on Apr 4, 2007
I originally posted this way back in July of last year, but it suddenly came to mind while talking about Macs yesterday. Rather than trying to grab some sort of summary quote, I’m just putting the whole thing up all over again.
I don’t have TV, but I’ve been hearing rumblings here and there about the new Mac ads. They come off as more of an insult to non-Mac users than an appeal to buy a particular product. Sigh.
Back in the mid / early 90’s, Apple had a brilliant ad. It showed Mom and Dad setting up the new family PC on Christmas eve. Dad was squinting at the sceen, and I think Mom was puzzling over the manual. The gist of it was something like this:
DAD: Not enough high memory?
MOM: Check the autoexec dot bat?
DAD: Maybe we’re using the wrong config dot sys.
MOM: Maybe we’re using the wrong computer.
This was the only time Apple has ever had a real advertisement that was an honest attempt to appeal to PC users. It illustrated an issue which tomented users in the early 90’s. It was an infuriating problem and a complete mystery to the user as to why they needed to tell the computer how to organize memory usage. Wasn’t that, you know, the computer’s job? This ad took an exsisting weakness and exploited it.
I have no idea how that ad campaign fared, but it made me want to run out and buy a Mac right then.
But all of their other ads – including the infamous 1984 ad – have been appeals to style and attitude. Steve Jobs still thinks he’s selling soft drinks, or cars, or athletic footwear. “Buy this product and you will be one of the smart / beautiful / stylish people”. That’s fine for lots of products, but my Mom isn’t going to shell out an extra $1,000 for a computer with the same features she has right now.
I have friends with PC’s that are clunky and useless because of all of the spyware, adware, and malware they’ve accumulated. The thing never works right. It’s confusing to use. Apple could woo these people by promising them that life is easier on the Mac side. (Is it? I dunno. But that’s what advertising is for!) Some of those people might shell out the extra cash if they think it would lead to a better computing experience.
Apple really needs to take their own advice: Think different guys. Do you want to sell computers or run an elitist social club?
Even though I use a PC, I like alternatives out there that demonstrate that an OS can be stable and secure. It keeps Microsoft’s nose to the marketshare grindstone. Linux is more of a threat in this regard than Mac, but Mac isn’t even trying. Hipster 20-somethings already own a computer, so these ads will either make them feel good about the Mac they already own, or insult them. Is this how you sell things? No, it isn’t.
I’m convinced that the PC weak spot is the proverbial moms and grandmas out there. Baby boomers are a huge market segment, and they have more money than teens and college students. They own PC’s that suck, and could be pursuaded to switch if Apple tried talking to them. A guy nearing retirement isn’t going to buy a computer because some self-absorbed prat in a turtleneck tells him it will make him cool. Apple could go after these people and make a real comeback with market share, but they can’t because they are incapable of thinking different.
Shamus Young is an old-school OpenGL programmer, author, and composer. He runs this site and if anything is broken you should probably blame him.