Cult of Apple - Part 2 | The Thinking Blog ~ Knowledge Grows When Shared
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28 March 2007

Cult of Apple - Part 2

Steve Jobs is god? According to Apple fans, he is. Hilary Rosen from The Huffington Post once said "I know Steve Jobs is a god. Look, I bowed at his feet when the iPod and iTunes was created."1 I would like to note once again that this is not a post against Apple products or the people who use them. This is about the evangelist marketing technique I mentioned in part 1 of the Cult of Apple series and whether it is similar to how cults work.

[Video: 2]iCult
Now, not all the characteristics mentioned in this video applies to Apple's campaigns lead by CEO Steve Jobs. Let's break it down:
  • Followers: also known as fanboys or fangirls. The dictionary states that fan is short for fanatic and is defined as "A person marked or motivated by an extreme, unreasoning enthusiasm, as for a cause."3 The encyclopedia gives a broader view of who they are:
"individual fans may become so obsessed with the objects of their infatuation that they become fanboys/fangirls. These fans engage in behaviors that are considered extreme or abnormal. This includes idolatry or other forms of worship, such as creating a personal shrine dedicated to the idol at one's home, and can sometimes extend to the point of the fans become stalkers."4
"utterly devoted to a single fannish subject, or to a single point of view within that subject, often to the point where it is considered an obsession. Fanboys remain loyal to their particular obsession, disregarding any factors that differ from their point of view. Fanboys are also typically aggressive and hateful towards the opposing brand or competition of their obsession regardless of its merits or achievements."5
  • Deception. Apple doesn't make the best consumer electronics products in the World. The "best" is an interpretation and could also be treated as a subjective point of view. Dictionary says it is "a misleading falsehood."6 Encyclopedia says it is:
"the covert manipulation of perception to alter thoughts, feeling, or beliefs. Deception involves concepts like marketing, propaganda, distraction and concealment. Fiction, while sometimes manipulative, is not a deception unless it is portrayed as the whole truth; not to be confused with half-truths. In many cases it is difficult to distinguish deception from providing unintentionally wrong information. One of the reasons for this is that a person or an entire organization may be self-deceived."7
What's more, you need pay a hefty price to have the latest stuff. High price doesn't always means high quality and offering more features. "Specifically, manufacturers can use high prices to signal high quality to uninformed consumers."8 There is a physiological placebo effect when a person is exposed to the brand image displaying "heightened activation in the hippocampus, midbrain, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex."9 The truth is the company is selling expensive products despite their low cost of production.
  • Peer Pressure. The moment you buy an Apple product you become a member of a club who love and support each other. The "cool kids" club. This is usually disguised as a social clique where people share common interests. However, there is more than that here. If you have an Apple product, you almost always recommend it to a friend and invite them to join the "elite" group. This is called "social pressure by members of one's peer group to take a certain action, adopt certain values, or otherwise conform in order to be accepted."10 Wikipedia defines this as:
"the obligation felt by people who are (or who want to be) part of a social group, to adopt certain behavior patterns or attitudes in order to avoid social conflict with that group. There are a number of reasons why they may wish to avoid this conflict: it may be important to them to become socially accepted as a member of the group (especially if the group is one that they will be forced by circumstance to spend time with, such as a group of work colleagues or a school class), or they may fear repercussions from the group if they do not fit in." 11
This is all part of Evangelism marketing where "evangelist customers spread their recommendations and recruit new customers out of pure belief, not for the receipt of goods or money. Rather, the goal of the customer evangelist is simply to provide benefit to other individuals. As they act independently, evangelist customers often become key influencers. The fact that evangelists are not paid or associated with any company make their beliefs perceived by others as credible and trustworthy. Evangelism literally comes from the three words of 'bringing good news' and the marketing term justly draws from the religious sense, as consumers are literally driven by their beliefs in a product or service, which they preach in an attempt to convert others."12 Not only does it develop an "us" versus "them" mentality, but also causes "fans" on each side to flame at each other.
  • Dependency. Dictionary definition is the "lack of independence or self-sufficiency."13 If you have Mac OS then you need to buy the new version every year to stay up-to-date. Moreover, most of the applications are closed source. If you have an iPod, you need to go buy a new one just because the battery is dead. Steve says "you have to buy a new iPod at least once a year." And another one for no valid reason. This encourages dependency and conformity while discouraging autonomy and individuality. How are you supposed to "think different" when all your friends are using a white box with an apple figure on it? You are not supposed to (but if you seriously need help ignoring your peers then check this guide). Oh, did I mention Apple makes supernormal profits from the products it's marketing?
  • Repetition. Part of the process is brainwashing. "The application of a concentrated means of persuasion, such as an advertising campaign or repeated suggestion, in order to develop a specific belief or motivation. Any method of controlled systematic indoctrination, especially one based on repetition or confusion such as brainwashing by TV commercials."14 I'm sure most you have seen the "Get a Mac" adverts.15 Let's see how Steve Jobs himself does it in his keynotes:

One final note in regards to deception. A Mac is a personal computer (PC) as well. Get A PC! =)

To be continued.. keep tuned.

Coming up: The 3rd part of the Cult of Apple series is about the marketing of iPhone.

Any constructive comments welcome.

[Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]

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