What Every Business Owner Can Learn From Apple

Aug 27, 2010   //   by John Tabita   //   Advertising, Business, Marketing  //  No Comments

I just read an interesting analysis [pdf] of the “Get a Mac” ad campaign… you know, the ones with the nerdy businessman (“I’m a PC”) and the cool hipster (“I’m a Mac”) politely bantering about which is superior.

The long-running commercials have won advertising awards, been praised by Mac users, denegrated by PC loyalists, and parodied numerous times on sites like YouTube. There’s even a website where you can watch all 60+ commercials.

But the ultimate success of any advertising campaign is, How much did it affect sales? Here are the results:

  • 2006: Apple’s overall sales rose 39 percent for the fiscal year. (That rise began shortly after the first commercials began to air.)
  • 2007: Apple reported 34 percent growth in Mac sales from 4Q 2006.
  • 2008: Apple saw 38 percent growth in Mac sales from the previous year.

So what can the average business owner take away from Apple’s success? There are many factors that make a campaign successful, but here are three key components to consider in all your advertising:

Know Who Your Target Audience Is

Apple knew their intended audience… and it wasn’t the staunch PC user. (In fact, most of the backlash over the campaign came from this camp.) No, their target audience was the “swing” consumer who was not entrenched in either camp. These may have been people who didn’t actively choose a PC over a Mac, rather, those who bought a PC because they didn’t know what else to get.

Facts Tell, But Emotions Sell

Apple clearly understands that facts, features (or even benefits) don’t sell… emotions do. The report noted that, if you were to distill the central theme that runs across the entire campaign, it would be:

…PCs cause trouble and grief — they’re hard to use, they’re unstable, and they’re vulnerable to malware. Macs are easy, stable, safe, and competent. Your computer problems will go away when you switch to Mac.

Words like trouble, grief, hard, easy, stable, safe and competent are all emotional; and even though the commercials didn’t directly say these things, they were certainly the message they intended to convey.

Marketing Matters!

You can reap the benefits of advertising, or suffer the consequences of not. Apple has done both.

What prompted the “Get a Mac” campaign was, in spite of consistent growth since 2001, Mac sales went south in late ‘05. In May ‘06, Apple launched the “Get a Mac” campaign. In June, sales began their upward spike. Coincidence? I think not.

You may have noticed that I didn’t post Apple’s results for 2009. In September ‘08, Microsoft launched their “I’m a PC” commercials, and shortly thereafter, Apple’s “Get a Mac” ads largely disappeared. In early ‘09, Apple’s double-digit growth in Mac sales took a sharp decline. Coincidence? Again, I think not.

Blogging on this same topic,eWeek’s Microsoft Watch summed it up nicely:

What have I been saying for months? Marketing matters. People buy products that they see advertised. Their awareness increases, as does potential emotional connection to a brand and/or product. During the worst days of Windows Vista sales, Microsoft did no marketing. But since September, Microsoft has consistently advertised Windows and supporting software, like Windows Live Photo Gallery.

The bottom line: regardless of what advertising medium you employ, all the key ingredients must be included in order to succeed.

Apple has offically announced that it’s ending the “Get a Mac” campaign but considering it’s overall success at embedding itself into pop culture, I’m sure its legacy will continue. With that thought, I’ll close with one of my favorites:

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