Category Archives: Brand Communities

Illusion of Diffusion

An inveterate ‘early adopter’ like myself can’t help thinking that I might be arriving too late at the techno-party. While I consider myself to be moderately ‘tech-savvy’ I always have the feeling that I am missing the boat. I mean, what does it say about my level of technological prowess that my kids look at me with pity because I don’t use my mobile phone to ‘text’.

Sure, I have created this blog (thanks to WordPress) and I can tinker with HTML and CSS, but hacking and programming skills elude me. Is the world of technological innovation is passing me by?
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The Devil Wears Mac

My wife and I just watched The Devil Wears Prada last night and, far from any subtle product placement, it seemed that Macintosh computers had a featured role in the movie. In the reception suite for “Runway Magazine” were two desks, each outfitted with a handsome, 23″ (I think) Apple Cinema Display. We got to see both receptionists working on their G5s and we were even treated to the Mac OSX “genie effect”. The Stanley Tucci character had an Apple cinema display in his studio, the Meryl Streep character was working on a 17″ MacBook Pro, and in the hotel room of the freelance writer was the subtle outline of a white MacBook.

The movie itself was less than exciting. My eyes glazed over with talk of Calvin Klein skirts, and Jimmy Choo shoes. The most dramatic moment in the movie came when Miranda (Meryl Streep) carelessly tossed her coat onto one of the receptionist’s desks and it landed right on top of one of the cinema displays. Would a button or zipper mar the screen? How could this character be so callous and uncaring? Alas, we would never know the consequences of those actions.

Apple is “Top Dog” with iPod

As of September 2006 there had been a reported 67.4 million iPods sold worldwide along with 1.5 billion songs sold at iTunes. With more than 8 million iPods being sold each quarter, Apple is a force to be reconned with in the world of digital music players. In fact, just as Microsoft enters the fray with it’s new Zune, iPod enjoys a 10 to 1 lead over its nearest competitor.

Here are a few interesting statistics as released by Solutions Research Group back in July 2006:

    28% of Americans aged 12 and up own a digital music player, more than twice the 12% for 2005
    Apple has increased it’s share of the market from 53% to 68%
    45% of all internet users downloaded music. This is up from 31% a year ago.
    In 2005 only 8% of Americans paid for their song download. This year the number was up to 23%.
    Women aged 15-49 are the hottest growth demographic with 27% owning digital music players compared to 8% in 2005.

Now, even as Microsoft introduced Zune to the market in November, Apple is maintaining its strong lead in sales. According to Amazon.com, of the top 18 slots for digital music players, Apple owns 12 with various permutations of iPod while Microsoft is coming in at number 18. It is not a familiar position for Microsoft, a company that has a 90% market share in desktop operating systems.

Equally unfamiliar for Apple is being the “top dog” instead of the “underdog”. Apple has long experienced the fierce loyalty of its Mac brand community. This community has feasted on their resentment of Microsoft and the “forces of the Dark Side” that Windows has come to represent. O’Guinn and Muniz call this “oppositional brand loyalty”. The community is galvanized, in part, by their common enemy who, in the world of commerce, usually occupies a commanding percentage of marketshare. Continue reading Apple is “Top Dog” with iPod

Brand Communities

According to Muniz and O’Guinn

“brand communities are largely imagined communities”. (2001 p.426) “They are explicitly commercial social collectives centered around a brand, not incidental contact with commercial space… Community is arguably the fundamental social relationship often used to describe relationship marketing.”(427) “Deprived of their social connections, the value of these brands to consumers would certainly be diminished.”(427) “They (brand communities) provide social structure to the relationship between marketer and consumer. Communities exert pressure on members to remain loyal to the collective and to the brand.”(427) “We hold that brands are undeniably and fundamentally social entities created as much by consumers as by marketers in a complex and fascinating dance of social construction. This intersection of brand-a defining entity of consumer culture-and community-a core sociological notion-is an important one.”(428)
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Communities and Operating Systems

Among the Oxford English Dictionary definitions of “Community” is the following:

A body of people organized into a political, municipal, or social unity: such as members of a civil community, who have certain circumstances of nativity, religion, or pursuit, common to them, but not shared by those among whom they live.

