In one of the most critically-acclaimed and popular North American advertising campaigns of all time, actor Justin Long was… a Mac (computer). Apple’s four-year, 65+-spot ‘Get a Mac’ campaign was previously highlighted here: WIELDING THE SWORDS OF HUMOUR. Have a quick look to remind yourself how good this work was.

Last week, Justin appeared as himself in a new campaign for Intel. Watch samples of ‘I’m a… Justin’ here:

The Background

From 2006 to 2020, Intel made all the core processors powering Mac computers. These were technically unique to Apple products, but Intel also made semiconductor chips for many PC brands. Apple introduced the first Macs using their own processor at last November’s ‘One More Thing’ launch event. That online event included a video featuring John Hodgman reprising his ‘Get a Mac’ role as a… PC. Here it is:

Switching Brand Teams

We can’t think of any previous examples of characters in highly successful marketing campaigns switching to opposing brands [1]. Actor Jonathan Goldsmith, The World’s Most Interesting Man for beer brand Dos Equis, reprised his role for Astral Tequila in 2017. We consider the first part of that story THE BEST MARKETING CAMPAIGN EVER. The second part? Astral Tequila did not enjoy the sales growth of Dos Equis, but it did get noticed by Diageo and was acquired in 2020. If the target group was not the consumer, then Goldsmith’s reprise may have resulted in the big win for the brand owners. Anyway, we would argue that Dos Equis and Astral were never presented as direct competitors, so comparison to ‘Get a Mac’/’I’m a… Justin’ is problematic.

A Win for Intel?

‘I’m a… Justin’ is cute in a nostalgic way. Poor Justin doesn’t have much to work with, except perhaps Apple’s annoying cleverness at forcing users to buy multiple premium-priced devices and accessories. Also known as great branding. “I’m a… Justin’ just doesn’t help the Intel brand in a good way with consumers. The campaign seems like a bad boardroom decision based on senior Intel executives being ticked off at Apple’s ‘I’m a PC’ dig at the ‘One More Thing’ event. Apple officially announced they would be moving away from Intel chips for Macs in June, 2020, but given long product development cycles, Intel would have been informed long before that—Bloomberg reported it back in 2018. And there’s no indication that the John Hodgman video was intended for use outside the Apple tent.

‘I’m a… Justin’ feels like a… fail. At least from a consumer marketing/business results perspective. Once a Mac, always a Mac.end-of-post-symbol

Notes and references:

  1. Oops—The Message reported today that in 2016, Sprint recruited Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” guy (actor actor Paul Marcarelli). This was based on a WSJ report, so cudos to The Message for doing more rigorous research than us.