Selling Rebels: Apple’s Marketing Techniques

Buying a new computer or upgrading your operating system is an exciting event: in some, it produces feelings surpassed only by marriage or landing a dream job. And the excitement is increased when you make a major change, be it a brand new monster rig replacing your dinosaur that’s been limping along for a decade or, in the most extreme of changes-making the switch from PC to Mac.


There’s Only One Way To Upgrade

We say PC to Mac because conventional wisdom holds that you never go back once you go, Mac. While you may find a few Mac users who have grown disgruntled with Apple or decided to adopt a platform that is almost one-hundred percent universal (Windows is pre-installed on every PC shipped by Dell, HP, Gateway, and Toshiba), for the most part, the big switch is from the house that Bill Gates built to the small but sturdy home of Steve Jobs as opposed to the other way around. But what has Steve Jobs done to attract so many die-hard fans? This was long before social media marketing and certainly, before anybody ever thought to buy Spotify streams to reach a wider audience. No, there are many more basic marketing methods used here.

Reasons Mac Is Viewed As The Better Option

Practicality is a major motivating factor behind the switch: Macs are routinely less susceptible to viruses. The Mac OSX operating system is more stable, and updates for it are less frequent. It also allows users to do simple housekeeping tasks that require special downloads for Windows, such as reducing deleted data to non-recoverable ones and zeros, which helps protect the privacy and boost hard drive space. This translates into money saved on anti-virus and maintenance software and more time spent doing things that don’t involve waiting for a malware-killing program to run a full system check followed by a restart-or the most dreaded of all last-ditch tactics – a clean system restore.

Of course, Mac OSX also comes standard with programs that let you create movies, make DVDs (with menus and everything!), edit photos, and even make your own music and record your own podcasts. Comparable programs are available for Windows, but they don’t come standard. So for entry-level techno-geeks that want to put their family vacation in a nice little package but don’t want to buy one extra program after another to do so, a Mac is a wise choice.

Reading In Between The Lines Of A Purchase Receipt

But consumerism is a multi-layered study, and we all know that there’s always more than one reason we buy something. In a politically divided America where corporate campaign contributions are a hot-button topic, politics can play a starring role in computer users’ choices. According to, both Apple and Microsoft have donated to Democratic candidates. In fact, Microsoft has given nearly half a million dollars to the blue party while Apple is just shy of the $80 thousand marks. But it’s also of note that Microsoft has given over half a million to Republicans, while Apple has given the elephant’s party not one red cent. Al Gore is on Apple’s board of directors, and Steve Jobs served as an advisor on John Kerry’s campaign staff. Apple computers have a reputation of appealing to liberals-I wonder why.

Let’s face it, though; for all the talk about politics, nobody really cares. They get fired up over a few issues, and only then around election season. The population of America that actually takes politics seriously is tiny. So how a company spends its campaign money isn’t going to affect the decisions made by many consumers. And if practicality were an actual motivating factor in purchasing decisions, SUVs wouldn’t outsell hybrids. As with anything, image hooks people making the switch even if it is seen as icing on the cake.

Mac addicts are hip and trendy urban youths with tattoos and piercings or sophisticated academic types with discriminating tastes in food and wine. Mac users are stereotypically artsy and creative Chuck-Taylor-wearing punks that revel in sticking it to the man as well as learned and eloquent freelancers. Who wouldn’t want to be in on that? Who wouldn’t want to be unique, expressive, and more concerned with making great movies and websites than spreadsheets and corny marketing presentations? Even looking at the schematics of the companies’ names clues consumers into the cultures associated with each brand: Apple brings to mind something colorful, versatile, good for you, and fun; Microsoft sounds like, well, something you’d find at work.

Selling An Idea, Not A Device

The marketing team at Apple has kept the idea of Apple’s rebellious fun versus Microsoft’s stuff-shirted discipline alive in the public consciousness. Just look at the current Mac versus PC commercials. Justin Long is the casual, laid-back, college geek Mac talking smack with the uptight, suit-wearing, insecure PC played by humorist John Hodgman. While these commercials give some lip service to the greater practical value of a Mac, most of the time is spent discussing how much more fun the Mac is-and the mode of dress of the actor portraying the Mac character goes a long way in driving that fact home.

Apple has shown, however, that marketing doesn’t end with TV ads: the Apple products themselves are advertisements. How many mall walkers pass by the Apple Store and see all those sleek, sexy iPods and shiny laptops with clean, smooth edges and streamlined graphical user interfaces? Even before you buy an Apple product, you’ve got it in your mind that the simple act of word processing is going to be sheer joy: how could anything be dull and monotonous on that funky little machine!

The Gist Of Apple’s Marketing Campaign

Steve Jobs and company aren’t just selling computers and digital music players: they’re selling a lifestyle and an image as well. They’ve turned everything about the company into a commercial, in a sense that goes beyond prominently displaying the company logo on their products. It’s working too: iPods are everywhere, the unveiling of the iPhone was front-page news, and the Apple retail stores are starting to pop up more and more frequently. And according to a recent Gartner Group survey, Apple’s share of the American home computer market jumped from 5% in 2005 to 5.1% in 2006. Considering how big the market for home computers is in America, a tenth of a percent is a noticeable gain.

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