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Truth and Advertising
Would advertising cure Apple's woes?

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

Notice the title isn't "Truth IN advertising", since I am not sure that exists. This article responds to those people that think that Apple's problems are because of marketing. It also answers the question, "Why does the press, or some individuals 'HATE' Apple?"

Many people have been giving Apple a tough time about advertising or marketing. All the time I hear people say that "Apple just needs to get the message out," or, "If only Apple had better ads, then things would be better." This is a fallacy -- ads are not Apple's biggest problem, it is human nature. The other fallacy is the belief that MS and Intel have good or great advertising. Neither premise is exactly true, and ads can not make the difference by themselves -- contrary to what the pitchmen will try to sell you. Ads only make a minor difference, and almost no difference if the system (masses) really is out to get you. You can't honestly think that better PR would have cure any minorities problems with fear and oppression at the hands of the rest! So how can ads cure the bias and bigotry (also based on ignorance, fear and group-thinking conformity) that exists towards Apple and the Mac?

Some get a little touchy towards these references. I am not claiming that Apple is suffering the same atrocities as racism -- I am pointing out the legitimate similarities in motives like forced conformity / oppressing those which are different, and driving those which are different "somewhere else".


The goal of most advertising is brand / product recognition (hoping that will turn into sales). Well, Apple as a company has some of the best brand recognition in the entire industry. People recognize the company name, they have heard of the products (mostly good), people know the logo, and even know of the personalities in the company. People recognize Apple's name and Macintosh™ even more than they recognize Intel, Pentium, MMX or Microsoft, Windows, Bug. So by any advertiser's measurement of success, Apple at its worst exceeds expectations and has great PR and marketing (or market recognition) -- yet Apple is not the number one company. Apple has always had some of the highest consumer satisfaction, highest repurchase rate, highest brand loyalty, and coolest (most expensive) logo and so. Of course Apple has done better and worse on its ad campaigns -- but that doesn't always directly relate to the position as a company (Sales). So if Apple's problems are not that it has poor advertising or poor brand recognition then what is it?

First let me pound on the other side's advertising to stress that it not that just that while Apple is good, the other side is just better - they aren't.


Intel has been running these "Intel Inside" ads -- implying that just by virtue of the processor being made by Intel, the product would be great. Intel's ads were targeted strictly at product recognition, but never explained what the product was or what it did. Intel ran ads that had Pentiums flying around and talked about CD-ROM's and multimedia, as if the processor had anything to do with CD-ROM's, modems, or allowing the computer to connect to the World Wide Web. This was not a very effective campaign at explaining anything, it just looked cute and got the name in people's faces. I call this "Ignorance Marketing," because it plays to people's ignorance. For product recognition these campaigns are a success, but as far as really selling processors they don't do that much. If those ads had been a success, then Intel's market share would have changed dramatically. It hasn't -- it is more or less stayed the same (or continued the trends that already existed).

Ironically, the first "flying Pentium" ads were originally done on a Mac (because the Mac was better for this type of multimedia work). Intel had to go out of its way (later) to require that subsequent ads would be done on PC's and Pentiums (even though it cost more money to do so) just to avoid future embarrassment. Which brings me to a point. That is quite amusing and ironic and it was known -- why didn't the Press ever run that story? They knew about it. It was newsworthy (human interest or funny flubs kind). That the Press didn't wasn't Apple's fault -- but it does show the deeper problem. The problem was the bias against Apple and towards PCs, at least partly because the media doesn't want to offend big advertisers, and Intel was a huge advertiser.

People know the Pentium ads -- but they don't know what the hell a Pentium does! This is marketing at its worst -- a bunch of marketeers trying to sell each other ice-makers in the arctic -- armed only with hype, and without having the first clue about the product (and with no intention of letting anyone know). This helps further the group-think and hate mongering (which is making a difference), but doesn't make much of a difference for rational (informed) people.

MMX only made Intel's marketing worse (more esoteric). Now we have dancing manufacturing techs, in iridescent clean suits, dancing to remixed 70's music, and injecting "fun" into the computer. What is fun, and how does it power my computer? This is just the 90's version of having movie stars selling cigarettes as cool --without the warning label (of course). But this marketing isn't selling a product -- it is just furthering the hype that is already selling the product, and it prevents the market leaders from losing market share. Remember that Intel already had complete market dominance before they started these ads. So ads are not what made Intel, and cannot just "fix" Apple.

Later still Intel ran ads with little robots or people getting "dressed up" by using a PentiumIII, with all sorts of implications that the PentiumIII makes the web better. Of course there isn't anything in human history that Intel probably hasn't layed claim to as their innovation; fun, the web, color, 3D, etc., but I guess that is the point -- make people believe that their product will somehow turn you into a robot with special effects?

