Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

28 October 2009

Apple Isn't Perfect, But Its Fanbase Loves it Anyway.

I don't know why this is. Maybe because it's unapologetic: historically social media-shy, not into competitive price-slashing (it makes price cuts, but usually only after the launch of a new-generation item, not because of cheaper rivals), and not terribly discreet about its feelings about Microsoft.

Why is Apple able to behave this way when other brands can't afford to? My best guesses:

  • It's swathed in epic -- the birth of the OS, its first drama-ridden ads, and the struggles of Steve Jobs, the perfect Misunderstood Genius™
  • It's actually innovative. iPod changed how we listened to music. iTunes made us willing to pay for it. And iPhone? Well, look at any rival's ads to see what kind of impact it's made on the market.
  • It knows who it is, for better or worse, and it's not sorry about it.
  • It knows what users care about. Apparently we're willing to pay a premium and deal with the occasional hardware problem* in exchange for: a) exceptional design; b) exceptional usability -- the kind of interface that teaches you how to use it without making you feel lost or frustrated; c) a pretty good customer service experience.

Regarding c) -- I say "pretty good" because it's annoying to have to wait hours, sometimes even a day, for a Genius appointment. But even this is bearable because: 1) you knew immediately where to go to get your problem solved; 2) you've got a seat secured in the queue; 3) you're likely to be pleasantly surprised.

It isn't unheard-of for the Genius Bar to solve your hardware issue for free, even when they don't have to. They've replaced my battery and the entire bottom deck of my laptop at no cost, past warranty. That is nice.

It also makes me feel pretty good about being part of the Mac family. Chez PC, I had no idea where to begin troubleshooting a hardware problem. (Do I call Best Buy? Do I call Toshiba? As for the software ones, it's de rigeur to just reformat every coupla years and call it a day.)

This is a really long intro to what I actually wanted to show you: a fan's response to a recent ad promoting Google's Droid platform on Verizon/Motorola.

Here's the original ad, which bashes iPhone without actually saying "iPhone":

And here's the user-generated pro-Apple retaliation, which lifts the style but backhands the message:

If you watched both, you probably noticed a brief innacuracy: Apple does bash competitive brands in its ads. In fact, the last shot used in the fan vid is a prime example of how Apple takes the poo on rivals.

But dude doesn't care. The Droid approach rubs people wrong, and a user-created anti-Droid ad gets billings on sites like The Wall Street Journal, not to mention copious retweets on Twitter. This means that, for nothing, a pro-Apple message will probably get equivalent coverage of the paid-for Droid spot -- among their tech-savvy target market, anyway.

Apple has had its share of Mac-vs-PC detractors, but it isn't often I've seen a user-generated anti-Apple ad get this kind of attention. And no amount of detraction has been dramatic enough for Apple to alter its campaign strategy.

Is this an example of a brand being certain of who it is, and having the confidence to commit to its position despite complaint,** or an example of favoritism on the part of vocal users and media outlets?

I'd guess the former, but I'll leave the door open to other arguments.

About the image: By Sonia Kerkeni for l'Ecole des Gobelins, where, in 2005, students produced an imaginary campaign for Apple under the tagline "Think Different." A few of the shots are stunning; take a look if you've got the time. (Via.)

*I'm a Mac, we have a few.

**Apple has run "Mac vs. PC" for the last few years, rain or shine, despite positive or negative reviews. But rivals have historically balked in the face of mixed or negative response to ad campaigns they've conducted. Remember MSFT's Seinfeld/"I'm a PC"? THAT died fast. And the closest thing Google's ever had to a TV ad, this piece for T-Mobile's G1 powered by Android, didn't exactly overwhelm us with follow-ups.

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