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  • Mac = Cool; PC = Boring

    November 2nd, 2006

    A good ad campaign invokes positive images, appeals to your subconscious needs and, in general, makes you feel great about buying the product or service in question. Take a car. Buy the right vehicle and you’re beautiful and sexy and ready to take on the world.

    I hardly need to go on. You all know the impact of the proper advertising campaign, and how a poorly-conceived campaign can go haywire. Take that strange dude with the mustache who just happens to be the CEO of Daimler-Chrysler, who was given the warm and fuzzy name of “Dr. Z.” Would you buy a used car from that man, or even a new one? Well, I suppose enough people said no that they shelved the promotion. Of course, they also forgot that few could understand him as he spoke English a little too quickly in a heavy accent. Talk about a misfire.

    Some years ago, there was that beady-eyed “Dell dude,” an aspiring actor who seemed to find fame and fortune telling one and all that Dell was not just a boring old PC, but something special, something cool, something to be envied. Unfortunately, the dude wasn’t somebody you’d really want your daughter to date, and, in fact, you wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley. Well, that campaign evidently didn’t sell as many Dells as they hoped, so the dude was sent out to pasture. His show business career didn’t go anywhere either, I gather.

    Apple got the right combination with its “Get a Mac” ads. Yes, the nerdy, grumpy fellow who plays the PC, actor/writer/comedian John Hodgman, late of “The Daily Show,” seems to get the lion’s share of sympathy. Justin Long, who plays the Mac, comes across as perhaps a little too smug for some people. In fact, a few people called the campaign “mean-spirited,” which strikes me as a bit much.

    But those things don’t matter. Apple is playing to the aspirations of its potential customers. They want to be cool, not grumpy. It doesn’t matter if all the bullet points in the ads are a little exaggerated. That can be said for lots of campaigns.

    If you’re lucky enough to have a TiVo, or one of those imitation products from your cable or satellite company, you can always fast-forward through the ads. But a few you want to stop and see on occasion, and that’s why the “Get a Mac” has become so effective. It may even typecast its characters, but that’s how it goes, and to some performers, being identified with a part is a dream come true. So it may well be that, long after the campaign is history, Hodgman will be stopped on the street and told to stop dressing down, stop sneezing, and show a little confidence in his look and behavior.

    Clearly Apple’s newfound success has had its impact on the PC industry. Dell’s fortunes are no longer positive as they used to be, so they are busily engaged in a “Dell 2.0” program to repair tattered customer service and improve the bottom line. They are even hiring some new industrial designers, hoping, against hope, that if you put enough talented people into a room, and shut the doors, they might even come up with something that will have the look and feel of a Mac.

    Or course, that doesn’t deliver a different operating system. But most of you recall that infamous email from Michael Dell to a tech reporter in which he said that, yes, he wouldn’t mind offering his PCs with Mac OS X, if Apple were to offer it to them. He must be living in denial, although some of those tech writers actually believe that it would be to Apple’s benefit to license its operating system, and perhaps get out of the hardware business. Maybe even let Dell do it.

    True, the numbers don’t add up, but facts shouldn’t get in the way of beliefs. Wall Street analysts, in fact, once believed Enron was a hugely successful company, one destined to deliver great profits to its stockholders for many years to come.

    Perhaps some of those people were among the many who felt that Apple would never amount to anything, was forever doomed to niche status, and it was a better idea to stick with that old, reliable, dull operating system from Microsoft. After all, if your PC is infected with another bout of malware, the IT department will happily send someone over with a box of tissues to set things right.

    After all, who wants to be cool anyway?

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