Is this Intel crap really supposed to be great marketing? It is only if selling a product without anyone understanding what it is or how it works is the goal? Ask 1,000 people, that recognize the term MMX, what MMX is -- you will be lucky to find one that really knows. If that is good advertising, then all that Apple (or any company) has to do is to create a cooler ad, to sell computers.

How about "Macintosh, 'cause chicks dig it!" or "PowerPC makes your dick bigger"? (The computer market is still mostly male dominated). Do you honestly think those campaigns would change the market perception and sell Macs or unseat Intel/MS? I don't think so. People are savy enough not to buy based on silly claims, or pretty fancy pictures. It gets their attention, and may get them looking in that direction, but it won't sell them (they have to already be sold, or be sold once they get to the store).

To show how little a difference the Intel marketing actually makes, one need only watch buyers in a store. Most users don't ask about the processor in their computer. I bet if you monitored 500 computer sales at the local stores, you would be lucky if there was one person who asked if this machine "came with an Intel Processor" inside. They may note it, and the sales people may mention it (because it makes them sound like they know something), but the buyers don't usually ask. So if Intel has such great marketing, then why don't most buyers care?!

So the reason that Intel's marketing has any impact at all, is that the computer manufacturers or sales people think that consumers care -- not that consumers really do. So, more important than the public's buying habits, is that the manufacturers, distributors, and sales people THINK that Intel owns the public's mind -- so THEY buy (or sell) Intel to cover their own butts (and hide their own ignorance). They (the pushers) are fighting to force conformity onto the buyers. So Intel gets the market, but it is not the marketing itself that is causing it (just a derivative). The bigger difference is made by the fact that Intel already has the market, making Intel the safest path (less risk) for the manufacturers, sales people, and distributors to just follow (rather than having to think for themselves). The only thing Intel really has to do is keep from LOSING the perception that they are big and cool, and the dollars will keep rolling in [see self-fulfilling prophecy]. But don't think this is great marketing. At this point the most inept ads would sell Intel processors -- as Intel has proven.

So what is selling these things?

The real thing that is selling Intel processors is that Intel is big and the press and individuals (who make money off of Intel) are always spinning things in their favor. The product recognition helps -- but it is only validation for preconceptions that people already have.

The public gets interested because of the ads, and then reads articles. The reporters or so called analysts (who make money selling PC-Training/information), spin things in Intel's favor, and that makes a bigger difference. People talk to their friends, and their friends are trying to validate their decisions and bias by passing it on to others. All keep pounding in the same message -- Intel is big, big is better, don't think - buy Intel. People figure that Intel has to be good to be big (faulty logic) -- so they buy Intel. Of course by their reasoning they should all eat crap for dinner, because 10 trillion flies can't all be wrong -- but I'm getting off topic.

The point is that people want to fit in, and buy what everyone else has bought -- so they buy Intel. People want to have a faster model of the same thing, but they don't want to take a risk and think for themselves or have something that is too different. It is mankind's lowest goal -- conformity (and fear of unconformity) that powers Intel and is against Apple. This pack-animal mentality shows how little some of us have evolved as life-forms. This is also why the reporters write trash pieces -- they follow the same logic, they are conformists, they want to follow. If they trash Intel, they lose a big advertiser (which is not good for their job). Apple is NOT towing the line (following), and needs to be punished!

I don't think that the marketing is the cause of Intel's success -- that is a false causal relationship. Intel is a success, and they have marketing, but marketing did not cause the success. You can not extrapolate that false causal relationship to Apple and think that if Apple marketed like Intel, that they would be successful like Intel. Lets not compare Apples to Orangutans.


Of course all this marketing makes you big stuff gets applied to Microsoft as well. And Microsoft is another example of ignorance marketing at work. Microsoft has repeatedly marketed with Intel's methods. "Start me up" and the Stones music, the entire Windows95 campaign, and Microsoft Office, is all about just getting name recognition. But that alone won't make a really big difference.

The bigger difference is made by the billions of free advertising dollars that the press gives Microsoft. When the press shows the lines of people waiting to be the first to buy Win95, the public buys into the idea that MS is big (good), and that Win95 is good because others want it. Of course the press doesn't show the huge lines of people trying to return Win95 because it wouldn't install right -- or the poor victims in their homes beating their heads against their monitors in frustration! Because that would offend an advertiser.

