Contributor: Jeffrey S. Nevid, Ph.D., ABPP
The iconic series of television commercials pitting personifications of Macs and PCs against each other imprinted in the public mind an image of Apple® as a company for young, cool, hipsters. By contrast, the PC persona was embodied by a traditional, straight-laced, fuddy-duddy character. Microsoft® later counterpunched with commercials representing PC users as creative and spontaneous. Marketers seek to position brands with appealing attributes in the hope that consumers will select these brands to feel better about themselves merely by association. A recent series of commercials for Samsung turned the tables on Apple by parodying the social phenomenon of the iPhone line. While a group of young people wait expectantly in line for what is presumably the latest iPhone release, a young man on the line is joined by his parents, thus casting Apple in the unfamiliar role of being out of step with a younger demographic.
Efforts to understand the underlying motives that attract consumers to particular brands began in the 1940s as motivational researchers turned to psychological theorists and sociological analysis of social class distinctions to better understand consumer behavior. These early efforts were chronicled by Vance Packard in his landmark 1957 book, The Hidden Persuaders. Packard argued that many consumers are influenced and manipulated “far more than we realize” by persuaders seeking to exploit their hidden motives and desires. Packard quoted the early motivational researcher Ernst Dichter who had famously remarked that marketers of women’s shoes shouldn’t focus on selling shoes, but rather, on selling “lovely feet.”
Although some purchase decisions are guided by a clear-headed evaluation of product features and costs, others are influenced to varying degrees by subtle cues that appeal to the subconscious mind and trigger automatic associations we are only now beginning to understand. Armed today with more sophisticated means of probing these automatic associations or implicit attitudes, such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT), marketing researchers are plumbing the depths of the subconscious mind of consumers. Research on automatic processing suggests that we are conscious beings but are not consciously aware of everything we do or the reasons we buy what we buy. After all, why do millions of iPads and iPhones fly off the shelves in the first few weeks after they are released, even if less expensive devices perform essentially the same functions? Are purchase decisions driven more by marketers pressing unconscious buttons than by the inherent value of the products themselves?
In our lab we tested whether Mac and PC owners implicitly identified with the brand of the computer they owned than with the competing brand. We also examined personality differences between Mac users and PC owners. Our sample consisted of 108 college-age undergraduate students at St. John’s University in New York. These students had earlier purchased either a PC (Thinkpad) or a Mac laptop computer upon entry to college as a part of a laptop distribution program. We tested implicit identification using the IAT, a widely used measure of automatic associations. The test measures differences in reaction times to particular stimuli (for example, reaction times to images of Macs and PCs) when these stimuli are paired with either positive or negative evaluative categories or self or other categories. We also tested differences between Mac and PC on the five major traits that comprise the Five Factor Model (FFM) of personality: extraversion, agreeableness (friendliness), neuroticism (emotional stability), openness to new experiences, and conscientiousness.
As reported in the January, 2014 issue of Psychology & Marketing, we found no distinguishable differences in personality traits between PC and Mac owners. We did find an “I’m a Mac” effect, with Mac owners implicitly identifying more strongly with Macs than PCs and having more positive implicit preferences for Macs. It also turned out that PC owners implicitly identified more with Macs, but to a much lesser extent than Mac owners. Coolness and hipness of Macs appears to have permeated the psyches of both Mac and PC owners. Although PC owners did not implicitly identify with PCs, they did rate PCs higher than Macs on factors such as reliability, good features, and ease of use. Apparently you don’t have to identify with a consumer product to find it useful.
Clearly, many factors contribute to purchase decisions, including pricing, reviews, and perceived usability or utility. But some product choices may be influenced by subtle cues that evoke youthful appeal or other desirable characteristics, perhaps because of an underlying belief that these attributes will “rub off” on users, making them seem cool, hip, or attractive. It’s possible that automatic processing may be a stronger influence than evaluative processing in impulse buying situations in which consumers make quick or pressured decisions based on gut level reactions than careful analysis. Marketers are only beginning to crack the surface to probe these implicit processes.
Implicit processing extends beyond brand preferences. In earlier research in our lab, we found that darkening a computer image of then presidential candidate Barack Obama during the 2008 election season produced more negative implicit responses toward Mr. Obama, but only among students who identified themselves as conservative. Liberal students showed slightly positive implicit associations to Mr. Obama in both the darker and lighter skin-tone conditions. We might like to think we are not affected by skin tone coloring, but the automatic reactions of our students show that tweaking an image of even so prominent a figure as Barack Obama elicits more negative implicit associations in some groups.
The study of automatic processes is still in its infancy. The development of techniques that enable us to probe automatic responses opens a window to explore attitudes at a deeper level than is possible with more direct means of questioning. With these techniques, we may be able to determine just how much we consumers and voters are influenced by subtle cues.
Jeffrey S. Nevid is Professor of Psychology and Director of Clinical Psychology at St. John’s University in New York, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest book with Cengage Learning is Essentials of Psychology: Concepts and Applications, Fourth Edition.
