Thursday 30 December 2004

Brand power

Ed Bilodeau also wondered whether something else might have encouraged me to switch back to the Macintosh:

One thing that Jonathon doesn’t mention is the influence the Apple brand had on his decision. Although he appears to have been the target of a fair amount of peer pressure, I don’t know to what degree this affected Jonathon’s decision. But when talking about the decision to switch platforms, to ignore the power of Apple’s brand is a mistake. Apple’s brand is incredibly powerful. It connects with people on a deep, emotional level. That had to affect their decision-making process, so that it is no longer a case of making a rational, business-case for buying a Mac. In my case, put me in front of two systems, one PC and one Mac, with approximately the same specs. Right away, I know I can easily live with the PC, but I want the Mac.

Firstly, any “peer pressure” was prompted to a large degree by my own weblog posts about returning to the Mac. I doubt whether anyone who left a “welcome back to the fold” message spent more than a nanosecond in the past two years worrying about the fact that I didn’t have a Macintosh. More importantly, if Windows had run more reliably for me, I would almost certainly have tolerated its other inadequacies—after all, going back to the Macintosh is going to require time and money that might have been more profitably invested elsewhere.

Not that I consider myself immune to the power of a brand. I’m only too aware of the extent to which my decisions are based on emotional, not rational, criteria—an awareness that has increased as I’ve followed (and absorbed) Dave Rogers’ meditations on the subject. For example:

The only power we have is the power to choose. Most of the “choices” we make in the course of our daily lives, are really little more than habituated responses selected for by some interior emotional state. We “feel like” having a cup of coffee, or a beer. We yell at the TV when some talking head says something we don’t like. We get up in the morning and get ready for work. We don’t “think” about any of those things, we just do them. We lack the time and the cognitive resources to think about every single “decision” we make in the course of a day. So nature has provided us with a means of going about most of our daily routine in a routine fashion, requiring the least amount of time and energy to accomplish the things we need to do in order to survive.

Sometimes we are confronted with choices that are somewhat outside the bounds of our ordinary experience. These choices usually call for some cognitive effort, though not as much as we might expect…

Other times, a decision may be outside the bounds of our ordinary experience, yet we do have a significant emotional commitment to the subject of the decision. In those cases, our choices are usually based on how we “feel” about the issue, and our reasoning is constructed to support the “feeling.” In other words, we reason backward from our feelings.

I guess this is what Ed Bilodeau was getting at when he wrote about Apple’s brand connecting with people “on a deep, emotional level… affect[ing] their decision-making process, so that it is no longer a case of making a rational, business-case for buying a Mac.”

But I’m not a “switcher;” I’m a “returner.” The Apple brand used to affect me in exactly the way Ed (and Dave) describe, until I was given one of the legendary PowerBook 5300 models to use: in a three-month period the LCD screen, motherboard, keyboard, and a serial port all had to be replaced. Suddenly Windows began to look attractive. And the Apple brand had lost its luster.

Now, eight years later, the Windows brand connects with me on a deep, emotional level: I hate its (and Microsoft’s) guts.

But Ed Bilodeau’s observations on the power of the Apple brand did make wonder about the emotional component of my decision to return to the Macintosh.

The brands with which I’ve felt the warmest emotional connection over the years are Hasselblad, Leica, Nikon, and Apple. Nowadays, if I were still a photographer, I’d probably include Canon (my friend G’s Canon 1Ds is the first camera I’ve desired for eighteen years).

Other brands with a strong emotional pull? Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Ozu Yasujiro and Jean-Luc Godard. Nagai Kafū and W.G. Sebald. Keith Jarrett and Van Morrison. But I digress…

If the Apple brand no longer tugs at my heart as it once did, what brings me back to the Macintosh (apart from an irrational hatred for Microsoft)?


For the UNIX brand is incredibly powerful too.

As Burningbird wrote about her decision to switch:

I used to say I would never use a Mac, until I saw that slim, lightweight, extremely well designed Titanium PowerBook. What pushed me over the edge is when Apple came out with this operating system that was a fantastic mix of new, hot, albeit proprietary GUI built on top of powerful, bare metal, open source FreeBSD kernel, combining the best of all worlds.

For me, UNIX promises stability and reliability that Windows will never be able to match. The Mac OS X user interface is the frosting on the cake.

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You've just about summed it up for me there as well Jonathon. Many of my friends, who are let's say - technical, say to me "What are you doing with that toy" when I pull out my iBook. My response is always to swivel it round and show them the terminal window I'm (usually) writing code in.

That and the fact that fast user switching looks really cool ;-)

Posted by Andy Todd on 7 January 2005 (Comment Permalink)

This discussion is now closed. My thanks to everyone who contributed.

© Copyright 2007 Jonathon Delacour