Big news, tastemakers and trendspotters: I became an Apple guy last week. Lacking the patience to learn Windows 8 and vexed by the operational schizophrenia of my old machine, I finally took the plunge. That’s right: I’m typing this column on a shiny lightweight husk of Apple-sanctified godmetal. To affirm this new happenin’ personal brand image, I bought horn-rimmed frames for my glasses and stocked up on artisanal muffins. Today, an Apple laptop. Tomorrow, who knows? Maybe a shirt with buttons? I dream big.
It was a pretty exciting week for Apple as well, adding a star of my prodigious luminosity to its universe of brand adherents. Apparently there was also an anniversary of some sort involving the Macintosh. As is Apple’s wont, the company commemorated the occasion - the Mac’s 30th birthday - with “1.24.14,” another brand video shot exclusively on the newest iPhone.
And just like the last one, the clip is a mix of treacle and self-backslapping that does less to burnish the brand than it does preach to the choir, to the Apple fanboys and fangirls who’d
sooner accept the possibility of intelligent life on Saturn than the notion that an Apple product might, somehow, prove less than extraordinary. Far be it from anyone besides the irascible ghost of
Steve Jobs to tell Apple how to go about its business, but this whole our-stuff-connects-people-to-
Structured as a day-to-night progression (cue triple-gorgeous sunrise and sunset footage), “1.24.14” depicts the myriad ways Apple products technoenhanceify users’ otherwise drab lives. We see students pointing their iPads at the little aquarium fishies, a manly man bouncing an iMac on his lap as he careens through the jungle in his Jeep and some random person capturing for posterity a luge slalom supercross stunt on his/her iPhone. Apple tchotchkes are used to manipulate artificial limbs and benign robots alike; they serve as a resource for archaeologists deep in a dig and for fashion photographers in their downtown-loft milieu. They are instruments of music, art, manners and science. Collectively, they contribute more to our day-to-day existences than vegetables and indoor plumbing combined.
The implicit message is that if you dared attempt any of this with a Samsung device, it would animate, start to sob and stab itself in the throat with a shrimp fork. And that’s why the
Worse, boiled down to its essence - gosh, Melinda, look at all the clever ways people use their electronic gadgetry - “1.24.14” lacks originality. If there’s one thing that distinguishes Apple from just about every brand in history, tech/electronics and otherwise, it’s a keen sense of self. Apple has always presented itself as special, as above the fray. Now it wants us to celebrate our shared community? There is nothing common about a $599 iPad.
Here’s where I’d focus, if heaven forbid somebody were insane enough to entrust me with Apple’s branding: on the products. “Apple products are pretty and Apple products are easy to use.” Boom.
At this point, it’d take an awful lot to dislodge the Apple brand halo - best design, best functionality, best snob appeal - so why bother with a campaign that does little more than ensure that it’s still in place? Apple should squawk. It should thump its chest. It should smirk and wearily shake its head at pretenders to the throne, à la “can you believe this crap?” Hell, why not set the next brand video in the parking lot of your average suburban nursery school? Train the camera on the face of the kid whose parent is attempting (and failing) to complete a basic task on a non-Apple device. Capture his disgust and disappointment for posterity. Kids know where it’s at.
Or, again, maybe concentrate on the beautiful products that are super-easy to use. Nobody’s asking Apple to wage direct brand warfare on upstart tech brands, and nobody expects the company’s branding to match its products in intuitiveness and ingenuity. But a brand of Apple’s caliber is poorly served by a baldly emotional pitch that equates shooting video of a DJ with bridging the emotional and geographical chasms that divide us. The brand is bigger, and better, than that.