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ABSTRACTThe intention of this paper has been to investigate why certain products become cultural icons. Thediscussion is d...
TABLE OF CONTENTS1           INTRODUCTION .................................................................61.1         Pr...
6.1         The Apple brand .................................................................................................
1 INTRODUCTIONPrior to 1979, portable music for private listening did not exist. Younger people could be seen carryingarou...
1.3     DemarcationsIn order to increase the validity of the research conducted in this study, the obtained results andcon...
2 METHOD2.1     Case StudyAccording to Yin, in his book Case Study Research (2003), the preferred strategy when “how” or “...
and PC-users and how the users perceive their iPod in terms of functional and emotional benefits,identity and status. The ...
3 BACKGROUND3.1     AppleApple was founded in 1976 by Steven Wozniak and Steven Jobs who had been friends since highschool...
THINK DIFFERENT CAMPAIGNApple has clearly positioned themselves as being a creative, innovative and rebellious brand and i...
The iPod’s slim design and high technological capacity are more or less obvious features, but it is also                  ...
4 THEORY4.1      Holt: What becomes an Icon Most?In the article What Becomes an Icon Most? Douglas B. Holt (2003) explains...
In the article, consumption of a number of brands is examined, and consumers of three brands arefound to constitute brand ...
and verbal terms. Representation is formed by meanings constructed from gestures and languages.Existing meanings can be ex...
4.8     Maslow: The hierarchy of needsConsumers in the westernised world have reached a high position in Maslow’s hierarch...
5 EMPIRICS5.1         Focus group of iPod usersThe group consisted of four persons between the ages of 21 – 26 years, all ...
It was stressed by some participants that the iPod’s big capacity/size ratio and its full integration withthe rest of the ...
6 ANALYSIS6.1      The Apple brand6.1.1    Aspects of the Apple BrandThere is little disagreement among marketers that App...
behind the iPod, it is something else that has made it differentiate from the rest of mp3-players. It hasbeen given a desi...
15, 2004) writes about how behavioural patterns change in New York because of the iPod – notbecause of “mp3-players”. As s...
iPARTY: iPods instead of turntables at APT club in New YorkAnother example of how iPod users share consumption experiences...
questions and get trouble-shooting assistance from other members. Members also give each otherassistance in less problem-b...
LEFT: Future Power, RIGHT: Apple’s iMacWith the iPod, Apple again has been subjected to competition from similar products....
During the development of the iPod, emphasis was put on usability and simplicity. According to Ive itwas about being focus...
on second place of the list of ‘must-have’-products among U.S. school kids (Macworld Daily News2003).                     ...
Moreover, the iPod also competes in a relevant way with a range of product categories. On thementioned list of ‘must-have’...
iPOD HERO ADVERTISEMENTAnother advertisement for the iPod shows silhouettes of people dancing against monochromebackground...
DANCING SILHUETTES ADVERTISINGIn the “Pods Unite” print- and TV campaign, Apple co-brands with another iconic brand: Volks...
PODS UNITE IPOD AND BEETLE CO-BRANDING ADThe iconic uniqueness of the iPod, and its differentiation from “regular mp3-play...
50 CENT’S P.I.M.P.-MUSIC VIDEOOther well-known celebrities spotted with the iPod are David Beckham and Madonna. That this ...
behind the iPod have tried hard to inscribe meanings into the product and succeeded well inpositioning it among consumers,...
The iPod represents different things for different people, depending on which needs it fulfils. Theseparate meanings peopl...
consists not only of mp3-players, but also of other ‘cool’ gadgets. In the US, the iPod has had greatsuccess among consume...
7 CONCLUSIONThe question posed in this thesis is why certain products become icons of contemporary culture. Toanswer this ...
People are different, and even though a product or an ad from an objective point of view might lookthe same, consumers wil...
8 BIBLIOGRAPHYBaudrillard, Jean (1988) Selected Writings, Cambridge, Polity Press.Du Gay et al. (1997) Doing Cultural Stud...
9 APPENDIX                       Technical Specification of the iPodStorage: 10, 20 or 40 GBBattery life: Over 8 hoursSkip...
8688101 cultural-marketing-analysis-why-i pod-a-case-study
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8688101 cultural-marketing-analysis-why-i pod-a-case-study

  1. 1. 2
  2. 2. ABSTRACTThe intention of this paper has been to investigate why certain products become cultural icons. Thediscussion is delimited to consumer products of technical character with a strong relation tocontemporary culture. To reach our objective we have conducted a case study in the form of a culturalmarketing analysis of Apple’s iPod, by studying its cultural meaning for consumers and the factorsbehind its immense popularity.Among the success factors identified is Apple’s strong brand image of creativity, innovation andimagination, which has been well transferred to the iPod. It was the community of Mac users thatcreated the initial hype around the iPod, but through a deep connection to contemporary popularculture, the iPod community has expanded with new groups not before targeted by Apple. The iPodcommunity broadly exhibits traits of a brand community, which increases perceived quality, brandloyalty, brand awareness and brand associations.Through advertising and design, Apple has successfully implemented the three levels of emotionaldesign into the iPod: The aesthetics of the iPod, characterized by simplicity, provides an example of avisceral design, formed according to values inherent in us as biological beings. The visceral designalso comes out in the advertising where the all-white iPod stands out as a naturally beautiful object. Inaddition, the advertising works at the reflective design level, and connects the iPod with the conceptsof energy, joy, style, and youth culture. Moreover, the iPod’s high usability is consistent with theconcept of behavioural design.The identity of the iPod, as created by the producers, has been well mediated to consumers. However,this identity is multifaceted and provides interpretive flexibility, which has contributed to its success.The iPod has acquired a market position with wider connotations than being ‘just’ an mp3-player. Ithas also established a close connection with pop-cultural trends and become a symbol for newconsumption patterns of music in modern society. 3
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTS1 INTRODUCTION .................................................................61.1 Problem .......................................................................................................................................... 61.2 Purpose .......................................................................................................................................... 61.3 Demarcations................................................................................................................................. 72 METHOD .............................................................................82.1 Case Study ..................................................................................................................................... 82.2 Cultural Marketing Analysis ........................................................................................................ 82.3 Overview......................................................................................................................................... 8 2.3.1 Theory......................................................................................................................................................... 8 2.3.2 Empirics...................................................................................................................................................... 8 2.3.3 Analysis ...................................................................................................................................................... 93 BACKGROUND ................................................................103.1 Apple ............................................................................................................................................. 103.2 iPod ............................................................................................................................................... 114 THEORY............................................................................134.1 Holt: What becomes an Icon Most? ......................................................................................... 134.2 Muniz & O’Guinn: Brand Community....................................................................................... 134.3 Norman: Emotional Design........................................................................................................ 144.4 Du Gay et al.: Cultural meaning ................................................................................................ 144.5 The Frankfurt School: Production of consumption ............................................................... 154.6 Baudrillard: Identity value.......................................................................................................... 154.7 Slater: Needs, identity and status............................................................................................. 154.8 Maslow: The hierarchy of needs............................................................................................... 164.9 Willis and Hebdige: The Construction of Meaning ............................................................... 165 EMPIRICS .........................................................................175.1 Focus group of iPod users ........................................................................................................ 176 ANALYSIS ........................................................................19 4
