Marketing No-No’s: Apple Gets “Fruity”

This is going to be a beefy one so bare with me…

If you’re like me and don’t watch much TV, you appreciate having minimal igorance and stupidity displayed during your viewing hours. I’d like to thank Apple for interfering with my simple television viewing criteria. Apple, you’ve really dropped the ball with your latest Mac ad campaign and I’ll explain why.

First and foremost, the old Windows-versus-Mac argument needs to drop. The only thing that this position does is further dig each side of the argument into their trenches. Instead of expanding your market share, you are only further brainwashing the feeble-minded folks that accept your empty absolute statements. This only tells me that Apple is hurting and wants to hold on to their computer market share. Certainly, the iPod line has helped create new “verticals” for your home computing market but the [Windows] PC market is clearly still much bigger.

The worst thing any business can do is use a market position that merely places it against a competing product. It’s very risky and, unless you quantify and avoid subjective statements such as “we’re just better” or “our operating system is more stable”, you are just blowing off hot air. This marketing position is comparable to politicians that engage in mud-slinging tactics and, quite often, they take this approach to avoid having the spotlight on their faults.

Second major point: never EVER take an absolute position when presenting your unique advantage or edges over the competition. Saying things like “our systems are virus-free” or “we always outperform” is promising stuff that you possibly can’t because there are too many variables such as user fault, hardware failure, and boredom. Why boredom? Well, often programmers are bored so they seek a challenge by creating a virus, just for kicks. Common sense dictates that anything that can be engineered can be reverse-engineered so, I’d hate to tell you, but Mac’s are no more invulnerable to viruses than Linux, BSD, or Windows. Yes, folks, I’d hate to burst your bubbles but you are buying into a lie.

A smarter position would be to quantify and discuss how Mac computers are 33% less likely to have viruses when compared to computers running the Windows platform. This data should come from a third party that is not “in bed” with Apple and, thus, has no personal interest or bias; ideally, they shouldn’t even favor Apple equipment at the workplace. These are the sorts of things that give customers real assurances and build up integrity, credibility, and prestige.

Third major point: Apple clearly has realized that they were going a bit overboard so they have rescinded some of their remarks by taking their PC and Mac personifications and having them “kiss and make up”. What’s interesting here is that, in one of the latest installments, the Mac character concedes by saying that the Windows platform is solid and professional. The Windows character then returns some kind words followed by “if you like that sort of thing”. A common thread that is seen in this exchange and many other arguments presented by Apple proponents is that the Mac platform is the de facto choice for creative applications.

The Mac and Windows therapy session is entertaining so I have to give that to Apple. They always exude a sense of style and edge that plays into their customer culture well. The problem with this sequence is that it also insinuates many bad things about Windows and PC users: they’re uptight, they tend to be snobs, and they all made a bad decision by choosing Windows. These commercials are an insult to the intelligence of their customers as well as Windows users. Equally as entertaining is the fact that there is a big myth that says everyone who does any sort of multimedia production needs an Apple computer. Another LIE.

Let me explain myself better here: never EVER tell a customer that he made a bad choice. Even if you are so passionate about your product that you want help the customer improve their experience or situation, you do not tell them in such a brash manner “hey, you made a dumb choice, but that’s okay”. You’d think a company with the experience that Apple has had would employ better tactics. Heck, I would think they would remain humble even after the iPod “phenomenom” because, heck, not too long ago, Apple salespeople went door-to-door trying to get their computers into more homes because they were tired of being limited to graphic designers, educators, musicians, and “rebels”.

This all goes to show you that even big companies make BIG mistakes. The Apple ad campaign is creative and funny, but is a failure in every way, unless all Apple has sought out is a big war between Mac and Windows users. Personally, I recognize the shortcomings of all platforms. There is no perfect engine and “better” only counts if it suits your personal needs, usage habits, and technical competence. I believe one thing that people have always liked about Windows is that, though it may not be as functional out-of-the-box as an Apple computer, there are many options that can be customized to suit your needs.

Apple computers have always annoyed me because I have found, as a user and a technician supporting them, that they try to assume they know better than the user. It’s a subtle as saying “hey, we decided to get rid of that pesky CD tray eject button because we know that confusing consoles make you flustered”. You might as well pat people on the head and give them a cookie for doing a nice trick. Really, this is the heart of marketing: measuring your message and making sure that is communicated consistently to the right people.

The consistent message I get from Apple is: Mac is the best, Windows users have missed out but that’s okay because, eventually, you all come to us, one way or another. It’s snobbery and elitism at it’s best. A tip I always resound throughout my writings and advice to folks is this: avoid fanaticism and emotion when conveying your business message. When companies resort to eye-gouging and knee-kicking, they only turn customers away.

The fact of the matter is that UNIX and Linux are slowly creeping up in popularity. While Microsoft and Apple slap each other around in these playground actics, others will start to prosper more. Customers don’t really care about having the best as much as they care about just avoiding risks. Companies that incessantly try to discredit their competition same suspicious. Your prospects will always look at the possible risks, the image your portray, and any inconsistencies thereof. If you say “we’re the best” but then you kick dirt in the face of your competition, you already contradicted yourself. The best don’t worry about who is competing against them, they simply just work towards improving themselves consistently and trying to be different, not better, than the competition.

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