Steve Jobs could sell. He did it in person, he did it on stage, and he did it on television—in the form of advertising campaigns that were often the envy of the business. Among the most beloved was the long-running "Get a Mac" series with John Hodgman and Justin Long as the bumbling PC and the hip, unflappable Mac—an odd couple who would entertain viewers for years with their quips, barbs, sight gags, and one-liners. In 2010, Adweek declared "Get a Mac" to be the best advertising campaign of the first decade of the new century. Below are all 66 TV spots (plus the long version of 2008's "Sad Song") that aired during the campaign's run, from May 2006 to October 2009. All 66 ads were directed by Phil Morrison of Epoch Films for TBWA Media Arts Lab.
Click to view.May 2006. Mac admits PC is good at business stuff like spreadsheets, while he's better at "life" stuff like photos, music, and movies. PC doltishly asks Mac what he means by "better." Hodgman trips up a little on his second line—an amateurish moment that wouldn't be repeated.
Click to view.May 2006. PC is seen rocking out to an iPod and praising iTunes. Mac replies that the rest of the iLife suite works just as well and comes on every Mac. PC defensively responds by listing the cool apps that he comes with, but can only identify Calculator and Clock.
Click to view.May 2006. Mac and PC, holding hands to demonstrate their ability to network with each other, are joined by a Japanese woman who represents a new digital camera. Mac and the camera speak to each other fluently, but PC, lacking the proper driver, is utterly confused and unable to communicate.
Click to view.May 2006. Mac and PC explain how they both have a lot in common, like running Microsoft Office, but their discussion is hampered by PC's unfortunate habit of freezing and restarting.
Click to view.May 2006. PC has caught a virus and is clearly under the weather. He warns Mac to stay away from him, citing 114,000 known viruses that infect PCs. But Mac isn't worried, as viruses don't affect him. PC then announces that he's going to crash and falls backward onto the floor.
- Wall Street Journal
Click to view.May 2006. Mac is reading a favorable review of himself by Walt Mossberg in The Wall Street Journal. PC then claims that he also received a great review but is flummoxed when Mac asks for details. PC says the review came from the esteemed Awesome Computer Review Weekly.
- Out of the Box
Click to view.June 2006. Mac and PC, still in their boxes, talk about what they'll do when they get unpacked. Mac says he'll get started right away, but PC, who's doing exercises, is held up by tedious startup tasks. Mac hops away, leaving PC waiting for other parts of himself that are in other boxes.
Click to view.June 2006. Mac tells PC that he can run both OS X and Windows, making him the only computer you'll ever need. "Oh … touché," PC says. Mac says PC is using the word "touché" the wrong way. PC listens intently, then moronically misuses the word again.
- Work vs. Home
Click to view.June 2006. Mac says he enjoys doing fun stuff like podcasts and movies. PC says he also does fun stuff, like spreadsheets and pie charts. Mac thinks it might be difficult to capture a family vacation on a pie chart. "Not true," says PC, who shows off just such a chart.
Click to view.August 2006. PC, who's all banged up, explains that he fell off his desk when someone tripped over his power cord. Mac says his magnetic power cord allows it to simply pop off. PC then recalls seeing his life flash before his eyes, which Mac recognizes as the Windows wallpaper.
Click to view.August 2006. Mac gives an iPhoto picture book to PC to inspect. Angel and devil versions of PC appear behind him. The angel tells PC to compliment Mac, while the devil prods him to destroy the book. In the end, PC says the book is nice, but he's clearly haunted by the apparitions.
- Trust Mac
Click to view.August 2006. Trying to hide from spyware, PC is seen wearing a trench coat, a fedora, dark glasses, and a false mustache. He offers Mac a disguise, but Mac declines, saying he doesn't have to worry about such things with OS X. Hodgman is clearly cracking Long up in this spot.
- Better Results
Click to view.October 2006. The campaign gets a dose of celebrity, as supermodel Gisele Bündchen is called on to represent a home movie made on a Mac. PC's movie, meanwhile, is represented by dude in a blond wig and a dress like Bündchen's. PC says his movie is a work in progress.
Click to view.October 2006. PC and Mac visit a therapist. Mac finds it easy to compliment PC ("You are a wizard with numbers, and you dress like a gentleman"), but PC's resentment gets the better of him. The therapist would return 18 months later in the "Breakthrough" spot.
Click to view.October 2006. Mac is seen wearing a suit for a change, and he explains that he does work stuff, too, and has been running Microsoft Office for years. Upon hearing this, PC becomes despondent and collapses on the floor, begging to be left alone to depreciate.
- Gift Exchange
Click to view.November 2006. Mac and PC exchange gifts for the holidays. PC, who is hoping for a C++ GUI programming guide, is disappointed to receive an iPhoto album of images from previous "Get a Mac" ads. Meanwhile, PC gives Mac the C++ GUI programming guide, and Mac is just as disappointed.