  4. 4. 6.1 The Apple brand .......................................................................................................................... 19 6.1.1 Aspects of the Apple Brand ..................................................................................................................... 19 6.1.2 Apple and iPod ......................................................................................................................................... 19 6.1.3 The Apple Brand Community.................................................................................................................. 20 6.1.4 Apple and Design ..................................................................................................................................... 236.2 Marketing...................................................................................................................................... 25 6.2.1 Target Market ........................................................................................................................................... 25 6.2.2 Competition .............................................................................................................................................. 26 6.2.3 Promotion ................................................................................................................................................. 276.3 Consumption ............................................................................................................................... 31 6.3.1 iPod as a cultural artefact ......................................................................................................................... 31 6.3.2 Perspectives on consumption................................................................................................................... 31 6.3.3 Consumption and the formation of identities .......................................................................................... 32 6.3.4 Consumption as status symbol................................................................................................................. 32 6.3.5 Consumption and needs ........................................................................................................................... 32 6.3.6 Advertising and the construction of meaning.......................................................................................... 33 6.3.7 Transformation of meaning...................................................................................................................... 33 6.3.8 The Future of iPod.................................................................................................................................... 337 CONCLUSION ..................................................................358 BIBLIOGRAPHY ...............................................................379 APPENDIX ........................................................................38 5
  5. 5. 1 INTRODUCTIONPrior to 1979, portable music for private listening did not exist. Younger people could be seen carryingaround so-called ‘Ghetto Blasters’, which were large cassette players with a handle. The word‘portability’ then had an entirely different meaning. In 1979, SONY released The Walkman, a cassetteplayer that came to redefine the meaning of portability and eventually became a pop-cultural icon.During the last three years, the interest for portable mp3-players has grown explosively. On November18th 2002 Apple released the iPod, which can be seen as the new generation of portable systems forplaying music. The iPod is a portable digital storage device with the main function of being a musicplayer for mp3- files. The product has had a great impact on the market and is now a much sought-after item among music lovers, Mac-fanatics, and people looking for the latest, cool gadgets. TheWalkman became a part of our cultural universe and the iPod might eventually be able to make thesame claim? But what exactly is it that has made these products so successful, where does theirpopularity come from, and why do people choose them?1.1 ProblemThe question posed in this thesis is why certain products become icons of contemporary culture. Ourdiscussion concerns a specific kind of category, namely consumer products that have achieved aniconic status, a strong connection to contemporary culture and that are mainly of technical character.As stated in the introduction, an obvious artefact of comparison with the iPod is Sony’s Walkman, butother examples of iconic products might include the Volkswagen Beetle or the Mini. They are not onlyexamples of effective marketing but have become symbols of their time.1.2 PurposeThe intention of this project is to investigate our research question by doing a case study of Apple’siPod which can be seen as a representative example of this type of products and study the factorsbehind it’s immense popularity. To do this, we will conduct a cultural marketing analysis of the productand investigate this artefact’s connotations and its cultural meaning for consumers.The purpose of this report is not to come up with guidelines for how to develop a successful productwith an iconic status, but rather to investigate one representative example of this category. We believethat many of the ideas put forward and conclusions drawn in this paper also can be applied to otherproducts in the identified category, but not all of them. Furthermore, the conclusions drawn will not beapplicable to just any brand or product but merely provide an example of why one such product hassucceeded. Every brand or product is different with unique characteristics and separate histories thatneed to be taken into account. 6
  6. 6. 1.3 DemarcationsIn order to increase the validity of the research conducted in this study, the obtained results andconclusions are delimited to consumer products of technical character with a strong relation tocontemporary culture. Even for this very specified category though, the conclusion cannot be said tobe of universal application. Furthermore, this analysis concerns primarily the US market and oursources are mainly American, although the European market and Sweden (where our focus group wasconducted) has partly been studied as well.As described in the Method chapter below, the iPod is analysed in reference to issues concerning theApple brand, marketing and consumption, within a theoretical framework of these research areasconsidered important in regard to this particular product. As this paper is a cultural analysis, focus ison connotations associated with the iPod from a consumer behavioural perspective. Hence, the topicsof concern will not be discussed from a strategic perspective but rather in an investigative andconsequential way. 7
  7. 7. 2 METHOD2.1 Case StudyAccording to Yin, in his book Case Study Research (2003), the preferred strategy when “how” or “why”questions are being posed is case studies. This method of research is also particularly useful whenthe investigator has little control over events, and when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenonwithin some real-life context. We believe that these criteria fit well into the context of this report andthat our method of research consequently serves the purpose of it.2.2 Cultural Marketing AnalysisThe meaning of Cultural Marketing Analysis is manifested in that our paper is written from asociological and consumer behavioural perspective. Discussions are centred on consumers’interpretations of the product and the cultural implications that advertising and branding have forconsumers.2.3 OverviewFirst, relevant theories needed to make the analysis will be explained. Then, empiric results from afocus group study of iPod users are presented. The theoretical framework and the results from thefocus group study are then applied on the iPod and conclusions drawn.2.3.1 TheoryThe theoretical framework that our analysis is based upon is constituted of nine main theories. Thedifferent theories are covering complementing parts of how a cultural artefact can be encoded anddecoded with meaning. The work of Holt and Muniz & O’Guinn discusses how certain brands come toreach superior status in some way. We have used Norman’s Emotional design model to examine themultifaceted concept of “design”. Cultural meaning is then discussed according to theories put forwardby Du Gay, the Frankfurt School, Baudrillard, Slater, Maslow and Willis & Hebdige. This discussionconcerns how meaning is transferred to an object in different ways and how this relates to theindividual’s needs, identity and status. Through these theoretical inputs, a broad picture of how onecan understand an object like the iPod from differing, complementing and contrasting perspectives isprovided.2.3.2 EmpiricsTo complement the theoretical framework and other literature relating to Apple and the iPod, wecarried out a focus group session with iPod users in Stockholm. This direct contact with iPodconsumers was very valuable for several reasons. We had the opportunity to ask specific questionsrelating to subjects of our particular interests, for example about the relation between iPod-, Apple-, 8
  8. 8. and PC-users and how the users perceive their iPod in terms of functional and emotional benefits,identity and status. The input given by the participants gave us ideas of new areas of interest toexplore further. The focus group method might have been even more rewarding if we would have usedmore people and/or people with other backgrounds.2.3.3 AnalysisIn the analysis the theoretical framework and our empirical work is jointly applied on the case of iPod.We have divided our analysis of the iPod into the following three main areas: Apple – A brief history of the company is given and issues relating to the Apple brand, the brand communities of Apple and iPod, Apple’s design tradition and the development of the iPod are discussed. Marketing – The positioning of the iPod in relation to target market and competition is covered and an analysis of Apple’s promotional activities of the iPod is given. Consumption – Issues of how the iPod relates to the needs of consumers, how people attach different meanings to the product, how people use it to express identity and consume the artifact as a status symbol are discussed. 9
