I Don't Do iDont.com

by Jochen Wolters

iDont.com at first appears to be just another anti-iPod site created by a talented graphics designer with too much time on her hands. However, it actually is a heavily disguised ad for SanDISK's new Sansa e200 portable music player. Just like Real's ill-fated "Freedom of Music Choice" campaign from 2004, it claims to be about freedom of choice, of thinking for yourself instead of mindlessly following the majority crowd. Which, in itself, is a feasible marketing message, if it wasn't for the fact that the site's underlying leitmotiv is to insult iPod users downright. Have a look at their "Materials" section and you'll know what I mean.

If you have to resort to this kind of marketing tactics, more often than not it's because your product is not desirable enough in its own right, or is not different enough to lure customers over to it from the market leader. If you do have a great product, just showing off the product's features (including non-technical aspects like styling and prestige) alone should suffice to make that product successful. The iPod is a good example for how this can work.

But there's more to it: attacking your competitor's customers instead of your competitor's products is not only lame; it is downright dangerous. Regardless of whether this strategy succeeds in getting new customers to buy your product, it will ensure that those whom you attack may never consider buying from you again, even when they're looking for a replacement of whatever they are using at the time.

In the case of the SanDISK campaign, any time I'll be seeing one of their products, I'll be reminded that they once compared me to sheep, chimps, or donkeys just for being a satisfied iPod user. And I don't really think that someone who views me that way is worthy of my business.


2006-05-27 05:20:03
Which is kind of ironic, given that it's been the prime way Apple have marketed the Mac for years!
Maybe Apple will learn how unattractive that makes them appear.
2006-05-27 05:24:45
I've normally purchased SanDisk SD cards, but now I'll start exercising my freedom of choice. I think an advertising campaign that turns your current customers off is especially bad.
2006-05-27 06:10:57
Campagne? You mean campaign but must be thinking about champagne!
Jochen Wolters
2006-05-27 06:25:25
I wouldn't say that Apple used the same approach as their primary ad strategy, but they do have their fair share of "Ain't you stupid to buy something but our products" moments, as well.

But, you know, I wonder if maybe this is an age thing: I have to admit that, a few years ago, I had a well-stocked supply of sarcastic comments about Windows-users. But now that I have been working on the other side of the sales counter — as a figure of speech, mind you ;) — for some time, I definitely do not consider insulting any potential customer a good idea, regardless of which company the insults come from. And as JeffS's comment shows, there's a good reason for that point-of-view! ;)

P.S.: Thanks for taking the time to comment, guys!

Jochen Wolters
2006-05-27 06:34:05

Thanks for pointing out the typo; fixed it. Although, with the upcoming weekend-feeling, champagne would be so much nicer than any ad campaign. ;)

Black Eagle
2006-05-27 07:32:04
Well,I'm sure they want a big herd of sheep buying only their mp3 player (perhaps here they will call it iPod killer), because firms wants to get the best market share possible, and if it is 80-90% of it, then better. Let's see, if this happened, they would be happy of having the maximun number of clients possible, but that would mean that people are following their way, so would they call them "sheep"?
Hmm...so "sheep" are someones that, making exercise of their own right of liberty of choice, buy products that I don't provide??. Good, Sandisk, good...
2006-05-27 08:20:04
They couldn't even spell "batteries" right! What a class act.
2006-05-27 08:44:45
I tried to check out their site, but couldn't. It seems to be Flash based, and Flash, OS X, & Safari seem not to work too often for me. I've been told that it's because most Flash sites are not properly written - the site author takes improper shortcuts.

Can anyone offer any insight? I'm up-to-date on mhy Apple software, and have tried uninstalling, downloading the latest and reinstalling, all to no avail. This has been my situation for a year now.

2006-05-27 09:26:17
Too much Viral Marketing can make you sick.
2006-05-27 15:14:03
A search for "SanDisk" on the Apple Store yields four pages of products. Weird.
2006-05-27 17:34:53
How exactly is the iPod an example of marketing by just showing off the product's features? iPod ads are purely image and style, and I think trying to add a few cracks to that image is fair game. It's about time someone had the balls to tap into the anti-iPod backlash that already exists, and I say good on SanDisk for going for it.
Jochen Wolters
2006-05-28 05:31:36

Select "Installed Plug-Ins" from Safari's Help menu and check which Flash player you're using. Shockwave Flash version 8.0 r24 is installed on my Mac, and with Safari 2.0.3 (417.9.3), it displays the iDont.com site just fine.

Jochen Wolters
2006-05-28 05:39:47

You're absolutely right, iPod ads focus on image only. Which, IMHO, makes it even more impressive that that device sells so well. ;) I also agree with you that there is nothing wrong in trying to put some stains on the iPods image. E.g., the guys behind iPod's Dirty Secret do have a very valid point about the iPod's battery not being user-exchangeable. But that's a problem with the device, not with the device's buyers.

The key difference as I see it is that it's fine to say that a product sucks; but it is risky marketing to say that a product's users are stupid. And it's the latter that SanDISK is doing on their site.