Every time Bill Gates farts, there is some member of the press announcing that Gates is "releasing a hot new product, created in the bowels of MS, that will cause others to take notice" Why does MS get all that free press? Again it falls back to the basics -- they are big, they are safe, they are the mindless choice, that is news (for the followers). People want to fit in, and MS is always the conformists choice. Different magazines and newspapers know that if they run these free stories, then they might get more paid ads. Writers figure if they are sympathetic to Microsoft's causes, then they get easier access to press releases, interviews or stories -- which is better for the writer. Microsoft gets sales because they got sales before -- and because they have money to keep people in line. The marketing does little but confirm what the followers already "know." Remember, MS was big BEFORE they started advertising.

If you are ignorant, the last thing you are going to do is challenge those who may know more than you; you buy MS (the biggest) and you buy into the hype, you follow because it gives you a false sense of security and it makes people feel like they know something. So these types conform and become brainwashed by the seduction of having others think that they may know something. Of course the worst thing you can do to a brainwashed conformist is challenge their assumptions. In so doing, you are challenging their entire belief system and their addiction of choice. That is why most of those that follow Microsoft are so quick to attack Apple and Mac users (or anyone that is different) they believe they are the best because they are the biggest -- and the biggest told them they were the best, and don't you DARE try to not conform with the biggest and the best. Everything that is different is bad -- and Apple is different. You can't market around this and you can't change this type of person with a few ads. This is like trying to change a Ku Klux Klan member into an NAACP sponsor with a 30 second ad. How many times do you see a hooded racist break down in tears and mend his ways because a coke commercial played, "I'd like to teach the world to sing...?" Sometimes you just have to wait for them to grow on their own, or go around them and deal with the rest. But you have to know they are not highly motivated to change or to listen.

Microsoft not only uses ignorance marketing, but it also resorts to much more unethical (if not illegal) methods. Examples include "bundling," extortion of manufacturers, forced upgrades (by changing file formats every version), and so on. Instead of causing anger or outrage (as it should), there are many individuals that consider this "any means necessary" sort of sales as "good because it works," which supports my "brainwashed followers" theory. They will question their own moral beliefs (and justify Microsoft's behavior), rather than question the actions of the company they support.

The good news is that this "any means necessary" marketing never works long term. History is filled with the carcasses of companies that built up a deficits of hate and distrust that eventually destroyed them. These carcasses were often companies with only a fraction of the amount of backlash and anger that Microsoft has already earned. So Microsoft's short term strong-arm extortion tactics, lies, extreme over-promises and under-delivery, and buggy products ARE going to come back to haunt them. Remember, IBM was in this same position for a few years (say 10 or 20), and when they started to fall, there were many people ready to throw them an anvil and step on their fingers grasping for a tenuous hold. So, contrary to what the conformists and followers sell -- this is not good long term marketing either.


If Apple is so bad at advertising, why has Apple has won many Advertising Accolades? According to the majority of advertisers and/or viewers, Apple has great ads. Many are of the ignorance and mood type (like MS and Intel). Think Different(ly). Think Different than what? Many of those "feel good" ads are the one that have won awards. And they do get a mood across and do get some people to look in that direction. But then usually Apple is slaughtered by the misinformation campaign, the bias in the stores, or the ignorance in the press. The same people that claim MS's or Intel's ads of this type are great, are the first to criticize Apple's ads of the same genre.

However, Apple has another category of ads -- the educational ads! These are the ones that try to teach a bit of the truth. These ads that tell you that the plug & play you've been promised may not really work on a PC (but does on a Mac). They may inform you that the Mac is easier to use, or faster than the PC. The Mac has some style and is not just a beige box. Other ads talk about Mac advantages like multimedia, or discuss built-in functions on the Mac that are "options" on the PC. These ads are less likely to win awards, but are at least the moral high ground. Some make extreme claims (they are marketing after all), but most are taking truth and just selling it.

Of course these ads can only work on people that have open minds or those who want to learn. Then the press comes out with 10 negative spins on irrelevant news predicting Apple's demise, and Apple has lost ground in the public perception. Apple can bombard people with these ads, and the press and Wintel-Worshipers can bombard right back with hate-spins -- and Apple just wastes money and loses ground.

Apple has run many brilliant series of ads that talk about what a Mac can easily do, and then some cretin at the local electronics or computer store will tell the buyer that "Apple is going out of business, and has no Software," and then switches the buyer to a product that they will be much less happy with. Why the switch? Because there is a bigger spiff (kickback) on the PC product, or the guy doesn't have a clue and wants to sound smart by following the rest of the herd. Good marketing and advertising can not fix this -- it certainly hasn't in the past.

Apple also runs yet another category of ad -- the "lets challenge their assumptions" ads. These were big in the 80's. The Lemmings ad (with IBM Blue-Suiters all walking off a cliff), the 1984 ad (with Orwellian Overtones), and others. These are the kick-butt ads that all the Mac Advocates think will make a difference. I have news for them -- these ads were great for the advocates (those who already believed), and they did get a few new converts by insulting some so much that they went down to learn enough to ridicule, and instead learned something important (and bought Macs).