  9. 9. 3 BACKGROUND3.1 AppleApple was founded in 1976 by Steven Wozniak and Steven Jobs who had been friends since highschool. At that time Apple produced computer circuit boards and it was not until 1984 a completepackaged computer was released: The Macintosh. It revolutionized the computer industry with itsgraphical user interface and its high-speed processor (8Mhz). The revolution of the Macintosh wasdisplayed to the public in what is said to be the greatest TV commercial ever made (Shimp 2000, p.297). The commercial refers to the Big-Brother theme of George Orwell’s book 1984 where humansare controlled by an omnipotent institution. At the time, Apple and IBM were virtually the only playersin the personal computer business and IBM was undoubtedly the race leader. 1984 TV COMMERCIALThe commercial displays a reality where a grey mass of indifferent, zombie-like citizens is staring at ahuge screen where an all-mighty Big Brother praises conformity and “unification of thought”. Suddenlya colourful woman in athletic wear runs in, throws a sledgehammer into the screen which explodes,Big Brother is eliminated and all humans are set free. Then the message shows up on the screen: “On thJanuary 24 , Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984.”In effect, the commercial depicts Apple as the liberating rebel who puts an end to the mass-controllingIBM (www.uriah.com/apple-qt/1984.html). The 60 second advertisement was only shown once duringthe Super Bowl final and never repeated, it cost $400 000 to produce and $500 000 was paid for thespot. To pay these amounts for a single ad spot was unheard of in the year of 1984. The Macintoshbecame known to the general public literally overnight and the Apple identity of today was born. 10
  10. 10. THINK DIFFERENT CAMPAIGNApple has clearly positioned themselves as being a creative, innovative and rebellious brand and in1997 Apple launched their largest branding campaign since 1984: “Think Different”. It uses photos offamous “free-thinkers” who have changed the world in some way, like Mahatma Gandhi, PabloPicasso, Muhammed Ali, John Lennon, Thomas Edison, Alfred Hitchcock and more. Steve Jobs said:“Think Different celebrates the soul of the Apple brand - that creative people with passion can changethe world for the better…" (www.apple.com/pr/library/1997/q4/970929.pr.rel.adcampaign.html)3.2 iPodMost of us agree upon the idea that the iPod is a product of the time we live in. The factors that madeit come into being are related to the technology behind the product, but also to movements in modernculture and Apple’s creative capital.The iPod, together with other models of portable mp3-players, is looked upon as a technologicalbreakthrough by music-listeners of the world. The file-sharing technology founded by Napster laid theground for an historic era of music-distribution when the world of music consumers hailed “free musicfor all!” The need of making downloaded music easily portable was created, and what eventually hasmade the product category of mp3-players (of descent memory capacity) viable is that data storagediscs have become small enough for this use. In the case of the iPod, its capacity/size ratio is amongthe highest in the market, which attests Apple’s capacity to put together top-of-the-line technology. 11
  11. 11. The iPod’s slim design and high technological capacity are more or less obvious features, but it is also 1a socially constructed technological artefact resulting from a hype dating back to the days of Napster .In the wake of the iPod, Apple has launched the service iTunes, which is an interface for downloadingand playing music. This is clearly a way of adding value to the core product, but also possiblylegitimating the product after the controversial Apple advertisement with its ‘rip, mix, burn’ slogan.Moreover, the iPod stars in American rapper 50 cent’s P.I.M.P. music video. This is clearly aconscious choice, but why is it an iPod we see and not a just any mp3-player?Apple has a reputation for its capability of innovation, product uniqueness, and being able to “thinkoutside of the box”. In our opinion these are major factors for success and the reason why theirproducts cut through the clutter of consumer electronics. Besides satisfying the basic functional needof listening to portable music the iPod also represents something more; it provides unique value in theform of certain emotional benefits.1 Napster was the first file-sharing program to reach a worldwide audience and has had a huge impact on people’s buyingbehaviour in music. 12
  12. 12. 4 THEORY4.1 Holt: What becomes an Icon Most?In the article What Becomes an Icon Most? Douglas B. Holt (2003) explains that a prerequisite forcreating a truly iconic brand is a strong connection to present culture. In all modern societies there is agap between society’s ideology of “what you should be like” and how people really are. In today’swestern society it could be argued that we converge towards a more uniform, general role-modelwhere everyone is expected to have a certain “look”, a certain education, a certain profession, possescertain values, be top-performing and so on; if you’re too radical and don’t fit within these frames,you’re looked upon as a loser. To resolve tensions between ideology and individual experience likethis, people need what Holt refers to as myths. Myths in this sense are stories created around a brandthat provides its image and identity. A brand can use myths to position itself as something that goesagainst the present social ideal. Instead of trying to conform to this ideal, consumers can go the otherway by consuming the rebellious brand. In the article, Holt argues that if a brand wants not only to besuccessful but also to become a truly iconic one, it has to constantly adapt to present culture and reactto the social ideal by providing the right tension-solving myths.4.2 Muniz & O’Guinn: Brand CommunityIn the article Brand Community (Muniz and O’Guinn 2001), it is concluded that the establishedconstruct of community can form around specific brands. The article is relevant for our purposes sinceone of the brands found to have a strong enough consumer base to constitute a brand community isApple. A brand community is said to exhibit traditional markers of community and to constitute a majorpart of a brand’s larger social construction. The definition given of a brand community is “a specialized,non-geographically bound community, based on a structured set of social relationships amongadmirers of a brand”. Muniz and O’Guinn compare three traditional markers of community with theconcept of brand community to legitimise it as a community: 1. Consciousness of kind refers to the consciousness and ‘we-ness’ that community members feel towards each other, and the collective sense of difference from others not in the community. This is the most important element of community. 2. Rituals and traditions hold the community together by maintaining its culture. An example of a ritual is that Saab owners might beep or flash the lights when passing by another Saab. Other typical ways to strengthen the brand community is to celebrate the history of the brand or to share brand stories 3. Communities are marked by a sense of moral responsibility, which is a feeling of duty or obligation towards the community as a whole and to its individual members. In brand communities this appears as integrating/retaining members and assisting in the use of the brand. 13
  13. 13. In the article, consumption of a number of brands is examined, and consumers of three brands arefound to constitute brand communities. The three brands are Saab, Bronco and Apple. The conclusionof the article is that traditional traits of community are also applicable to brand communities. Of thethree markers above, consciousness of kind and rituals and traditions were clearly apparent and asense of moral responsibility was observed in a limited and specialized way.Another source that testifies that the consumers of Apple and Macintosh are of a special kind is thebook The Cult of Mac by Leander Kahney. Kahney states that the brand’s customer base hassupported the company with a faith in its will to innovate, even during stretches when it hasn’t. (NYTimes Nov 30, 2003)4.3 Norman: Emotional DesignDonald Norman claims that consumers are becoming more dependent on the design of the emotionalreaction to an object, referred to as ‘emotional design’. This reaction is a process simultaneouslytaking place at three different levels and good design needs to take all of these into account. Objectsthat possess a visceral design are said not to be ‘designed’ in the ordinary sense but insteadconstitute a model for the kind of design that speaks to our inner self. It is design on this level thatmake us perceive something as genuinely beautiful. An example given to explain this design is thesymmetrical shape of a flower. Because good visceral design is formed according to values inherent inus as biological beings, this design has a timelessness that designs based upon attempts ofconveying a message lack. Norman gives Apple’s iMac as a typical example of this type of design withits soft lines, sensual form and a simplicity, which gives it a timeless expression.The next level, behavioural design, concerns primarily usability; how fast, easily and effectively theproduct can be used in relation to its purpose. Reflective design, the third level, has to do with themeaning created when a product is used and the message that the use of the product conveys.Norman also notes that all use can be seen as a kind of communication. Reflective design is morecomplex than the other two levels and especially difficult to develop, partly because it involves somuch more than just the object. This third level exceeds the object itself and concerns the context inwhich the object exists. In this paper Norman’s three-level model will be used to analyse the iPoditself, but also for interpreting the different promotional contexts that the product appears in.4.4 Du Gay et al.: Cultural meaningWhen analysing the iPod, some parallels can be made to the Walkman. According to Du Gay et al. inDoing Cultural Studies – The Story of the Sony Walkman (1997), the cultural meaning of an artefact iscreated through representational practices such as advertising, which often has a crucial role in howthe product is to be received by the market. A cultural artefact is defined as something that is notmerely a part of our culture; it also acquires a culture of its own, with varying meanings and practices.According to Du Gay things do not have an inherent meaning and the cultural meaning is created notthrough objects but as a result of social discourses and practices and how it is represented in visual 14
