Is Apple redefining luxury?

Apple’s World Gallery iPhone 6 campaign, which won a Grand Prix at Cannes, is part of a wider strategy to shift the brand towards luxury – a new kind of luxury, writes Tim Milne

Apple’s World Gallery iPhone 6 campaign, which won a Grand Prix at Cannes, is part of a wider strategy to shift the brand towards luxury – a new kind of luxury, writes Artomatic’s Tim Milne


A couple of months ago on CR, Paul Belford wrote in praise of Apple’s Shot On iPhone 6 campaign, which scooped the Outdoor Grand Prix at Cannes for its long time agency partner TBWAMedia Arts Lab. Such is the way with awards that this might not have been the most innovative campaign, but since Apple is to advertising what Five Guys is to burgers – do something conventional (posters and TV; focus on the product and its benefits), but do it very well – the Cannes jury probably felt it was their best shot at covering their favourite brand in glory.

Though this was a campaign for (the camera on) the iPhone 6, it reveals a subtle change of direction as Apple tries to find new ways to keep up the momentum of continuous expansion (and keep Wall Street happy). This is a shift towards luxury and at its heart is the Apple Watch.



Making the brand more luxurious helps to sell watches, but selling watches also makes the brand appear more luxurious. However, this is a new kind of luxury, a luxury that’s not based on exclusivity and privilege.

Apple has to do luxury differently. Exclusivity means making less of something and Apple needs to make millions of things, so it has to cultivate a bigger collective aspiration to make this work. And it’s not alone in trying this: Starbucks told America that $4.00 a day on a fancy coffee was an affordable act of self-indulgence; Audi have cars for every conceivable niche and budget, so nobody need leave their showrooms empty-handed and Nike makes people believe they’ll all perform better in a $300 piece of sportswear. All of these brands are creating a new kind of collective and inclusive aspiration that tugs hard at emotional motivations to self-nurture because everyone else is.



The Shot on iPhone 6 campaign is Apple-advertising-as-usual (here’s the product and here’s what you can do with it) projecting a powerful vision. Where people appear, they’re all young. The images are rarefied and abstract with more than a nod towards art and exotic travel. This is an aspirational vision of youth culture that’s empowered and liberated – not just from clunky expensive camera equipment, but also from societal and parental constraints – to explore every wild corner of the world with just the phone in your pocket. This is youth-with-money and the freedom to roam the planet without any of the burden of mortgages and children that come later in life. It’s straight out of Conde Nast Traveller magazine – not the 18-30-holiday brochure.

The posters are free of sales messages and proliferating social media logos – Apple doesn’t do social media or digital advertising, but clearly understands its principles in the use of crowd-sourced images and a community around the iPhone 6 that owning one brings access to. We are ‘treated’ to full size imagery of an exotic location far, far away from the drab, gritty, claustrophobic urban spaces in which the posters appear. There is an implication of benign benevolence at work – the mighty Apple with all its money and power has taken over these public spaces (for our benefit) turning them into pop-up gallery spaces – art for everyone. In our message-filled world, serenity is a luxury good and Apple brings us a kind of sponsored tranquillity on our way to work.



The motivation is part technology and part consumer driven: diminishing improvements in functionality is making consumers upgrade less frequently. Apple had to come up with something new and radical…and it has – a piece of wearable technology – but in calling it a watch we accept what we do with it (put it on our wrist) without asking what it’s for, which might stop us before we got to the tills and thus limit its market (e.g. Nike’s Fuelband was for health and fitness). Watches are perhaps the most arcane of luxury goods; the language of exclusivity is abstracted beyond functionality – a fake quartz Rolex will keep better time than a real automatic one. So, Apple can piggyback on the language of luxury while enjoying some breathing space to see how people use the device.

Better equipped than Nike, Audi et al, Apple can redefine luxury on its own terms. It has the maniacal attention to detail, the clear vision and the resources to control every aspect of the customer experience and so can realise its vision without interference from uncontrollable outside influences. This is why it chooses traditional media over guerrilla stunts or daft emoticon campaigns (another big winner for CP&B / Dominos Pizza at Cannes).

Defining its own vision of accessible luxury is a manifestation of power and maturity around a simple transaction: give us your money and we’ll give you the feeling of luxury – tranquillity and freedom from garishness – and join a community that feels exclusive and privileged, but isn’t, because there’s millions of you.


Tim Milne is the founder of physical communications innovation and production service Artomatic

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