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Apple Marketing Makes Wide Eyed Zombies

First of all, this is going to be an opinion piece. It may rile a few feathers of people who just adore Apple. And, that fact is only proof that the title of this piece is 100% accurate. However, YES, this is subjective opinion. And what is that opinion? That Apple’s marketing is so damn good that it makes wide eyed, unthinking zombies out of good, smart people. Let me explain.

Apple Marketing = Brilliance

I am a businessman. Marketing is a key component of any successful business. So, from that perspective, I look at Apple and am completely impressed with that company. It is one thing to drive sales and generate revenue. It is completely another to do it so well that people are literally tripping over themselves to buy your product.

Let’s look at the recent handling of the Iphone. First of all, chances are you’ve not only heard of the Iphone, but you know somebody who has used one or even owns one. Again, a testament to their marketing brilliance. Let’s look at the marketing history of the Iphone. In January 2007, Steve Jobs announced plans for the Iphone at MacWorld. In February 2007, Apple ran an ad on the 79th Annual Academy Awards that showed some TV clips of people answering the phone. It then shows an Iphone at the end and simply says “HELLO”. At the beginning of June, Apple releases 4 commercials advertising the Iphone and announcing the release date of June 29th, 2007. On June 29th, all Apple stores close at 2PM to prepare for the Iphone launch. People LINE UP outside the door to get their Iphone. When the Apple stores reopen, all hell breaks loose. There are so many activation requests to AT&T that they can’t keep up.

What are the keys to Apple’s marketing?

  • Silence. Apple is brilliant at using the human tendency to stick to mystery like a fly on crap. People LOVE mystery. When they don’t know, they love to speculate, to come up with wild assumptions. It creates a tizzy. It is a human tendency, and Apple takes full advantage of it. Apple is a very tight-lipped company. They control their own PR, and they leak just enough to get their zombie following to hang on their every word and speculate all day.
  • When Apple does speak and announce something, they make a HUGE splash out of it, selling it as if it is their gift to the very fabric of the human species.
  • Simplicity. Apple is great at keeping things simple. Their equipment is well designed and they pay special attention to the user EXPERIENCE. In fact, I would argue they pay more attention to the experience than they do on features. So, user interface and ease of use is paramount. They also keep the marketing simple. They love one-word ads. “HELLO” is an example. With the Ipod Nano, for instance, they did not come out and give us a list of features for the Ipod. They just said “A thousand songs in your pocket” and left it alone. Simple. It’s the selling point.

Apple – The Nerd’s Psychologist

We’ve established that Apple is expert at the art of marketing. Well, another component of that is really understanding their target audience and playing right into their desires. For instance (again, this is subjective), my observation is that hardcore Apple users can be really snobby about their devices. They tend to get really defensive about any Apple versus PC debate, for instance. And the “Apple Versus PC” commercials that Apple has run usually portray the PC guy as a total nerd and the Apple person as cool and hip (they are really well-done commercials,though).

What it comes down to is creating the idea of Apple users being some sort of elite club. It is:

  • Apple products are better than all competitors
  • Apple users are thus smarter because they use them.

People like to feel smart. They like to feel superior, like they belong to something. FEEL, and there is Apple’s keyword for all of their marketing. FEELING.

Marketing Versus Reality

Apple has employed masterful marketing to get people to buy their products like wide eyed zombies. But, is it because Apple is so much better? Or is it just that people like the marketing employed by Apple and thus get that “fuzzy feeling” from their Apple gear? I tend to think it’s the latter.

Apple products are good, but much of the draw of their gear is based on image…an image which is carefully crafted. But, what is the reality?