  14. 14. and verbal terms. Representation is formed by meanings constructed from gestures and languages.Existing meanings can be extended from something we already know to something new, referred to byDu Gay et al. as Chain of meaning. Meaning and connotations can also in some cases be extendedinto networks of meaning, or semantic networks, where every association develops into its ownlanguage. Other ways of constructing meaning is by the way the product communicates its similaritiesand differences compared to other products and how the artefact acquires meaning throughconnection with pop cultural themes.4.5 The Frankfurt School: Production of consumptionWhen applying consumer behavioural theories concerning artefacts’ meaning, some different strandsof thought can be discerned. According to the ‘production of consumption’ theory, which wasintroduced by sociologists at the Institute for Social Research, also known as the Frankfurt School,consumption is looked upon as something preordained by the logic of capitalist production (Du Gay etal. 1997). Production is here represented as the decisive factor behind consumption and from thisperspective no individual interpretive flexibility is possible; the needs of the consumer are created byproducers and advertising agents and all commodities have a predestined and fixed meaning.4.6 Baudrillard: Identity valueBaudrillard (1988) opposes the Frankfurt theory, which reduces needs to finite, natural, and connectedto specific objects. According to him, objects lack inherent meaning; instead, the meaning comes fromhow it is used. He consents to the fact that producers try to inscribe semantic meanings into products,but the interpretations of these depend on the individual consumer. In relation to a specific need,objects can be substituted; a need is not a need for a specific object. Furthermore, Baudrillard arguesthat material culture not just has a ‘use’ value, but also ‘identity’ value, which means that it functions asa marker of social and cultural differences and consequently works as a medium of communication.Consumption serves as a language, a system of meaning, and a code by which societycommunicates.4.7 Slater: Needs, identity and statusAccording to Don Slater in his book Consumer Culture & Modernity (1997), all consumption is culturalbecause it involves meaning. These meanings are shared but individual preferences form withinconsumer cultures as well and through culturally specific forms of consumption, we not only producebut also reproduce cultures, social relations and society; to be a member of a culture is to know thelocal codes of needs and things. Slater argues that it is the culture that constitutes the needs, objectsand practices that make up consumption. He also notes that goods are able to mark status becausethey are part of a high status. Therefore, by imitating these life-styles through the consumption ofassociated goods, “lower status social climbers lay claim to higher status” (Slater 1997, p. 156). Inrelation to this it is important to note the cultural and geographical differences. 15
  15. 15. 4.8 Maslow: The hierarchy of needsConsumers in the westernised world have reached a high position in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,which implies that once satisfaction of basic needs such as food and safety has been fulfilled thecultural aspect of consumption becomes evident and the meaning of things becomes more importantthan their functional use to meet a ‘real’ need. In Motivation and Personality (1970) Maslow arguesthat there is no difference between animal needs (for food, sex etc.) and higher desires (for truth, loveand beauty) which are created by culture. Furthermore, there exists a basic aesthetic need, whichmeans that ugliness can make certain people sick but they can also be cured by beautifulsurroundings; they crave actively and their cravings can be satisfied only by beauty.4.9 Willis and Hebdige: The Construction of MeaningAdvertising is one of the key factors behind the formation of associations. It is a representational andcultural practice that is meant to appeal to consumers by engaging with the product’s accumulatedmeanings, and construct identification between these meanings and the consumer. It is a culturallanguage that speaks for the product.Slater (1997) describes a sub-cultural analyses conducted by sociologists Willis and Hebdige in 1978where they studied sub-cultural groups and their use of commodities as signifiers in an active processfor the construction of identities, and their symbolic consumption of material culture. These studiespromote the theory of consumers as self-conscious cultural experts whose knowledge in consumerculture provides them with great freedom in the use of artefacts to form identities. 16
  16. 16. 5 EMPIRICS5.1 Focus group of iPod usersThe group consisted of four persons between the ages of 21 – 26 years, all students at the RoyalInstitute of Technology, Stockholm. The focus group was carried out at facilities of this school on June10th 2004. We realise that this is a very homogenous group, looking at the total population. However,we did not try to put together a constellation like this but tried to think of all iPod-users we knew of.This group might be representative of iPod users in Sweden.Connection between PC-users, Mac-users and iPod-usersTwo of the group members were long-time Mac-users; they saw the iPod as a natural extension of theMac-system they are already using. They bought it as soon as it was released and one of themembers had even upgraded to a second iPod during a one-year period. For these two members thebuying decision did not come from an interest in the product category of mp3-players but from the factthat Apple released an mp3-player. These two users saw no distinction between the iPod and Mac interms of lifestyle, concept or users; it’s all Apple.The third group member was a PC user and bought the iPod for its functionality compared to othermp3-players.The fourth group member was a PC user when buying the iPod but has now converted to Mac. Thisshows as evidence for a success in Apple’s strategy to use the iPod as a tool to make people considerMac computers as an alternative to PC.About the iPod in terms of functional benefitsAn important argument for all group members was that they saw the iPod as being superior to othermp3-players in terms of function with it’s small size combined with large storage space. One subjectsaid that “when I first bought it, it was mainly for the cool look, but when you start using it, it just getsbetter and better”.Two group members have had to call the Apple support due to problems with the iPod. They wereboth extremely happy with the treatment from Apple who simply picked up the broken iPods and sent 2back new ones .2 Both occations were subject to the included guarantee 17
  17. 17. It was stressed by some participants that the iPod’s big capacity/size ratio and its full integration withthe rest of the Mac system were the main reasons for buying it.About the iPod in terms of emotional and experiential benefitsThe iPod was described with the words: clean, good-looking, reliable, freedom, cool, status, “it makesyou happy”, “typical Sony product”, “classic Apple product”, user-friendly, neat, “an image thing”, 3realization of the self, “reflects the Apple-identity” .It was said that if the iPod would be of another brand (e.g. Sharp) with everything else unchanged, youmight not have paid attention to it. It was also said that no other brand would come up with the iPod.When asked to compare the iPod to other owned artefacts the iPod was the most-liked one foreveryone, in one case together with another artefact (an old camera). For example everyone said thatthey were much more affectionate towards their iPods than their mobile phones.About iPod usersWhen the group was asked to describe the typical iPod user, they said that the typical iPod user is thesame as the typical Mac user who was described as: Conscious, “…they are into interesting things”,“… have a stronger relation to their computer [than do PC-users]”, clubkid, DJ, designers, architect, 4aesthetic person, “Know what’s going on”, “Music-interested people”, urban people” .The group was asked if they knew of any iPod-users that were not young males with a special interestin technology as themselves. One member responded, “Yes, my friend’s dad has one. He’s anarchitect” with the immediate answer from another group member “That’s because he’s an architect”.Apple’s strive to be perceived as a brand for creators and innovators has clearly succeeded within thisfocus group.3 Translated from the Swedish descriptions snygg, stilren, pålitlig, frihet, häftig, ball, status, ”man blir glad varje gång mananvänder den”, ”typisk Sonyprodukt”, ”klassisk Appleprodukt”, användarvänlig, smidig, smäck,”en imagegrej”, ”förverkligar ensjälv”4 Translated from the Swedish descriptions: Medveten, “… håller på med intressanta saker”, “Har en starkare relation till datorn”,klubbkid, designer, arkitekt, estet, ”har koll”, musikintresserade, storstadsmänniskor 18
