Villing & Company

Looking Back on the First Mac Attack

Too many people look at marketing as a silver bullet. They think a good marketing campaign will be the salvation of a product that is undifferentiated, irrelevant or outright inferior. If anything, an effective marketing campaign will only hasten the demise of a weak product by creating negative trial experiences.

Of course, people also forget that marketing consists of more than Promotion (advertising and other marketing communications). The cornerstone of the four P’s is, after all, Product.

I bring this up because last Sunday was the Super Bowl, of course, and I will never watch the big game without thinking back 30 years ago to the commercial that set the precedent for this annual advertising lovefest. I remember reading George Orwell’s 1984 in high school and it frankly scared me to death. Fortunately, few events unfolded in the actual year quite like Orwell’s vision. But when I saw the Macintosh commercial based on the premise of the classic book, I was blown away. Even through all the great TV advertising during my formative years as an Ad Man in the 70's, I had never seen a commercial that captured my attention so dramatically as that single iconic spot did. In my opinion, the 1984 Macintosh commercial was a rare blend of drama, emotion and rationality that also clearly connected the idea with the product.

That spot ran only one time, but it is remembered to this day as one of the ad industry's greatest moments.

More to my point, however, is that it foreshadowed one of the classic triumphs of marketing. Not because of advertising, but due to the ability of Apple to maximize all aspects of marketing – starting with a superior product that fundamentally changed the way people used their computers. As a recent piece on NPR noted, "You didn't have to enter DOS prompts anymore. Using a computer became more intuitive – and it was a design that Bill Gates and Microsoft took note of".

It’s hard to believe it’s been 30 years. So much of our world has changed since then and 30 years is a virtual millennium when it comes to technology. That first Mac was harshly attacked by many reviewers. Many people thought that Apple would never be accepted by the business community and grow beyond the dismal 3-4 percent market share it had in the first decade or so. Even now, people question the company’s viability since the passing of Steve Jobs. Who truly knows what the future holds for Apple? But if the company continues to apply smart marketing executions to their heritage of product innovation, I wouldn't bet against them.

In his commemoration of the 30th, Apple CEO Tim Cook had this to say: "We don’t want to linger too long and look back at the things we've done – we want to see what’s around the corner."

Frankly, so do I.

Filed Under: Advertising, Super Bowl

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