Saturday, August 27, 2011

Designing for freedom

Writer Andrew Potter thinks that Steve Jobs is selling conformity to the masses, and his greatest success has been to market conformity as freedom. Potter sees Apple's products purely in terms of marketing success, and points to the famous 1984 TV ad as evidence of excellent branding and positioning statement.

Potter doesn't acknowledge that the success of consumer products often depends on the ability of the company to fulfill its brand promise. Apple's products are a marriage between great design, functionality, business model, and marketing. Jobs' great success hasn't been to sell a vision to hipsters, it's been to sell a vision to his employees that says, "We only create the best. 'Good enough' isn't acceptable here." Based on that vision, the designers, engineers, and marketers know what they need to do.

I was in the market for a laptop recently, and I looked at the various Wintel machines first. They all come with a little demo program that says, "Let me show you all the cool stuff you can do. But keep your hands off the machine, you'll see what I want you to see." The demos all sucked. Then I went to look at Macintosh laptops at the Apple Store. There are no demos. The machine itself is the demo. You get to drive. That's how Apple markets its products. For Potter, having the ability for a customer to drive is just freedom disguised as conformity.

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