  18. 18. 6 ANALYSIS6.1 The Apple brand6.1.1 Aspects of the Apple BrandThere is little disagreement among marketers that Apple’s branding strategy has been a successfulone. Former Apple marketing executive John Sculley says, “People talk about technology, but Applewas a marketing company” (Wired News 2002). Marketer Marc Gobe, author of the book EmotionalBranding, takes this point even further and says, “Apple’s brand is the key to its survival. It’s gotnothing to do with innovative products like the iMac or the iPod” (Wired News 2002). We do not shareGobe’s extreme view of the Apple brand but think that to be able to keep the creative, innovative,rebellious myth living, Apple has to perform in the long run. However, we realize that it is emotionalbenefits that really differentiate Apple from competitors in the marketplace. Apple takes part in 5extremely technology-driven product categories where computer capacity doubles every 18 months .For consumers to be able to relate to the ever-increasing clock frequencies, storage-spaces, memorycapacities and so on, they need something easier to grip, something concrete, and something morehuman. This human touch is something that shines through the company’s major advertisementcampaigns: In 1984 Apple gave power to the people through technology and in 1997 Apple sitethemselves as a tool for creative people to break through and change the world.Apple’s positioning of being an outsider, underdog or rebel is nothing new, but a fundamental, ever-existing concept just like life, death, brotherhood or dominance. To build a brand of such superiorstrength as Apple, timeless concepts like these can be used. To succeed, careful respect has to bepaid both to the core values and competitive advantages of the product itself, but it is also of utmostimportance how a brand relates to the social surroundings (Holt 2003). Throughout the history ofApple’s branding strategy, strong rebellious myths have been created around the brand. The solutionto society’s pressure to conform yourself to the public measurements is to be strong in yourself andsay no. Don’t let the world change you; change the world. Think different.6.1.2 Apple and iPodWhen our focus group was asked questions whether another company could have come up with theiPod, answers were that it is a “typical Apple-product” and that most other competitors could not comeup with a similar product. The only other mentioned company was Sony, who clearly has a reputationof being an innovative brand. We are convinced that it takes a company of Apple’s creative heritage toproduce a product like the iPod. As mentioned before, technology alone does not tell the full story5 According to Moore’s Law computer capacity doubles every 18 months. Seehttp://www.webopedia.com/TERM/M/Moores_Law.html for more. 19
  19. 19. behind the iPod, it is something else that has made it differentiate from the rest of mp3-players. It hasbeen given a design that seems to fit right into most stylish contexts, from top Hip-Hop videos to a co-branding campaign with the sleek Volkswagen New Beetle. The iPod’s appearance is one of the mainreasons for its success, with a slim line look that has managed to attract people who had not thoughtabout purchasing an MP3 player before. Throughout Apple’s history, superior design and usabilityhave been key points for survival more than trying to compete with price or performance. This traditionof considering the consumer in the first place, to create a product that fits the needs of the consumer isthe foundation of the Apple-philosophy. Through experience, Apple has created an organizationalculture and built up a creative capital that makes them unmatched in this way of working. For the firsttime Apple applied this accumulated experience on another product category than computers, and outcame the iPod. Another way in which Apple has created incomparable added value to the iPod, wasby making it fully compatible with the existing Apple world of computers through hardware, software 6and wetware . The key feature of this integration is the iTunes interface for downloading and listeningto music. It is a seamless connection between the iPod, computer and an online music store wheremusic and music videos can be browsed and instantly downloaded. It became the first legitimatemusic downloading service and is viewed as a success in the business. For example, at 99 centseach, one million songs were downloaded during the first week (NY Times, September 7, 2003).6.1.3 The Apple Brand CommunityThe consumers of Macintosh computers are often used as an example to illustrate how dedicatedconsumers can be towards a brand and the iPod consumers show a similar kind of brand dedication.At the release of the iPod, the foundation of the iPod community was laid by Macintosh users, whichwas testified by participants of our focus group: Two users said they ”see no distinction between theiPod and Mac in terms of lifestyle, concept or users; it’s all Apple”. Moreover, it was said, ”…the typicaliPod user is the same as the typical Mac user”. However, as the iPod-market has matured, groupsoutside of the Mac community have joined the iPod community – one example is youths, which isdiscussed later in this report.We have applied the three markers of community stated in the Brand Community article (Muniz andO’Guinn 2001) on the iPod. A note worth making is that we consider Apple, Macintosh and iPod all asseparate but undoubtedly overlapping brands.Consciousness of Kind: Members of a brand community note a critical demarcation between usersof their brand and users of other brands. In the case of iPod this would include all the ways iPod-usersare differentiated from users of other mp3-players. In most contexts we have encountered the iPod in,it has been referred to as something set apart from other mp3-players. For example NY Times (Feb6 Wetware is the time invested by a user to learn a system. The time invested by Mac-users to learn the Mac environment canbe applied to the iPod and the programs supporting it. If buying another mp3-player, Mac-users would have to invest more timeto learn a new system. 20
  20. 20. 15, 2004) writes about how behavioural patterns change in New York because of the iPod – notbecause of “mp3-players”. As stated above, large parts of the Mac community have become part ofthe iPod community. The Mac community is well known for clearly differentiating themselves fromothers, for example through different online Web communities (Muniz and O’Guinn 2001, pp. 418-419). It follows that this is also a natural characteristic of the community of iPod users. One user says“It’s a society within itself … You’ve got your biker community, your hip-hop community, and nowyou’ve got your iPod community.” (NY Times February 15, 2004)Rituals and Traditions: Typical ways in which rituals and traditions strengthen the culture of a brandcommunity are to celebrate the history of the brand, to share brand stories or to share consumptionexperiences. A well-known brand story that Macintosh users like to tell is the “Mac immunity”, whichtells about times when IBM computers were plagued by viruses whilst there are no existing viruses forMacintosh computers. Another way the Macintosh community celebrates the history of the brand is byshowing nostalgic pictures of old classic computer models.The history of the iPod is too short to find a wide celebration of it. However, some other strong ritualsand traditions can be found. An example of a consumption experience that is unique for iPod usersare the so-called iParties that are coming up mostly in London and New York. APT Club in New York(http://www.aptwebsite.com), BarTwenty3 in Nashville, and Nambucca in London (http://www.ipod-dj.com/playlist/) all host iParties. On these nights, the turntables are replaced by a set of iPods andhosting “iDJs” with names like “iMoon” and “iMickey” spin on their iPods(http://kr.typepad.com/music_business/images/iPartyEmailer.html). The interesting thing about thesenights is not that Djs play music from a digital source – which has been done for quite a while now –but that everyone can bring their iPod, plug it in and be the iDJ. Voluntary Djs get to stay up either fora set period of time or until they get “booed” off the stage in an old-school rap battle fashion. This isnothing that Apple officially has anything to do with although it does not seem impossible that Applewould push for these types of events to create word-of-mouth effects among the “right people”.However, at the end of the day it might not matter, iPod users still take part of this unique consumptionexperience, which reinforces the iPod brand community. 21
  21. 21. iPARTY: iPods instead of turntables at APT club in New YorkAnother example of how iPod users share consumption experiences is by sharing pictures of theiriPods on public online photo galleries (http://galleries.ipodlounge.com). IPod users show their iPods indifferent geographic locations from all continents around the globe. Popular ways to display one’s iPodis together with another object (e.g. a puppy, another Apple product or another personal favouriteobject), together with a person (e.g. a baby or a woman’s body in bikini), or most popularly - in theforeground of a well-known tourist attraction (e.g. the Eiffel tower or the Disneyland) or beautifulscenery. The practice of sharing pictures of one’s iPod from all over the globe is particularlyinteresting, looking at Muniz and O’Guinn’s definition of a brand community that states that it is a “non-geographically bound community”. Users of the iPod obviously feel part of a global community andenjoy sharing, viewing and commenting on other members’ pictures. iPODS AROUND THE WORLD: Photos taken by iPod usersMoral Responsibility: In the Brand Community article, moral responsibility was the least apparent ofthe three traits in brand communities, as compared to traditional communities. One aspect is to assistother community members in the use of the brand. Evidence of this is shown both for Mac and iPodcommunities at different independent Web forums (e.g. http://macusersforum.com, http://www.mac-forums.com and http://www.ipodlonge.com, http://www.ipodbeat.com) where members can post 22
  22. 22. questions and get trouble-shooting assistance from other members. Members also give each otherassistance in less problem-based issues like how to wear the iPod and how to act with it.Another important part of the sense of moral responsibility is to integrate and retain members of thecommunity – this is essential for the survival of the community. In the case of Macintosh, evidence ofthis type of practices can also be found on the Web forums. By tradition, Mac homepages tell horrorstories about PC-users and typically show top-ten lists of why Mac beats PC (Muniz and O’Guinn2001: 425). In the case of iPod, however, we have not found this kind of web content to the sameextent. Even though iPod users clearly demarcate themselves from users of other mp3-players, theattitude seems to be more open and less hostile towards them. The probable reason for this is that theiPod system is open for both Mac and PC users. Becoming an iPod user is not as radical as switchingto the Mac system, and consequently the iPod community does not have to “protect its property” to thesame extent as the Mac community does.Looking at the three markers of community in the iPod case, it is clear that a strong iPod communityexists. Just like the general case of Muniz and O’Guinn’s definition of a brand community, the trait ofmoral responsibility exits in a limited and specialized way for the iPod. A brand community is part ofthe brand’s larger social construction and directly affects all four components of brand equity:perceived quality, brand loyalty, brand awareness and brand associations (Muniz and O’Guinn 2001,p. 427). Moreover, a brand community is active in the process of creating meaning for the brand. Theway people use, talk about, wear and act with the iPod affects its image. The NY Times (Feb 15,2004) even describes the iPod community as a new type of species because of the way they act:“New York is invaded by zombielike robots … They carry a secret weapon – no bigger than a deck ofcards … Two white wires that run from their ears into their clothes … They’re already here: the iPodpeople …”6.1.4 Apple and DesignThe design of Apple’s products including the graphical user interfaces has been their most importantcompetitive advantage ever since the first Macintosh appeared on the market. The Apple designdepartment has over the years received a number of awards within industrial design and besides theiPod, products like Cube, iBook and Power Book all have a patented design. Apple holds thousandsof different patents and the reason behind their rigid patent policies is found in the company’s history.Throughout the years many companies have tried to be successful by copying the Apple design. Afterthe release of iMac many similar products appeared on the market, trying to reproduce the computer’scharacteristic colour and form. In 1999 Apple filed a lawsuit against Future Power for inadmissiblycopying the patented iMac design. Apart from the more apparent similarities in form, the computerwas, just like the iMac, available in five different pastel colours (Wired News 1999). 23
