shoes in 2005. In doing so, Vibram was part of the revolution that started the minimalist running movement. Minimalist shoes have removed (or significantly reduced) the thick, cushioned sole and designed a shoe this returns runners, like me, to being as close to barefoot as possible. The heel lift is nearly non-existent.

The similarities of the Apple and Vibram ads are striking to me. When I first saw the Vibram ad, I was instantly reminded of the Apple one. Some quick similarities on first glance:

  • “Welcome” of the competitor(s)
  • Pointing out millions of users
  • Noting the benefits of their product as perceived by the user

I truly wonder if Vibram considers itself the Apple of the shoe world. One look at the FiveFingers website and the words “It [Vibram FiveFingers] bucks tradition and makes people think differently.” pop out.

As a consumer of both Apple and Vibram, this ad has never spoken to me. Perhaps it does others.

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