But these ads also hurt Apple and the Mac in a big way, and we can't forget that. These "truth" ads (insult and challenge ads) pissed off a lot of the conformists because it reminds them of exactly what they are -- little cowardly ignorant followers. The results are that Apple created an army of spiteful people that are going to get even! Apple is paying today for the 1984 ad (run only a few times over a decade ago) -- and that one wasn't nearly as bad as Lemmings. The IS or IT departments started banning Macs right after those ads ran -- and to this day have a chip on their shoulder about Apple. Talk to them, it is scary. To this day they perpetuate myths that they created after those ads ran. (Macs are too hard to program, they are too slow, they don't network well, and so on). Because the ads were true enough to hit a nerve only makes their desires for revenge that much stronger -- Friends are transitory, but enemies are for life. These are the people that take glee in kicking Apple when it is down, and who are doing their best to beat Apple down (and keep it there). Some of the worst hate and vitriol is reserved for those that challenge assumptions.


Intel markets with "ignorance" marketing -- and only strives to get brand recognition, and take credit for what others have created. Still it doesn't gain much from its ads, it just prevents loss.

Microsoft's marketing ads also delve into lies, as well as the ignorance marketing, but it gets little from the ad campaigns (that people don't already believe).

The real power in both companies comes from the masses of followers all pretending they know something by following "first". This is the old strategy of watching which way the band marches every day -- then, one day, walking out in front and declaring yourself the bandleader. That is where their marketing power is -- but it can only hold as long as the masses are ignorant.

Marketing and advertising alone can't cure this problem for Apple -- but time and education CAN! The computer market is immature, and people don't understand computers. But that IS changing. Cars were newfangled, exotic toys for a generation or so. Then the next generation became much more open-minded and knowledgeable. The marketing changed, the concepts changed and people bought for different reasons. This will happen in computers.

So what is the future, and why am I so smug?

  • The technologies that make a Mac what it is ease of use, better design, doing it right, balancing a system, tight integration and so on, will all make a difference in the future. Ignorance can only win out for so long.
  • The press' incessant bashing of Apple can only last so long. After a point, they look stupid because Apple isn't going away. They have almost played their last card. Already they are turning and claiming that "things are getting better for Apple".
  • The next generation of users is coming. Individuals are learning to think for themselves, and more and more people are becoming computer literate. The market is learning that it doesn't have to accept the "one" choice. Java, the Web, Open Standards AND specialized computers (like WebTV, NC's, Newtons) are taking hold -- all mean less for Wintel, and more people that are more open to choices, and more viability for other computers (like Macintosh).
  • People are self-educating and self-buying (no more shoe salesman selling computers). Internet purchasing and Mail Order is becoming more common -- as is the research behind these buying decisions. People are buying their second and third computers and learning from their mistakes. The Information Age is taking hold -- and where the truth mattters the Mac can dig in!
  • Apple (the Mac) is getting bigger! Apple does not have to be as big as Microsoft or Intel, and it doesn't matter if Apple loses or gains market share. What really matters is that the Mac has enough critical-mass to entice new development and new products -- and every year the number of Macs (compounded with all the Macs sold before) are increasing the viability of the Mac market -- no matter what the market share followers and bean counters tell you.
  • Wintel converts can be achieved only through force or ignorance (and they are temporary) -- but Mac converts are made by just showing them the truth. Once people convert to Macs, they do so for life (or at least until something substantial changes). The more experience you have with a PC, the more likely you are to become a Mac convert (if you use a Mac for some time). The more you use a Mac, the more frustrated you are when you use a PC.
We have ridden the normal shakeout period and the contraction phase of our marketplace. We are ready for another growth / expansion period (with more options). The people are bored with single standards and resent MS (and to a lesser extent Intel). While Intel and MS are trying to cling to their old ways and trying to hang on to the market share they have, the market is preparing to move on -- and Apple (along with the rest of the industry) is ready to lead the way. Wintels "us versus the rest of the industry" is about to reap the rewards that it so richly deserve. Apple's new found openness, and superior products will do the same.

The key to understanding this article is to realize that I don't think Apple does perfect ads -- they can be lots better. Apple can also do better PR (which may be more important). It is just that those that say that "if only Apple did better ads..." aren't looking at all the other variables -- its more than just advertising -- and I tried to bring a different perspective to the subject.Of course I am thrilled when Apple does good ads, and I do think that advertising can get people's attention -- but it can't keep it there. Keeping their attention, or getting the buy, may run a lot deeper than a 30 second spot.

Created: 07/09/97
Revised: 05/29/99
Updated: 11/09/02

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