  23. 23. LEFT: Future Power, RIGHT: Apple’s iMacWith the iPod, Apple again has been subjected to competition from similar products. Below, D Cubefrom the Korean manufacturer Nextway is shown. Just like the iPod, it is white, has an LCD displayplaced above a scroll wheel, and similar buttons. ’ LEFT: Nextway’s D Cube, RIGHT: Apple’s iPodWhat is it then in the design of Apple’s products and specifically the iPod that makes them soattractive? In the article The Guts of a New Machine (NY Times 2003) by Rob Walker, Steve Jobsexplains: “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like, people think it’s thisveneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what designis. It’s not just what it looks like and feel like. Design is how it works.” According to the article themessage from Jobs was that only Apple could have developed the iPod (which was also the opinion ofour focus group). Jobs continues: “As technology becomes more complex, Apple’s core strength ofknowing how to make very sophisticated technology comprehensible to mere mortals is in evengreater demand”. As indicated by Jobs, consumers don’t care about technical specs; they care abouthow many songs it holds, how quickly they can transfer them, and how good the sound quality is.Everything around the iPod is meticulously designed, including the package with the certain way inwhich the box opens and how the foam is cut. The iPod together with iTunes form a perfectlyseamless system where all that needs to be done is to plug the iPod into the computer and the musicflow starts automatically. Also the iPod’s surface is seamless; stainless steel behind and white onfront, with the wheel, one button in the centre and four beneath the LCD screen. In the NY Times (Nov30, 2003), Jonathan Ive, Apple’s vice president of industrial design, accounts for the characteristicwhite headphones, delivered with iPod: “I remember there was a discussion: Headphones can’t bewhite; headphones are black, or dark grey.” However, as stated in the article, “uniform whitenessseemed too important to the product to break the pattern, and indeed the white headphones havebecome a kind of secondary, unplanned icon”. 24
  24. 24. During the development of the iPod, emphasis was put on usability and simplicity. According to Ive itwas about being focused and not trying to do too much with the device, which would have been itscomplication and, therefore, its demise. The key was getting rid of things and the enabling features arenot obvious and evident. Ive further explains: “What’s interesting is that out of simplicity and almostthat unashamed sense of simplicity, and expressing it, came a very different product. But differencewasn’t the goal. It’s actually very easy to create a different thing. What was exciting is starting torealize that its difference was really a consequence of this quest to make it a very simple thing.”As described earlier, Norman (2004) claims that consumers are becoming more dependent on the‘emotional design’ of an object, which is a process taking place at three different levels (visceral,behavioural, and reflective) and that good design needs to take all of these into account. These designrules are all apparent in Apple’s products. The issues of simplicity and usability, as stated by Ive, areconsistent with Norman’s criteria for visceral and behavioural design, respectively. Visceral design isthe design that makes us perceive something as beautiful and in accordance with values inherent inus as biological beings. Norman mentioned the iMac as a typical example of this type of design withsoft lines, sensual forms and a timeless simplicity. Also the iPod provides an excellent example of thiskind of timeless design that many users will adopt immediately. The second level, behavioural design,concerns primarily usability; how fast, easily and effectively the product can be used in relation to itspurpose. This too, is something that Apple has taken to its heart and made into one of their maincompetitive advantages; design is all about how it works and the key aspect is to make complextechnology understandable for the ordinary customer. In the following sections we shall see how alsothe third level, reflective design, has been addressed through the use and promotion of the iPod.6.2 Marketing6.2.1 Target MarketAn obvious target market for the iPod is that of Macintosh users, but Apple is also breaking newground by releasing a product for an open system. Some experts mean that the choice to make theiPod compatible with PCs is a long-term strategy to sell more Macintosh computers. This is somethingthat Apple chief financial officer Fred Anderson testifies. He says “We believe the Music Store forWindows will lead to more iPod sales and generate more Mac sales in the future (Macworld DailyNews 2003). The logic: By making PC-users buy an Apple product, and maybe also use the iTunessoftware/service to listen/download music, they might see Macintosh as an alternative when buying acomputer. The identity of the new iMac G5 is clearly an elongation of the switching strategy. It ispositioned as the computer counterpart to the iPod (www.apple.com). By making the iPod a productfor an open system like mp3, new segments are opening up. Traditionally, Apple has been working inclosed market-spheres of creators, designers and schools, but now they are also targeting what isprobably the most attractive target audience of all: Youths. It is mostly in the American market thatApple is making this new positioning claim through advertisements and celebrity endorsementsrelating to Hip-Hop culture. Evidence that Apple’s new positioning is a successful one is that it is found 25
  25. 25. on second place of the list of ‘must-have’-products among U.S. school kids (Macworld Daily News2003). SWITCHING STRATEGY PHASE 1: Make PC-users buy iPod SWITCHING STRATEGY PHASE 2: Make PC-iPod users buy Mac computers6.2.2 CompetitionThe most apparent competition is constituted by the expanding range of mp3-players. In comparison,the iPod is at the high-end of the spectrum when it comes to price, performance and design eventhough competitors are catching up. However, we think that the iPod can enjoy some first-moveradvantages - the tangible part of any gadget can be copied, but not the non-tangible ones. Forexample the iPod has pre-emptied the position of connecting with celebrities and Hip-Hop culture. Ifother mp3-players will do the same they will be viewed upon as followers. A conscious strategy fromApple is that in all contexts the iPod has been referred to as “the iPod” and not something like “Apple’snew mp3-player”. A proof that the iPod has been able to clearly differentiate itself from the rest of mp3-players, is that according to a survey made by youth attitude analyst Look-Look over what cool newgadgets have been heard of, the iPod is on second place while “mp3-player” is found on place numbersix (Macworld Daily News 2003). 26
  26. 26. Moreover, the iPod also competes in a relevant way with a range of product categories. On thementioned list of ‘must-have’ products the iPod competes with picture-taking mobile phones, limitededition sneakers and palm pilots. It seems to compete for spending-money more with other productcategories and status symbols than other products of the same category (i.e. mp3-players). This canalso be observed in our focus group results. For most of the participants, the decision to buy the iPoddid not come from a primary interest in the mp3-product category. Instead, they bought an mp3-playerbecause the iPod came out.6.2.3 PromotionAn equally important dimension as the design and usability of a product is the promotion of it. If thecompetitive advantages of the iPod are not well communicated to the public, they virtually do not exist.The initial buzz about the iPod was created by the community of Mac users around the globe (Munizand O’Guinn 2001). Most of these surely heard about the iPod through community websites and word-of-mouth long before it is was officially promoted and released. We have used Normans Emotionaldesign model when looking at the promotional activities for the iPod. As stated by Norman “Advertisingcan work on either the visceral or the reflective level” (Norman 2004, p.87).One advertisement consists of the iPod against a plain white background. This is obviously astatement made by Apple: iPod is the hero and need no other connotations; it is strong enough initself. A conscious effect of this is that every individual connects the product with different meaningsthrough personal semantic associations. The iPod’s semiotic meaning consequently obtains amultifaceted character and its polysemism provides the consumer with interpretive flexibility. This admore alludes to the iconic status already possessed by Apple as a company and tries to extend thisstatus to the iPod. If we look at this ad from the perspective of Normans emotional design model, itclearly tries to speak to the viewer on the visceral design level. Norman takes up iMac as an exampleof visceral design and the iPod is right on the same track. In this ad, the iPod itself is not alluding to acontext to create Halo effects, but instead addresses the viewer directly at the biological plane as anaturally beautiful and desirable object. 27
