Marketing Campaign Failures: The SanDisk iDon’t

There are brilliantly successful marketing campaigns, and there are gloriously failed marketing campaigns.  Each success and failure presents a unique opportunity to learn countless lessons along the way. Over the next few weeks, we will look at some famously disastrous campaigns, and what we can learn from them, starting with SanDisk’s iDont campaign.


What was the iDont campaign?

By the end of 2005, Apple was dominating the personal hand-held scene with the release of the iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, and iPod 5th generation.  Popularity for the small music player was growing at an incredible rate, alarming for competing companies like SanDisk.  As an attempts to squelch the Apple empire, SanDisk released their infamous iDon’t campaign.  The campaign featured graffiti-like posters filled with animals using iPods, comparing iPod users to zombies, sheep, donkeys, chimps, cows, puppets, etc.  Posters included phrases like “iFollow”, “iSheep”, “iHerd”, “the walking iDead”, “have you become an iPuppet?”, and “are you an iChimp?”  The campaign was supposed to convince users to use mp3 devices other than Apple devices, particularly SanDisk’s new e200 player.  SanDisk paid footmen to post the photos, hand out t-shirts and other propaganda on college campuses.


Why did it fail?

The iDon’t campaign failed for many reasons.  For one, most of the propaganda never mentioned the new Sandisk Sansa e200 series.  You had to go to the website, a blog “created” by a man named Eric (a fictitious person), to see what was up with the iDon’t campaign.  Even then, the blog took more time attacking the “iTatorship” of Apple than it did informing customers about the product.

Another reason the iDont campaign failed is that it insulted users of the iPod, their desired customer base.  There is an old saying that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but SanDisk did the opposite. SanDisk attempted to convince people to buy their product by comparing them to sheep, cows, chimps, etc.  If people already didn’t like the Apple iPod, they loved the new campaign, happy that Apple had a competitor. However, the target audience, 20-year-old iPod users saw right through the campaign.  Svlad Cjelli a user of  ars technica openforum said “What a brilliant ad campaign.  Corporate Entity X is corrupting _your_ culture. We will save you from the evil corporations. Come join Us*  *Copyright SanDisk 2006 *NOT* another evil corporate entity. Honest.”

And lastly, the e200 didn’t offer any new features such as better memory, lower prices, longer batteries, etc, it simply was a not-iPod.  If they had a compelling product to back up the creative campaign, people today might own a SanDisk-phone rather than an iPhone.  However, since their product was simply a not-iPod, rather than an innovative device, people didn’t buy it.

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