Chris S
2006-05-28 11:53:46
There is one huge difference between what Apple does with its "Ain't you stupid to buy something but our products" and this website: Apple does so under its own name and the customer is fully aware that the message is coming from Apple itself. This website, in contrast, insults iPod users under a facade, then offers their own product as an alternative. I have no problem with insults, as long as they have some grain of truth to them, as both iDont.com and Apple's marketing campaigns do, and as long as both the insulter and the intent are clear. Apple wants you to convert to their product. That idea is perfectly clear in their campaign. SanDisk, on the other hand, is hiding behing a false website which seems to try to convert you off the iPod, but really they are just selling their own product. They are too cowardly to attack Apple under their own name and do not believe their customers are intelligent enough to pick the better player on their own, so they must use deception.
2006-05-28 20:30:20
Have you seen the latest Mac commercials? Intel's "boring little tasks"? I'm a PC? Those are just as offensive to non-Mac users.

The main difference is that they have no real substance beyond the slander, whereas the point of iDont.com is that Apple and the DRM crowd want to change the nature of ownership, and that so many clueless anti-intellectual (ease-of-use cult) rubes are making this theft (now you own it, now you don't) so successful.

Sean S.
2006-05-28 23:43:45
To say calling consumers stupid is a bad marketing trick is ignoring the fact that ALL marketing is essentially calling the consumer stupid (or suggesting that their current state of affairs is inferior). Luxury cars sell because they promote the idea that those driving it (and thus those in the audience who currently aren't) are superior. Apple is doing the same thing now with it Windows vs. Mac ads, by suggesting, essentially, that those with Windows are clearly not with it, and are obviously dull and unexciting and doing equally dull and unexciting things. Is this true? Of course not. Burning a CD with iTunes is not somehow way cooler than burning a CD via k3b (or via a command line over ssh to a remote media server like I myself do). It's burning a CD.

That said, I don't think SanDisk, like the poster above, is out to expose some sort of nefarious DRM scheme. As indicated by SanDisk's own willingness to work with Sony and others on proprietary formats, its not like SanDisk is somehow opensourcing everything and just inventing new open hardware media standards. Open source chip design (ala Sun's own T1) this ain't. Hell, its not even open source run (like the Neuros or the GP2x, both media players running off portable Linux kernel). They're out to sell their product by any means necessary, and if that means being mildly deceptive so be it.

I don't think Sandisk, or any of the other straight mp3 players will be the ones that make it however. I think the future really belongs to those, like the Neuros or the gp2x (though not necessarily those exact products) that have a high potential for swiss army knife capability. Than again, the idea of emulating obscure Japanese portables excites me, so maybe I'm not exactly the "mainstream" market.

Jochen Wolters
2006-05-29 02:46:18

As long as media players support the MP3 format, you can't be forced to use any DRM-protected music. Therefore, would relying on ripping CDs be a valid option for you, or would you still like to see online stores selling music without any kind "protection?"

And with regards to SanDISK: if they would honestly be concerned about your rights as a media consumer, why did they include support for WMA files in the Sansa player?

2006-05-30 09:18:38
Ironically, the player they are touting looks just like an iPod nano at first glance: black front, scroll wheel, shiny metal black...
2006-05-31 06:45:41
If they were at all clever, they'd include an obvious theme to poke at Apple: iLemmings!
Jochen Wolters
2006-06-01 09:45:57

Oh boy, the Lemmings ad... That disturbing TV ad must be Apple's worst-ever marketing endeavor.

2006-06-01 20:05:35
fyi, here's one of the SanDisk iDont online ads --


2008-07-12 11:17:38
Do you know that iDont.com is no longer up and running?
I'm not sure how often you revise your website, but maybe you should get "up to date" on your site, as you are slamming someone else's site.
Now dont get me wrong, I'm not saying that you shouldnt have written what you did about that site, but lets face it if I am going to tell Mr. Jones about his tall grass in his yard I should have mine cut nicely.
Just a thought.
Jochen Wolters
2008-07-12 14:48:19

Thanks for your comment.

If we, as authors, make any factual mistakes in what we write, we don't hesitate to implement updates to correct those mistakes. However, it is a characteristic of blogs that they cover what was up-to-date at the time of publishing. If we, as authors, would try to keep all posts up-to-date even long after they went online, we simply wouldn't have any time to cover any new topics. In that regard, blogs are just like printed media that will also become out-dated eventually.

This specific post is now more than two years old, and even the blog itself has been transmogrified into something quite different. So I don't think it is negligence on our part that we haven't noticed that idont.com is no longer accessible (although the domain itself is still registered to SanDisk); it's just how blogs work.

As for the tall grass: that's what we cut on the new O'Reilly Mac site. ;)


2008-07-23 23:24:28
Well its' true! Following the iPod makes you just another sheep following the crowd. And it's also true that Apple has used that type of tactics for the Mac computers, comparing the PC to a boring business guy. And if you follow Apple wouldn't you just be another sheep in the crowd?

iDon't do iPod because I'm not an old guy trying to fight for Apple Inc.