By Ed Oswald | Monday, May 11, 2009 at 1:10 pm
I got a phone call from my good friend Michelle the other day. She was genuinely excited. Normally these “I’m excited” calls have something to do with what she heard or saw that would remind us of our long-since-passed youth, but this call was different.
“What are you so excited about?” I asked.
She went into a long spiel about how she didn’t have the money right this second, but that she was getting the funds together for a big purchase. “I was in the Apple Store yesterday, and I started playing around with the laptops. They’re so cool! I’m getting a Mac!”
I laughed, but at the same time was genuinely pleased that Cupertino had won yet another convert. “Why’s this?”
Her reasons were much like the argument that us Mac enthusiasts put forth when comparing the platform to the PC. Its ease of use, the feature set, the asthetics. She also figured out on her own that her brand new iPod Touch 32GB would work a whole lot easier when paired with a shiny new MacBook.
(Maybe it was also the 4th Gen iPod that I gave her that opened her eyes to Apple, but I do digress.)
Michelle’s story is special for one reason. She does not fit the Mac user stereotype at all. She lives in a rural area, and is certainly as middle class as most of us. Her computer knowledge (and this is no knock against her) is certainly not technical — she’s no geek. Yet the Mac has appealed to her.
This got me to wonder — has the Mac community overreacted to the Laptop Hunters ads? Have we let Microsoft get under our skin with a PR campaign that in the end is really preaching to the choir?
I think so. Michelle’s a bargain hunter (I’ve been with her on shopping trips). Yes she could have just as easily gone for the cheap plastic Windows-based laptop, but she has decided not to.
Microsoft has overplayed its hand on price. If stories like Michelle’s are more common, could it just be even in a recessionary environment that consumers aren’t going to go cheap?
I’d argue yes. Through none of the Laptop Hunters ads did we hear anything about the value as it had to do with the system itself: instead we’re beaten over the head with the stigma that price is everything when it comes to computer shopping.
A simplistic view of the average computer consumer? Yes. Computers have become such a commodity these days where the public is actually more informed. Years ago, price played a big part in decisions. Consumers did not care what they got as long as it was a good deal.
In a more technical society, we now know what to look for. Many of these cheap PCs Microsoft has decided to hawk are exactly that — low-cost because the manufacturer decided to skimp in an effort to lower the price.
Plus, consumers know what they need. Apple has always decided to put its features first: this is their philosophy in their ads too. Take notice that price is never mentioned. Instead, the ad always seems to revolve around a feature set, which in the end drives home a argument of functionality as value vis a vis price as value.
No doubt Michelle has seen these ads. I haven’t asked her specifically, but I wonder if Apple’s campaigns are more successful because they sell the functionality first? Apparently even the average PC user is getting the message.
Maybe us Mac users need to step back, let Microsoft make a fool of itself in its ads and never mention the platform itself, and watch as PC users still decide that the package overall is more important than the price. Apple tax be damned.
Congratulations Michelle, it’s a Mac.