Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Apple cult. Why it is the way it is

The Daily Telegraph have, momentarily, abandoned their Apple-enthusiasm and published an article on the ridiculousness of Apple-fandom. One feels a curious sensation of deja vu about this: the huge surge in popularity of a name or brand which can do no wrong, followed in time by a flagging of interest, and then eventually the doubters and complainers become more numerous - the obvious flaws become more apparent.

I've been one of the doubters for about 5 years, entirely coincidentally that is since just before the iPhone came out. I had my first taste of Apple zealotry from some people I was working for - truly nice people, but who behaved like unpaid volunteer advertisers for a product, as though they were promoting a way of life. Now I'm well aware that associating your product with a way of life is a standard advertising/PR strategy. And I think this goes a long way to explain the particular strain of snobbery surrounding Apple.

Let me explain. Part of the image we've been given to associate with Apple is this elitist image, there are two facets to this that I'll talk about: firstly, that they attempt to appeal to those who 'think outside the box', and secondly the idea that Apple products are for creative types.

On the first point, I remember finding out about cold-reading, part of a group of methods that confidence tricksters, fortune-tellers, mediums and sometimes salesmen, use. Basically the trick is - when you meet someone you've never met before - to say things about them that apply to many people, but sound very personal. One particular sentence that is often used is to say "you like to be accepted by the crowd, but at the same time you feel you are a little bit different, and think differently from the herd"

This is brilliant because it applies to every single one of us. I think it about myself, you think it about your self, We all do ('I don't' says a voice). It's incredibly common to self-justify in this way and people who are trying to persuade you to do or think something have known this a loooooong time. So saying that your product is for people who "think outside the box" is a very old trick in advertising.

Secondly, it's asking for trouble to try to appeal to creative types, or people's hidden creative side. I live in the UK and I've seen pathetically tiny amounts of the class snobbery that people associate with us. But that's not to say I've never seen snobbery here. Snobbery is alive and well in the UK, in fact it's rampant. In Music. And I strongly suspect in Art and Literature circles, and probably in theatre and film too. It is hard to credit the posturing, toadying and clique-culture that exists in these social circles. Seeing oneself as 'creative' seems to be inextricably linked with a strong tendency to ego-gratifying self-image. Not universally, but it happens a lot. People who wouldn't be like this normally are sucked into this mode of behaviour just so that they can exist and hopefully prosper in musical circles.

So there you have my thesis, perhaps not a new one: advertising techniques and cultures which emphasise that you are creative or "thinking outside the box" are in great danger of encouraging snobbery. I think that's what's happened with some Apple aficionados. There is a certain irony in hundreds of people who think they are different and special, but as in the link I gave above, Monty Python captured that pretty well for us already.

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