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On The Flip Side
by Michael Munger

Apple Should Not Change Its Advertising Approach
April 2nd, 2002

If you believe that Apple needs to conquer a part of the PC market to expand its share of the computer market, allow me to say this: forget about it. For several different reasons, this is highly improbable.

There are people who criticize Apple's advertising because they believe that Apple goes about it all wrong. According to such naysayers, what Apple needs to do is to show why the Mac is so superior to its competition instead of showcasing an iMac screen's ability to pivot.

This reasoning is flawed.

Of course, I could support my point solely with the fact that the Windows world is almost impenetrable; it would be a waste of time to focus on converting people. Its established base is so strong and its presence so dominant that getting faithful Microsoftians, offices and the public to switch is... mission impossible. Windows 95, in its own [insert your favorite pejorative word here] way, has planted the right seeds to control most of the computer world for a long time to come. Of course, the Macintosh will keep making "former Windows users," but it is also true that there are Mac users who switch to Windows. If there is a net gain, it has to be small.

This point is not the only element to keep in mind, however.

Among all the possible reasons why Apple is likely to keep holding 4 or 5% of the US market (and slightly less worldwide), there is lifestyle. Choosing the Macintosh as a computing platform goes beyond function. It is a choice of lifestyle that transcends the usual reasons we buy computers.

Objectively, as a user, I have to admit that there is no major productivity gain when I use a Mac. At work, I have to deal with a Windows environment, and I have learned over the last year that both platforms allow me to get my job done. On both platforms, I just need to get the right software and to know the operating system. Each OS has its advantages and flaws, strengths and weaknesses, and both can get some solid work done.

So, why in the world do I own two Macs, instead of two Windows boxes? After all, my use of a computer is rather basic and a Mac will cost more when I purchase it. I cannot justify my choice with the kind of graphical design and publishing that the Mac masters better than any other platform. I should have gotten PCs, right? Bzzt. Wrong answer.

I use the Macintosh because I want to use it. I do not care if a PC can allow me to do e-mail, or write and surf the Web as well with the same software. I like the Mac's industrial design, it looks good in my apartment and it makes a favorable impression on my visitors; I like the operating system's eccentricity, friendliness and distinctiveness; I like its developed inclination for multimedia.

Although the bottom line is to get something done on a computer, such factors made the difference between two machines that could get the job done. Such factors explain why millions of Mac users prefer buying a Mac, even if it means shelling out a few extra, hard-earned dollars.

This is exactly why Apple targets lifestyle, including the digital lifestyle, when it advertises its products. Apple's advertising captures and perpetuates the essence of what brings individuals to choose computers that sport Apple logos.

When Apple focuses on the hip factor instead of product information, and when it shows its outstanding industrial design instead of technical information, Apple reinforces its message. In other words, the company is saying: "We are hip. Our products look great. You can do your work with something else, but this is what you want to own."

Holding a 4 or 5% market share is not necessarily a bad thing.

Steve Jobs said it better than anyone. To quote Time Magazine, January 14 edition: "As Jobs likes to point out, BMW and Mercedes-Benz occupy a similar niche in the automobile market, but no one dismisses them as niche players."

Dell held a 14.1% market share in the US in 2001, while holding 13.3% worldwide. When the largest computer manufacturer in the world holds slightly less than 15% of the computer market, is Apple's share too small? Does Apple need to reach, say, 10% or more? Is it realistic to ask for it? Does Apple even want to go that far?

I believe that Apple is going in the right direction when it focuses on its users' demands instead of producing an El Cheapo box when it makes a computer. I believe that Apple is going in the right direction when it focuses on lifestyle when it advertises its products.

I believe that Apple does the right thing with the Macintosh because Apple goes with strength and focuses on what makes its platform a success. Apple uses the essence of its platform to sell it to its customers, without world domination in mind. After all, small is beautiful.

Michael Munger is a French Canadian living in Montreal. He discovered the Mac in 1994 while studying journalism, the profession he loves and practices. He also studied history and communications. In addition to his work at The Mac Observer, he authors the iBasics tutorial column at Low End Mac, and cofounded MacSoldiers in 1998.

You can find more about him at his personal Web site.

You are welcome to send me your comments or you can post them below.

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