It’s last Tuesday, and I’m sitting inside the Levinson Auditorium at the Law School. I’m totally excited because New York Times Personal Technology columnist David Pogue is about to unleash the latest in technology gadgets on us technophiles. I’m wearing an extra-large House of Holland shirt that reads “Cause Me Pain Hedi Slimane,” huge black skater shoes, grey Cheap Monday jeans, and I’m carrying this Freitag bag I got in Zurich.
During the 15 minutes Pogue uses to make sure that his various technologies work when he tells them to, I take a look around and notice that I’m completely surrounded by Apple products. People say that Apple customers are something like iFanatics. They try to make non-Mac users convert and won’t touch a PC without a protective mask and a pair of latex gloves.
I don’t know why I’m so amazed by all the “Appleness” that surrounds me, but it becomes obvious and clear to me the minute Pogue opens his Gadget Show-and-Tell with “iPhone: The Musical,” which I’ve actually already seen 268.4 times: Apple represents an amazing feat of marketing and style. As I type this column on my white MacBook, protected by a ring of various Apple products, I ask myself: What does Apple do to suck us in?
First: Everybody loves a juicy secret. No surprise, then, that one thing Apple does to draw its fans in is to produce these “Media Events” or “Surprise Events” where it drops a new line of products. Shazaam! Nobody knows what’s going to pop out of these events, and because of this the “Surprise Events” are shrouded in secrecy and silence on Apple’s part, while iFans feed the Apple gossip blogs about the company’s next product. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve got both AppleInsider and MacRumors on my Google Reader!
The result of all this secrecy, of course, is that virtually no new Apple product comes without a 28-piece brass band.
Second: Who doesn’t want to be hip? Apple makes its stores a destination of coolness. For instance, last spring I saw the Emerson String Quartet AND Kings of Leon perform in the Apple Store SoHo. For fucking free. Its 24-hour Fifth Avenue store is ALWAYS packed and is on many tourists’ agendas. My friends and I have been known to end a night of clubbing at the Apple Store, just because.
So, aside from making good, easy-to-use products — there’s nothing I hate more than opening a box only to find out that I have to, like, build shit — I think that the real brilliance of the gig is that Apple isn’t selling products at all. It’s selling fashion.
Apple understands the importance of fashion, design and generally being “with it” in contemporary culture. Why else do people say that Apple users are generally cooler, liberal, fun, great in bed, etc.?
Apple marketing capitalizes on our current obsession with design, fashion and style. The success of fashion-related television shows or movies seems to be at an all-time high. And now, high-end fashion designers can make cheap stuff for the masses. It’s like we’re in a moment when everybody wants to have a small piece of luxury.
We’re all saying: Functionality is over. Luxury is the new functionality.
I switched computer platforms about five years ago. At the time I was dating this guy who was a complete geek (cute, though). He, like, built his own computers and shit. Not really my flask of cosmo. But I remember the first time I saw his iBook, with its gooey desktop icons, ability to feed the poor, cure cancer and open out into a tall sexy Brazilian soccer boy, I was totally convinced. I spent more time with Jeff, not really to see him but to play with his iBook (not an innuendo). Slowly, my Compaq got neglected (and so did Jeff), and as soon as I could, I got my own iBook.
But why? Here’s what I’ve come up with: Apple marketing has more in common with the enfant-terribles of fashion like John Galliano, Gareth Pugh, Alexander McQueen, or Viktor and Rolf — all designers who are known for producing large-scale excitement in advance of their shows, followed by huge spectacle on the runway — than most other companies.
For me, Apple’s “Media Events” — and the buzz it creates around its products — are like runway fashion shows and the surrounding hysteria. They remind me of the special Karl Lagerfeld collection for H&M that sold out within minutes; the Viktor & Rolf collection that did the same; the coming Roberto Cavalli collection that’s also bound to do it; and the higher-end pieces by Hedi Slimane for Dior Homme that often sold out before they were actually made.
Consider the fact that Dell doesn’t really have a cult following. People buy Dell because they need a computer. In fashion, their equivalents are those lost souls who are content bobbing for clothes at the Local Bargain Mart. For them, clothing is just about functionality. Like PC users, these people want maximum utility, no bells, whistles or sexy Brazilian soccer boys.
The downside of Apple’s style of marketing, of course, is that it brews this eerie religious-style fervor, turning its customers into zombies who wait at the edge of their seats, prepared to slit wrists and pawn children to get the next product. Sadly, that’s the way the fashion industry works, whether we’re talking about fashions in the academy, in design or in technology — everybody wants to know and get in on what’s next.
And I’m OK with it!
People keep saying to wait for the second-generation iPhone. But fashionistas do not wait. By the time the second generation comes out, iPhone will be over.
Madison Moore is not receiving bribes from Apple.