As I dive into media literacy studies, I have been asked to critically engage with the marketing and advertising of a brand I consider myself loyal to. Now, I am the type of person that would prefer not to think of myself as loyal to any corporate brand. Aside from the desire to believe that I can maintain objectivity in my decision making, I also feel conflicted about the materialism and conspicuous consumption of rampant consumerism. However, realistically I know that I’m not any more immune from the persuasive powers of advertising than the next person, and while I don’t think of myself as a brand loyalist, I will “stick with what works” in many purchasing instances. Shoes, jeans, red wine, eyeglasses, comic book publishers – I have a favorite brand of each. I’m only human after all.
After considering what to write about for a few moments, I settled on what has easily been my most personal, complete, and expensive relationship to a specific brand in recent years. I am of course, talking about Apple.
Apple has a long and rich history of advertising and has been recognized for the innovation and cleverness of many of their campaigns. While watching a playlist of Apple’s most well known ads I saw three main aspirational themes (I am sure that others will identify different messages):
- People who use Apple computers are different, special, and creative, cool
- Apple products help you connect with what’s important (loved ones, passions)
- Apple products are simple, easy to use, empowering
There are many Apple ads that exemplify the first message – “you want to use Apple because you’re special or talented or creative.” I was most familiar with the “I’m a PC, and I’m a Mac” commercials starring John Hodgman and Justin Long and the “1984” Orwellian parody. Yet when reviewing several other examples this “Think Different” ad stuck out to me. It’s hard to imagine many companies getting away with hitching their brands to Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, and Martin Luther King Jr. (and that’s just in the first 10 seconds of this piece) but that’s exactly what they do here.
Once More With Emotion
In the post-Jobs era, Apple has introduced more emotional appeal into their advertising. People do get emotionally attached to their phones and laptops, but these ads focus on showing how these devices supposedly help to foster the human connections that sustain us. In my survey I saw videos focused on a young couple using the iPhone camera to create memories of a shared afternoon in the city, an energetic video of friends messaging stickers to each other, and romantic partners navigating their relationship with a little help from their Apple Watches. I chose this short video that has the most effect on me:
Keep It Simple, Stupid
The last theme I saw several times was one of simplicity and ease-of-use. Apple rarely features celebrities talking about how great their products are, but they often will provide brief demonstrations, mini-tutorials, or standout examples of photography, video, or other creative work created with their devices.
Although I personally became an Apple user after being exposed to Macs and iPads at work rather than by shopping around or from watching commercials , I acknowledge that their marketing is very effective and continuously works to sell me on the idea of entrenching myself further and further into a technology ecosystem that I would have a great deal of difficulty leaving at this point. For now, I will continue to use and enjoy my MacBook, iPhone, and other Apple gadgets. But I will strive to keep reminding myself of the following :
- Gadgets don’t make you special or cool (that requires personality and authenticity)
- Gadgets don’t make your loved ones love you more (that requires attention and communication)
- Most technology is getting pretty user friendly and effective (Android phones and Windows computers can be as good, perhaps better for many people)
(Confession: this post was written on an iPad Pro)