The Apple Brand is Sticky

apple_logoFollowing on to Friday’s post about my frustration with getting my daughter’s iPod up and running, I have to dish some mad props to the Apple marketing people.

Apple’s prowess at design is not anything new.  The iPod came in a beautiful little jewel case with a Set-up Guide that Garr Reynolds would be proud of: about 6 cms square, 16 pages, 2 – 8 words per page, simple graphics, and lots of white space.  The iPod itself is also lovely, as is its docking station.

But it was the other thing that came in the package that is marketing brilliance.  It was a small sheet with two cute-as-buttons Apple logo stickers.  As we all know, most Apple consumers are raving fans of the company and its products – who better to arm with instantly-deployable advertising content?

And it’s more than just advertising – when an iPod owner puts that sticker on their schoolbook or cubicle or bike or dorm room door, they’re identifying themselves as a proud member of a special tribe.  Of course, there are many other ways of doing this – someone can have a Ferrari key fob (even if they drive a Yugo, they are saying, “I belong to the group of people that admire fast cars”), or a Lost  t-shirt (which says to the world, I enjoy having my mind messed with every week).

You should do the same thing for your bar patrons.  Make available some kind of identification piece that lets them show other people that they come to (or even “belong to”) your establishment.  The type of item would vary depending on the type of joint you run, and the type of clientele.  Young people might like ball caps or t-shirts or bumper stickers; older folks might like nice pens or key chains or business card cases.  You can look at the types of tchotchkes given our at trade shows for more ideas – I’m not going to do ALL the work.

I’m a Mac. And I’m a P.C.*

shuffle* Peeved Consumer.

Yesterday we gave our daughter a new iPod Shuffle.  It was partly to replace the generic MP3 player she used to have that died, and partly to celebrate (another) excellent report card.

So we already had a bunch of MP3s that I had purchased over the past couple of years (yes – purchased).  I blithely thought I could just transfer all the High School Musical, Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, and Lenny Kravitz(!) songs from my hard drive onto her new Shuffle.  So I did, then let the four hour charging period elapse.  When we took it off the charging station, presto!  Nothing!

My first thought was that our ancient home laptop (it only has ONE  USB port!) was incapable of delivering the charge to the Shuffle, and that’s why it wouldn’t play.  It never ocurred to me that there was no music there to play, because I could see the files that I had transferred sitting on the thing in Explorer.  So I brought it to work today to try my “real” laptop (SIX USB ports) on the job.  Nope – after four hours, the little “I’m not ready” indicator light was still blinking.

So I broke down and RTFM.  RTFM is short for “Read the f***ing manual,” which is what tech support people all over the world want to yell at DFUs every day.  DFU is “DumbF*** User,” the type of people who often have I.D. ten T problems.  Anyway, page 1 was “Download and Install iTunes.”  And one of the final steps was to “Click Eject before disconnecting” – the Eject button is in the iTunes interface.  I didn’t really want iTunes, since I buy my music elsewhere, had tried iTunes before and didn’t like it, and didn’t think you should need special software just to load files onto a peripheral device.  But whatever – it was for my daughter.

So I dutifully downloaded.  During installation, it made me reboot my machine, which I always hate, but again, whatever.  Upon startup, the wizard asked me if I wanted to automatically import any music file it found the the My Music folder on my machine.  I said sure, because I knew that the only files in the My Music folder were the ones I had just put there for my daughter.  Then I noticed it was actually grabbing EVERY MP3, WAV and other sound file anywhere on my drive.  This includes every Beatles song, a whole bunch of system alerts, a few dozen podcasts, the audio to some of my hour-long marketing lectures, etc.  So I had to spend the next 20 minutes deleting (one by one) every file that wouldn’t be to her liking.

Finally I was ready to push the music onto the device, and the manual helpfully said to click the “Autofill” button, and even had a simple drawing showing me where in the iTunes interface I could find it.  Except it wasn’t there.  Nor was it an option in any of the menus (basic interface design rule:  EVERYTHING should be available through a menu).  I finally found the right screen and the Autofill button, and 2 minutes later was listening to music.

I’m not anti-Mac or anti-Apple by any stretch – the first 4 years of my professional career were spent on Macs, and they were great.  But now I see how this whole zeitgeist that Apple has about simplicity can be annoying.  Sure, the close integration between the player, the download tool, and the store filled with available music is elegant and rich, but what if I don’t want/need one or more of the components?  They each shouldn’t REQUIRE the others to be there.  It’s like saying if I want to drive my Audi, I need to use Audi gasoline and drive on Audi streets.  I predict this model will not last.