  • PRICE. Sure, there are examples of how you can get an Apple at a good price when compared to a competitor. But, I still hold that Apple products are, by large, more expensive than other products. For example, the MacBook Pro is usually more expensive than a comparatively equipped PC-based laptop. These kinds of price comparisons always get Apple users in a tizzy, but that is, again, proof of Apple’s good marketing. If you really look at the entire picture of what you get with a MacBook when compared to a PC (computing package, support options, software availability, etc), it’s a fairly clear distinction. What that PC lacks is GOOD MARKETING.
  • SUPPORT. With anything Apple, you have to get all service through Apple in some way. With a PC, practically anybody can fix it. Plus, when you buy a Mac computer, you get 90 days of support from Apple. After that, a year costs $249. With a Dell, you get a full year at no cost when you buy.
  • UPGRADABILITY. Speaking of Apple desktops, why are they so expensive? For instance, as of this writing, I see a 500GB SATA drive on sale for the Mac Pro for $329 in the Apple Store. It is advertised as a 3 GB/S, 7200 RPM drive. If we look over at Newegg.com for a similar drive for the PC, we find a Hitachi drive with the same specs for only $99. Another by Western Digital is $109. So, a Mac user is paying 3X the amount for the same amount of storage. Doesn’t seem very smart to me.

Another argument for me is the whole Iphone fiasco. Again, through solid marketing, Apple had people drooling over the Iphone, waiting in lines and generally acting weird. For what? So that they could pay $600 for a phone. A phone which looks cool (admittedly), but which ties you to AT&T, does not allow third party apps (seemingly typical of Apple), and you can’t even change the damn battery. Then, after all that marketing, Apple sticks it to their loyal zombies and lowers the price by a third. In response to a bunch of understandably pissed customers, Apple extended an offer for a $100 credit to people who bought the phone at $599.

In the meantime, I can buy a very powerful Palm or Windows Mobile based phone for still much less than even the new Iphone price.

So, it seems to me what you’re buying when you buy an Apple product is mostly “fuzzy feeling” and a user experience. Generally, you’re paying more for that “fuzzy feeling”. In my opinion, underneath the user experience is essentially a piece of equipment that you could buy from another vendor for much less. Apple marketing is so good that people even find themselves defending their “fuzzy feeling” when anybody questions Apple.

Credit Where It Is Due

I give Apple a lot of credit. I really do. They are a smart company, and their products ARE good. No doubt about it. In fact, I am highly considering making my next computer purchase a Mac. There is something to be said for the slick user experience of Apple gear. The stuff which Microsoft packed into Vista as eye candy was being done by Apple a long time ago. Apple just blows away the competition when it comes to equipment design and interface design.

But, step outside of that kumbaya experience and you basically have a piece of equipment which is not always as capable as another brand, is generally more expensive, and is being sold by a company which does everything it can to tie you to them for life, along with your wallet.

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9 thoughts on “Apple Marketing Makes Wide Eyed Zombies”

Ry says:
I bought a macbook simply for the editing program, Final Cut Pro. no complaints i love the computer, and didn’t buy it for the fuzzy feeling
Rich Reed says:
I had been a PC user for 20 years. Friends of mine in California convinced me that I MUST get an IMAC. After one last attempt to get support from Microsoft I decided to purchase a new IMAC with the Leopard OS. What a fiasco. I wen to the Apple store. It full of nerdy looking kids running around. I rarely got the same answer to my questions regarding the IMAC. I got a lot of hype but very little reality. I was impressed with the ability to run win xp on the IMAC and use MS Office 2003. I was told that they had a version of office that was JUST LIKE Microsoft called Entourage. This is a fairy tale. The Apple version is much different. I was also told that I only needed the 1 gb of ram to run the system. Once I installed the Parallels program (for running win xp) the system slowed to a crawl and Parallels started crashing. I was told that they would transfer all the data if I paid $99 for the “One On One” program. I explained that my data was crucial and that I wanted to be assured all of it was transferred properly. It was not. I lost most of my notes from the Office 2003 contacts file and many of the phone number. I also was told that it would take 24-72 hours before I could get my new machine. I called when the 72 hours was up and was informed that they had lost my paperwork and that nothing had been done. I raised so much hell that they had it done the next day. I picked it up but when I got it home I discovered that some of the things that I wanted transferred had not been. I took it back. Then I had to take the machine 2 more times because I could not utilize the e-mail program in Entourage to send e-mail. I tech support several times and they were absolutely no help. I then had to take it back to the store. They did some things to it and said it would work now. I got it home and it didn’t the next day I took it back. I left it there and they called back later to say that it was fixed. I googled the problem and there were many other people having the same or similar problems. I told the people at the Apple store this but it seemed to go in one ear and out the other. I was told again that it was fixed, but when I got home it wasn’t. I finally called Microsoft and they fixed it immediately.
If they know they have a problem they should find out the solution themselves, instead of putting their customers through what I was put thru. Apparently they are all programmed to deny that they have any problems with the new Leopard OS or maybe they just don’t care.
I rank their customer service right up there with Microsoft.
Pingback: Scoble Nails It - Apple’s Brand Promise » PC Mechanic
john says:
There’s another quite important thing to mention here, apple has developed an operating system for their computers that is ACE and does not allow for malware and viruses to f-ck up the computer (in fact there is hardly any malware or viruses for osx).

