Apple’s “Switch” campaign is finally working after all these years
April 23, 2010 by Beatweek
Note: I wrote this back in late 2003. In light of recent news out of Apple that Macintosh sales have jumped yet another thirty-three percent this quarter, I thought it might be a good time to look back at a time when being Mac user typically meant having to be on the offensive, and how some of my thoughts on the matter back then may or may not apply today…
Apple’s “Switch” campaign failed, right? Tens of millions of PC users didn’t rush to Apple Stores and purchase enough Macs to have any noticeable effect on worldwide marketshare, so let’s just label the whole thing a flop and move on. Well, wait a minute now…did we miss something?
Sure you did, if you’re of the camp who can’t see beyond the immediate-term, and who can’t step back and see the long-range benefits that Apple has reaped by choosing to run its “Switch to the Macintosh” campaign when it did. I want to highlight four key areas in which I believe that the Switch campaign has helped Apple — whether it originally planned it that way or not:
iTunes Music Store marketing
Before you can get Windows users to boldly download anything from Apple, even for free, you’ve got to at least get them believing that Apple is still a viable company that makes a viable product. The Switch campaign notified Windows users everywhere that a) Apple is still in business, b) the Mac is a platform that someone somewhere must still be using, and c) Apple is proud enough of its computers to dare suggest that Windows users try one out. So even those viewers who didn’t take enough away from the Switch campaign to actually buy a Mac, were still presented with ample evidence that Apple is still a player. Ask yourself: are you more likely to download music store software from a company that you mistakenly believe is about to give up the ghost, or a company who has the guts to recruit you as a user?
Power Macintosh G5
Rather than Apple simply coming out of nowhere claiming to have developed the world’s fastest personal computer, Windows-using viewers were first presented with a cast of characters who had switched to the Mac for reasons other than pure speed. In other words, Apple first said, “hey, switch to the Mac, it’s easier and better,” and then later came back and added, “oh, by the way, now we’re the fastest on top of it all.” It’s a one-two punch that might not have had the same impact if the order had been reversed. Windows users more bent on speed than usability might simply have tuned out the G5 commercials if they hadn’t been softened up by the Switch commercials first.
Waking up the sleepy Mac users
Unbelievable as it may seem, there is no shortage of Mac users out there who still have no idea about MacOS X or the iApp revolution. I’ve come across one too many users who bought their iMac primarily because they liked the color or the shape, and are still plodding along on MacOS 9 (or 8.6 even) and, being the type who pays little attention to the latest developments within the world of personal computing, has no idea what Apple has been up to, or how much they’re missing out on. Unfortunately, these are the types that Apple faces losing to Windows, for reasons every bit as valid as, let’s say, the Dell Dude. Although the Switch campaign was officially targeted at Windows users, it did just as good of a job of getting the message out to sleepy Mac users who out of their own ignorance, aren’t enjoying more than a fraction of their Mac’s potential.
Call to arms
Many a Mac user has long wanted to knock down the door of everyone they know, and proclaim the superiority of the Macintosh, in the hopes of getting them all to move to the Mac. Well, Apple’s Switch campaign has finally made it socially acceptable to do so. Now, Mac users who can’t shut up about their platform choice are looked at by Windows users as evidence that the Switch ads are true, not simply as oddballs who made a strange computing choice for some strange reason. In other words, Apple declared open season on every Windows user who has a Mac-using friend, family member, co-worker, or acquaintance. As anyone who’s “helped” a friend Switch to the Mac can attest, for most Windows users it’s a long process in which several layers of misconception, fear, uncertainty, and doubt must be peeled away one at a time. Apple’s Switch campaign was the catalyst that started the process in so many of these cases.
in other words…
PC users who make up their mind to Switch to the Mac but own a six-month old PC aren’t likely to buy that Mac until they’ve used up a little more of their PC’s useful life, or finished paying for their PC, or both. I can personally think of a number of PC users who are 100% certain that their next computer will be a Mac, and are simply waiting until the time is right for them. And from what I’ve seen around the net, there are a significant number of users currently in this “holding pattern.” So although they haven’t bought their Mac and added their purchase to the statistical gods, the Switch campaign has already succeeded in converting them.
In addition, journalistic outlets worldwide appear to be full of self-proclaimed Switchers who are all too happy to share their experiences with their viewers and readers. The impact that this “first wave” of Switchers will have on those who are generally followers when it comes to computer decisions, well that remains to be seen. Let’s face it, most people who own a particular brand of PC purchased it because someone else told them to. And most of them who Switch to the Mac will do so because someone else told them to, as well.
But one way or another, I believe that the effects of Apple’s Switch campaign are only now surfacing, as it has breathed legitimacy into Apple’s subsequent ad campaigns, and it has given Mac users everywhere the go-ahead to become active Mac advocates within their own circles. Although “Switch” will never get the credit it deserves, it helped to get the party started in various ways.