“Community” and “society” are opposing concepts. We “join” communities. We are a “part” of a society. In a ‘community’ we bring our personal strengths to bear for the common good. In a ‘society’ individuality must be protected against the depersonalizing, anomizing process by which people are grouped together and ‘Wal-marted’ into indistinguishable simulacrums.

The postmodern reaction to the mass-produced, least common denominator impersonalization has been a proliferation of communities. As products have become such a central part of our lives we have seen the growth of “Brand Communities” such as the ones that have developed around Harley Davidson motorcycles and Macintosh Computers. As the Internet becomes the ultimate facilitator of interpersonal communication, “virtual communities”, whether product-related or not, have multiplied at an astonishing rate. Continue reading Communities and Operating Systems

WordPress and How I Learned to Love Open Source

I fall into the category of people who are impressed by price tags. That is to say; if something seems to cost too little, its perceived value will inevitably plummet. So when I first started to research blogging and CMS platforms I was originally attracted to Movable Type and, later, to Expression Engine. It was suggested that I explore some of the open source software such as Drupal, WordPress, and b2evolution but I dismissed them because they were “free”. After all, you get what you pay for. Continue reading WordPress and How I Learned to Love Open Source

The Cult of Ubuntu ?

In the article

“The Cult of Macintosh” by Belk and Tumbat, Consumption, Markets, and Culture, Vol.8, No. 3, September 2005, pp. 205-217

the authors suggest that, for a brand to attain cult-like proportions and a devotional following a mythology consisting of certain “sustaining myths” must surround the brand. In the case of Macintosh computers the “creation myth” began in the garage with Steve Jobs and the first Apple computer.
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Social Identity Theory

In the 1960s and 1970s Henri Tajfel conducted a series of studies in which participants were randomly divided into two groups. As a participant, the group you were assigned to was the “in-group” and the other group was designated the “out-group”. Participants were asked to allocate rewards between members of their group (in-group) and the other group (the out-group). These studies showed that participants exhibited substantial favoritism for members of their in-group.

What makes this interesting is that these were ad hoc groups. They were not formed based on any commonality between the participants. Attraction didn’t play a part, neither did taste in music or religious affiliation. Subjects were merely told that they were members of one or the other group and yet they behaved in ways that indicated that they were interested in the group’s welfare as well as their own.

According to the “The Sage Handbook of Social Psychology” (Sage Publications Ltd):

Social identity theory holds that self-esteem reflects both personal identity and social identity. The former is based on one’s personal accomplishments while the latter is based on the groups to which one belongs and the value one attaches to those groups. People are motivated to maintain a positive self-evaluation and want to view their individual achievements and personal qualities as favorably as they can, as they similarly want to see the groups that they belong to in the most positive possible light.

This seems as good a place as any to begin our exploration of the mechanisms which lead to the type of us vs. them behavior we experience as part of the Mac/PC debate. The next step will be to look at J.C. Turner’s working of social identity theory into self-categorization theory.

Us vs. Them: The Politics of Direct Causation

I often find myself asking why, if so much of what is happening in the political arena seems to go against some of my most basic human values, does it coincide with what seem to be other people’s most basic human values? Everyone I would expect to disagree with the current administration’s policies is eerily quiet and even the media, whom I have come to rely upon to dramatize even the least little issue in the name of selling advertising, appears to be preternaturally tongue-tied.

George Lakoff has addressed this issue in a way that is clear and understandable. In his 2006 book, Whose Freedom?, Lakoff gives a detailed look at what are essentially two separate world views. One is framed by direct causation and the other by systemic causation. Lakoff uses a family to differentiate these views and describes direct causation as akin to “strict father morality”. Systemic causation, on the other hand, more closely fits the framework of “nurturant parent morality”.


“Whose Freedom?: The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea” (George Lakoff)

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1984 and Essentially Contested Concepts

Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!

So reads the text of Apple Computer Corporation’s seminal Macintosh ad which was shown during the Superbowl in January of 1984. In an ad that, according to Apple Confidential 2.0 author Owen Linzmayer wasn’t created specifically for the Mac and almost never ran, Apple has staked its claim to one of the most ingrained concepts in the collective consciousness of the American baby boomer. The ads ends with the tag “On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984”.
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