Their gadgets, are sure to get peeps to buy macs in the end, but anyhow, if peeps do, they will get a simpler and less troublesome life using the OSX operating system that more or less never breaks.

But yeah, I agree, Apple are smart, and their mareketing dep. should be priced for their excellence.

Juman says:
I love apple. They design cool looking stuff, that gets knocked off and improved in china for 1/4 the price.
So if the sheep want to all go use Macs, that’s fine with me… I’ll just keep buying the superior Chinese rip offs, and apple buyers can feel all snobby, and help fund the design of the next innovation in visual style. Everyone wins!
jj says:
I have only owned an ipod, and when I went to a Iriver, I was dismayed at how poor the software was (user interface).

I think you skip over the fact that Apple is about user experience, and user interface is so important. Mac OSX really is a much better designed OS than Windows. Its why I am going to buy my first mac soon.

Design: Apple wins here, and its not just an irrelevant point, why does everyone check out sports cars and beautiful houses and nice furniture etc etc?? – its because design is important to people. Its not an irrelevant feature. Prepare to pay a premium, if noone else can compete with the design stakes.

You are totally right about the marketing. Its pure genious. I want apple stuff even when I think it doesn’t have everything and its a little bit more expensive. But I think without the design and user interface/software, no one would care about Apple.

There are some definite annoying things about Apple – like really annoying, but there are some positive things too – the allure of apple is not just illusionary – not just all about zombies tripping over each other – people want things which are designed well and which have a strong identity in terms of brand and as an item.

I think Apple should be regarded as one of the companies which has spearheaded the movement for well designed electronic items. The industrial design of their products has constantly been uplifting for the industry which has always struggled a bit with quality presentation of electronic goods. Things are getting better now, but remember how things used to be.

lpmiller says:
you are a little confused on the warranty. it’s 90 days free phone support (web support is for the full year) and a full year warranty. The 249 is for apple care, which extends the warranty to 3 years. This is not different from dell.
Bob Plumer says:
I’ve often wondered what the allure of Apple was. Yes they build quality stuff I don’t argue that. It seems as if the image of exclusivity makes it irresistible even though the stuff is priced higher than comparative products. I sort of picture it as buying a Cadillac vs. Chevrolet. Both will get you from point A to B the same. It’s just a matter of how much you want to spend to get there.
Wayne Smallman says:
When looking at the all-new Apple as opposed the Apple of the 80s through the late 90s, they rarely put a foot wrong these days.

So their success is — and you rightly point out — down to a number of factors, not just the products themselves.

It’s that sense of exclusivity that helps bolster the sphere of expectation.

However, when Apple do get things wrong — as they did with the recent price cut on the iPhone — they start looking like the old Apple again.

In fairness, S. P. Jobs did release an open letter to explain their reasoning. But the bottom line is, while Apple got the price drop right, the timing was totally wrong…

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Nik

Sep 12, 2007

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