I helped my father buy his second personal computer recently. He barely used his first computer, a Gateway Pentium II machine. When he bought it, he couldn’t understand the salesman well, and he ended up buying a Pentium II right after the Pentium III was released, because, in his own words, “I heard that the Pentium IV will be out soon, so why spend extra on the Pentium III.” I know, it doesn’t make sense.
It had a DVD player, USB ports, and an LCD screen to match. It was a hulking tower, though, so he hid it under the desk, which also meant he was intimidated by the ports on the back. When he got his digital camera, he almost never plugged it in, because taking out the machine usually meant he would accidentally unplug something else. That’s why the nice little Boston Acoustic speakers he bought never worked, because he couldn’t figure out where to plug them in. When he bought a Canon photo printer, he couldn’t use it at the same time as his color DeskJet because he only had two USB ports, and one of them was taken up by his Cable modem. He didn’t have an Ethernet card. It was all a mess.
I knew he needed a Mac. He almost never uses the computer. Mind you, my father is far from stupid, and not really behind the times. He is a consummate medical professional, and when it comes to his science, he is perfectly up-to-date. He’s never used an ATM in his life, but his checkbook is balanced, and he knows everything there is to know about the latest advances in his own business. He doesn’t need to learn about drivers, or networking, or even USB. He just wants to take the pictures off his digital camera and print them out.
So, I was home visiting, and he pops in to say “Let’s go computer shopping.” Are there four more beautiful words? The Apple Store is almost an hour away, and he doesn’t drive more than 15 minutes for anything he can get closer, so we went to CompUSA.
It was a funny trip. We went right to the 20″ Core Duo iMac. There was a young couple looking at the same machine. I could tell the salesperson wasn’t giving them coherent answers, so I started to walk the crowd through iLife, the Dock, etc. We both ended up walking out with a new machine.
Why did he resist so long? He was worried about compatibility with his productivity apps at work. Not the accounting software, but Word, Excel, Internet Explorer. Ridiculous, right? Maybe not. I think that, in marketing itself as an ‘Us vs. Them’ company, Apple has posited itself on the outside. That scares off my father.
Why is Apple so worried about proving it is better than a PC, unless it isn’t? he asks himself. I’ve often heard market share comparisons between Apple and BMW. Can you imagine BMW advertising that they are better than Ford? Of course not. BMW starts from the position that they are The Ultimate Driving Machine, and their real competitors, Mercedes and the rest, do the same. Apple needs to position itself as The Ultimate Computing Machine. Stop highlighting the differences.
I’m not suggesting that Apple focus on the similarities either. Just show the machines. Show people using the machines. Show a café filled with tiny white and long silver monitors, their apple logos glowing. Show Grandma printing out a picture of her grandkids to take with her to bingo. In other words, show people driving the beautiful machine, and show them driving fast, and show how much they love to drive.
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