  27. 27. iPOD HERO ADVERTISEMENTAnother advertisement for the iPod shows silhouettes of people dancing against monochromebackgrounds of different colours. This advertising line is consistently found on the Apple homepage,on iPod packaging, on TV, on billboards and in magazines and it is the only iPod advertising campaignon a larger and global scale. The moving picture versions found on the Apple homepage and TV areaccompanied by music by for example American rap group Black Eyed Peas. The all-white iPodclearly stands out in the stylized, minimalist imagery, fuelling the black silhouettes with energy and joy.This ad consistently goes along with the iconic theme of the first one, even though more hints aboutthe iPod’s personality are given through music and dance. From the perspective of Norman’sEmotional Design theory, this advertisement line is attaching a consistent image to the iPod at thereflective level. Advertising working at the reflective level is all about message, about culture, andabout the meaning of a product or its use. As apart from visceral design, which directly affects theemotional plane of a consumer, and behavioural design, which is about how a product actually works,reflective design is about what cultural meaning is transferred to an object from a context. In this ad,key concepts that connect with the reflective aspect of the iPod are energy, joy, minimalism and style. 28
  28. 28. DANCING SILHUETTES ADVERTISINGIn the “Pods Unite” print- and TV campaign, Apple co-brands with another iconic brand: Volkswagen.The deal is to get a free iPod with your New Beetle: What is interesting about the campaign however,is not the deal but the choice of partner. In an article about the campaign, Alison Overholt talks about“a marriage between two classic ‘underdog brands’…” and “A psychographic match made in heaven”(Fastcompany 2003). President of strategist consultancy Reason-Inc Marc Babej comments theiconicity of the two brands on Brandweek.com (www.reason-inc.com/pdf/Brandweek_0603.pdf): “…thebest ads for VW and Apple feature the product in front of a plain white background. A Beetle or aniPod is unique – anything else would distract.” The Beetle and the iPod are icons of two generationsand by building a bridge between the two, a symbiotic relationship is the result: the Beetle acquires apiece of modern pop-culture and the iPod connects with an established cultural icon. 29
  29. 29. PODS UNITE IPOD AND BEETLE CO-BRANDING ADThe iconic uniqueness of the iPod, and its differentiation from “regular mp3-players” can be furtherobserved through its distribution. In consumer electronic stores, the iPod is not placed next to the 7crowd of other mp3-players, but exhibited in its own showcaseOther than pushing the iconic appearance of the iPod, it also associates itself with a number ofcelebrities in different ways. It can be seen in music videos by American rapper 50 Cents and RnB-artists like Mary J Blige and Jennifer Lopez. Neil Strauss of The New York Times (Sep 7, 2003) writes:“The rapper and the women are dressed all in white, a perfect match for the sleek white design of theiPod, which has exactly as many close-ups as 50 Cent does in the P.I.M.P. video’s opening scenes”.In the US, hip-hop and RnB culture is closely linked to youth-culture in general and Hip-Hop culturehas a trend-setting influence among young people. This can be witnessed in the American Billboardlist of most sold songs, which holds a significant number of songs belonging to this category of music.For example, at the time of the release of 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P. video, nine out of ten songs on the listwere hip-hop/RnB singles (October 2003).7 For example the OnOff-store at Sveavägen, Stockholm (June 2004). 30
  30. 30. 50 CENT’S P.I.M.P.-MUSIC VIDEOOther well-known celebrities spotted with the iPod are David Beckham and Madonna. That this is aplanned strategy could be further witnessed at the release of iTunes for Windows in San Francisco, 8where Steve Jobs talks with Bono, Dr Dre and Mick Jagger via webcam . Whether it is a question ofpaid endorsements or not is difficult to find out, seen from the artists’ point of view, the iPod is likely tobe a cool item of choice, with an inverse endorsement effect; the artist acquires the positiveconnotations associated with the iPod. Conversely iPod acquires some superstar associations that areunheard of in the world of mp3-players, and hardly matched by any other gadget. In the U.S., the iPodhas mostly connected itself with celebrities of the world of Hip-hop. Like most other things in the caseof iPod, this is no coincidence.6.3 Consumption6.3.1 iPod as a cultural artefactAnalogous to the Sony Walkman as described by Du Gay - the iPod, seen as a cultural artefact – canbe defined as something that is not only a part of our culture; it has also acquired a culture of its ownwith particular meanings. These meanings have mainly been created through the representationalpractice of advertising and how the product has connected with pop cultural themes. Some of theconnotations the iPod has come to be associated with so far are youth-culture, technical gadgetry, andtrend. But what is more important, the iPod also has the associations normally linked to Apple’s brand.6.3.2 Perspectives on consumptionIf consumption is seen according to the ‘production of consumption’ theory, as introduced by theFrankfurt School, this would imply that the iPod’s meaning already has been defined by Apple and allconsumers have the same perception of the product. In addition, it would mean that all consumershave the same needs in relation to the iPod. We would like to put emphasis on the product’spredestined meanings and call attention to their impact on individual consumers. The producers8 The whole iTunes for Windows-presentation can be viewed at www.apple.com/quicktime/qtv/musicevent03/ 31
  31. 31. behind the iPod have tried hard to inscribe meanings into the product and succeeded well inpositioning it among consumers, which agrees well with this theory. Nevertheless, Baudrillard’s notionof semantic meaning created from use and consumers’ individual interpretations is highly relevant inthis case: people use it differently depending on their separate needs even though their interpretationof the object very much has been influenced by the mechanisms of ‘cultural mediation’ such asmarketing, design, and advertising (Du Gay et al. 1997).6.3.3 Consumption and the formation of identitiesIn addition to an object’s ‘use’ value Baudrillard also argues for an ‘identity’ value. In this way the iPodcan be interpreted as an indicator of social and cultural difference and subsequently work as amedium of communication in itself. As noted by Slater (1997) the meanings involved in consumptionare shared but individual preferences form within consumer cultures as well and through culturallyspecific forms of consumption we not only produce but also reproduce cultures. Our focus group sawtheir consumption of the iPod as a way of reinforcing and fulfilling their own self-image. It reproducedtheir own identity by sharing the same associations that they perceived in themselves.To facilitate consumers’ expression of individual identities, accessories are available to accompany theiPod. Besides cases in different colours, famous designers have made their own cases so thatconsumers can further strengthen their personal preferences, taste, and lifestyle. There are also otheraccessories to fit sports enthusiasts, handbag with built-in speakers and much more. Apple alsorepresents a lifestyle of its own and the use of the company’s products becomes an expression initself. For instance, many professionals working in creative fields of work use Apple. These users canthen be said to reproduce the ‘Apple culture’ and take part of its associations.6.3.4 Consumption as status symbolSlater also explains how certain artefacts and their consumption can work as status symbols bymeans of imitating high status groups’ life-styles. This can be observed in the way that rap artists actas pop-cultural icons for street-culture. However, we believe that our focus group is more or lessrepresentative for Swedish consumers’ view of the iPod, whereas the ‘street-culture phenomenon” ismore abundant in the US.6.3.5 Consumption and needsAccording to Maslow, once basic needs have been materially fulfilled, the cultural aspect ofconsumption manifests itself and the meaning of things becomes more important than their functionaluse to meet a ‘real’ need. One might ask oneself: what constitutes a real need? Can the need to carryaround 40 GB of music in your pocket possibly be categorized into one of these? Slater (1997) arguesthat culture constitutes the needs, objects and practices that make up consumption. In this view, theneed for mobile storage space and music has existed for quite some time; the Walkman and Zip-drivetook care of that. However, with the iPod these needs are being redefined and reinforced; thepossibility to keep this much information in your pocket has not been there before. 32
  32. 32. The iPod represents different things for different people, depending on which needs it fulfils. Theseparate meanings people attach to it can be seen as different semantic networks. A sharp contrast ishere discerned between the Apple loyalists and younger people influenced by street-cultural trends.For the former group it is almost a question of fulfilling basic needs, whereas for the others the artefactmainly acts as a luxury good. As seen in the focus group the iPod was merely a natural choice ofpurchase in capacity of an Apple extension. Advertising consequently has added other meanings; it isno longer a matter of just listening to music, the significations have extended to aesthetics, trends, andstatus. It should here be stressed that when asked what the most important factor behind purchasewas, our focus group in unison concluded that it was the functional benefits in terms of capacity anddesign that were most decisive. However, it was also pointed out that if another company than Apple,like Sharp for example, had made the iPod it might very well have surpassed their notice. The productwas also seen as something expected by Apple and described as a ‘typical Apple product’. What ismore, we believe that an integrative approach is necessary when analysing the reasons for purchasedecision where the Apple trademark, advertising and design all work together to form the overallimpression.6.3.6 Advertising and the construction of meaningThe sub-cultural analysis conducted by Willis and Hediges whose results supports the view ofconsumers as cultural experts who use artefacts to form identities explains Apple’s marketingcampaign directed towards hip-hop as a trendsetting sub-culture. Whether the iPod’s existence inmusic videos by 50 Cents and Mary J Blige, is product placement or not so far remains a secret, butthe aforementioned artists, as well as The Black Eyed Peas has high street-culture credibility in theUS, which Apple most certainly is aware of. Furthermore, through the association of iPod with pop-cultural icons, Apple surely hopes to extend this association to become part of the iPod itself.6.3.7 Transformation of meaningMaterial and cultural artefacts’ meaning constantly undergoes a transformation through a processtermed ‘Production of meaning’. The iPod has taken on a different meaning now than at the time of itslaunch. The first iPod users were Apple fanatics, technical gadgeters and people with a deeply rootedinterest in music. Along with recent ads appealing to a younger audience by alluding to street-culturaltrends, a new market segment not targeted by Apple before has given the product an altered meaning.Youth attitude analyst Look-Look’s research suggests that “the iPod – and Apples – market appeal isabout to move beyond Apples traditional constituencies among professionals and the middle class”(Macworld Daily News Sept 5, 2003). One theory is that Apple first noticed the fetish-like obsessionwith the iPod among certain pop-cultural idols and then followed up this trend by further consolidatingthis image.6.3.8 The Future of iPodThe iPod has pre-emptied a position in the market that gives it a strong competitive advantage. WithiTunes, Apple has obtained media-synergies and established a strong foothold in the market that 33
  33. 33. consists not only of mp3-players, but also of other ‘cool’ gadgets. In the US, the iPod has had greatsuccess among consumers and is a much sought-after item. In Europe however, marketing effortshave not been as great, which we think has been for the detriment of Apple, and on this side of theocean we believe that the iPod’s commercial success is still in its initial stage, where most owners sofar belong to the category of innovators/early adopters. However, sales are gaining momentum andwill probably continue to rise. In Sweden the iTunes feature of downloading music is for example stillnot available to consumers. On the other hand, the Windows edition of the program has boosted iPodsales. A threat to the iPod is the second version of Napster, which is industry-sanctioned andconsequently legal. This edition of Napster provides songs in a new Windows media format that is notsupported by iPod.The music industry and related technologies are changing fast, which put products in a vulnerableposition in relation to market forces. However, these changes make other, human factors moreimportant. Consumers need something easy to grip and relate to in the clutter of technologicalgadgets. This is where Apple’s brand and marketing has a major significance. 34
  34. 34. 7 CONCLUSIONThe question posed in this thesis is why certain products become icons of contemporary culture. Toanswer this question, we have conducted a case study in the form of a cultural marketing analysis ofApple’s iPod, which can be seen as a representative example of this type of products, and studied thisartefact’s cultural meaning for consumers and the factors behind its immense popularity.Many of the results and conclusions obtained in this paper can probably be applied to other productswithin the identified category of consumer products of technical character with a strong relation tocontemporary culture. However, the conclusions are not universal and should be applied with care.Most of all, this report provides an example of why one such product has succeeded. Furthermore, ouranalysis has mainly concerned the US market.One of the keystones behind the iPod’s success is the Apple brand. Ever since Apple’s foundation andthe introduction of the first Macintosh, the company has succeeded in maintaining the associationsand myths around the brand where creativity, innovation and imagination have been keywords. Thesesame myths and associations were passed on to the iMac and now lately the iPod.From day one the iPod was surrounded by the Apple aura; the initial hype around it was created byMac users who also laid the foundation of the iPod community. This community of loyal consumersthen expanded when groups outside the Mac community who had not been targeted by Apple beforewere attracted, mainly through association of the product with pop-cultural phenomena in Americanyouth-culture. The only ones that can give a product an iconic status are the consumers. The unbiasedopinions, acts and statements of ”people on the street” are far more credible than any profit-drivenorganization – and this is where the uniqueness of the iPod lies. The iPod community, consisting of alliPod users, creates meaning for the product; the way people use, talk about, wear and act with theiPod affects its image. The community also reinforces the iPod’s perceived quality, brand loyalty,brand awareness, and brand associations.Through advertising and design, Apple has successfully implemented all three levels of Norman’semotional design model into the iPod. The aesthetics of the iPod, characterized by simplicity, soft linesand timelessness, provides an example of a visceral design, formed according to values inherent in usas biological beings. The visceral design also comes out in the advertising where the all-white iPodstands out in the stylized, minimalist imagery as a naturally beautiful object. In addition, the advertisingworks at the reflective design level, and connects the iPod with the concepts of energy, joy, style, andyouth culture. Moreover, Apple has a tradition of considering the consumer in the first place and duringthe development of iPod, emphasis was put on usability by creating a product that would fit theconsumers’ needs. This is consistent with the concept of behavioural design. 35
  35. 35. People are different, and even though a product or an ad from an objective point of view might lookthe same, consumers will still make individual interpretations of them. Producers try to encodeproducts with certain meanings, and for some consumers these meanings will coincide with their ownimage of the product but not for everyone. The more people who interpret the producer’s intendedmessage in the ’right’ way, the more successful the positioning of the product will be. In capacity ofconsumers we use artefacts to reinforce our own identity and transfer their associations andconnotations to ourselves.The identity of the iPod, as created by the producers, has been well mediated to consumers. However,this identity is multifaceted and provides interpretive flexibility, which has contributed to its success.The fact that the iPod was placed second on 2003 year’s list of most wanted gadgets amongteenagers (with mp3-players on sixth place) proves that it has acquired a market position with widerconnotations than being ‘just’ an mp3-player. The iPod has established a close connection with pop-cultural trends and become a symbol for new consumption patterns of music in modern society as acontemporary cultural icon. Technology is changing faster than ever and predictions are hard to make,but Apple has clearly shown their innovative capacity and gained competitive advantage by pre-emptying a position on the market for the iPod. Rivals have introduced similar devices and the tangiblepart of any gadget can be copied, but not the non-tangible ones. When the pace of technologicalchange is constantly accelerating, consumers need something they can understand and relate to. 36
  36. 36. 8 BIBLIOGRAPHYBaudrillard, Jean (1988) Selected Writings, Cambridge, Polity Press.Du Gay et al. (1997) Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman, Milton Keynes, TheOpen University.Fastcompany, (75 October 2003) ‘The “Pods Unite” ad’,www.fastcompany.com/magazine/75/ipod.html.Holt, Douglas B. (March 2003) What Becomes an Icon Most, Harvard Business Review,.Macworld Daily News (September 05, 2003) “Apple mindshare grows; market to follow?”Maslow, Abraham Harold (1970), Motivation and Personality, New York: Harper & Row.Muniz, Albert M. JR. and O’Guinn, Thomas C. (March 2001) Brand Community, Journal of ConsumerResearch, Vol. 27.New York Times (September 7, 2003) “Girls? Check. Cristal? Check. IPod? Check.”New York Times (November 30, 2003) “The Guts of a New Machine.”New York Times (February 15, 2004) “The World at Ears’ Length.”Norman, Donald A. (2004) Emotional Design: why we love (or hate) everyday things, New York: BasicBooks.Shimp, Terence A. (2000), Advertising & Promotion – Supplemental Aspects of Integrated MarketingCommunications, Harcourt College Publishers.Slater, Don (1997) Consumer Culture & Modernity, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Wired News (July 1, 1999) “Apple sues iMac Clone”.Wired News (December 4, 2002) “Apple: It’s All About the Brand”,http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,56677,00.html.www.apple.comwww.apple.com/pr/library/1997/q4/970929.pr.rel.adcampaign.html, (October 1, 1997) Apple LaunchesBrand Advertising Campaign, (press release).www.reason-inc.com/pdf/Brandweek_0603.pdfwww.uriah.com/apple-qt/1984.html (Apple 1984 Macintosh commercial).Yin, K. Robert (2003) Case Study Research; Design and Methods, Sage Publications. 37
  37. 37. 9 APPENDIX Technical Specification of the iPodStorage: 10, 20 or 40 GBBattery life: Over 8 hoursSkip protection: Up to 25 minutesDisplay: 2-inch (diagonal) grayscale LCD with LED backlightPorts: Dock connector, remote connector, stereo minijackConnectivity: FireWire 400 and USB 2.0 through dock connectorCharge time: hours (1-hour fast charge to 80% capacity)Audio support for Windows: MP3 (32 to 320 Kbps), MP3 VBR, Audible, WAVSize: 4.1 by 2.4 by 0.62 / 0.73 inchesWeight: 5.6 / 6.2 ounces 38

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