- Meant for Work
Click to view.November 2006. Haggard and covered in stickers, PC complains that he's being worn out by kids trying to use him to make movies and blogs, when he's really made for balancing checkbooks. He says he cries himself to sleep mode every night. He then trudges off to listen to some emo.
- Sales Pitch
Click to view.November 2006. "Hello, I'm a Mac," says Mac. "And BUY a PC," says PC, who explains that he has to be more forceful with his marketing, now that Mac is getting more popular. PC is reduced to spouting infomercial clichés and holding up signs that read "Amazing!" and "Totally cool!"
Click to view.December 2006. Wrapping up their first year together, Mac and PC agree to put aside their differences for the holiday season. But PC slips and says Mac wastes his time with "frivolous pursuits." Mac is the bigger man, though, and suggests that they "pull it into hug harbor."
Click to view.January 2007. PC introduces himself, but in Mac's place is an impostor, who's clearly been hired by PC to say bad things about Macs. The guy recites poorly memorized line to flatter PC. The real Mac arrives soon after, and the impostor Mac says he's a big fan.
Click to view.January 2007. PC, seen in a hospital gown, explains that he is upgrading to Windows Vista, which requires "major surgery" internally. PC admits he is worried about the process and bequeaths his peripherals to Mac should he not survive.
- Tech Support
Click to view.January 2007. A technician is set to install a webcam on PC, using masking tape to attach it to his head. PC is extremely pleased, but upon hearing that Mac has a built-in webcam, he storms off without waiting for the camera to be fully installed.
Click to view.February 2007. The campaign really hits its stride here, as PC is a joined by a tall Secret Service-style bodyguard, who represents Vista's much-criticized new security feature. He intrusively demands that PC cancel or allow every incoming or outgoing interaction he has with Mac.
- Computer Cart
Click to view.April 2007. PC and three of his kind sit on a computer cart, waiting for be fixed after getting error messages from Vista. Mac explains that he doesn't get cryptic error messages. PC figures he'll be back, but isn't confident about the PC with the fatal error. "He's a goner," PC whispers.
Click to view.April 2007. Mac asks PC if he'd like to see a Web site and home movie he made. This provokes a flashback to when they were kids: When Mac asks PC if he'd like to see some artwork he did, PC uses a calculator to gauge the time he just wasted. Back in the present, PC does the same thing again.
Click to view.April 2007. A hilariously rotund PC enters, explaining that all his trial software is fattening him up and slowing him down. Mac says he only comes with the software you want. As PC gets to center stage, Mac begins his intro again, but PC says he's forgotten something and slowly leaves.
- Choose a Vista
Click to view.May 2007. The campaign continues to hammer on Windows Vista. Confused about which of the six versions of Vista to get, PC spins a big game wheel. "Come on, big operating system!" he cries. But he lands on Lose a Turn, and Mac questions why that space is even on the wheel.
Click to view.May 2007. Mac introduces PC to one of the Apple Geniuses from the Apple Store. PC tests the Genius, starting with math questions. He eventually asks her, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much he loathes Mac. To which she answers: "11." PC responds: "She's good. Very good."
- Party Is Over
Click to view.May 2007. PC throws a party celebrating Vista, but it's a sad affair. He complains to Mac that after upgrading, he can't use some of his old software and peripherals. PC then talks with another partygoer about throwing another party in five years, but they can't agree on a day.
Click to view.November 2007. PC is introduced as a boxer, and says he's not going down without a fight. Mac says it's not a competition, that people just want a computer that's simpler and more intuitive. The ring announcer then admits his brother-in-law got a Mac and loves it.
Click to view.November 2007. PC stands at a podium like a politician, urging those who are having compatibility problems with Vista to just buy new hardware. ("It's not about what Vista can do for you, it's what you can buy for Vista.") But he then admits to Mac that he himself downgraded to Windows XP.
- PR Lady
Click to view.November 2007. Mac and PC are joined by a PR woman, whom PC has hired to put a positive spin on Windows Vista. But PC keeps shooting himself in the foot. The PR woman helps him out, but when he says people are switching to Mac, all she can muster is a meek "No comment."
Click to view.December 2007. PC is on the phone with PC World, attempting to report a misprint that said Macs can run Windows Vista faster than PCs do. PC says that's impossible, but Mac says it's true. PC then says he'll put Mac on the phone to sort things out, but then he impersonates Mac.
- Now What?
Click to view.December 2007. PC shows off his new book, I Want to Buy a Computer … Now What? to help people navigate the buying process. Mac says Apple Stores are there to help, before and after a purchase. PC says he thought of that and brings out another volume, I Just Bought a Computer … Now What?
- Santa Claus
Click to view.December 2007. The campaign gets animated for the holidays, with PC and Mac joined by Santa Claus to sing "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." PC spoils the song by inserting a sales pitch. "That's how I learned it," he says.
Click to view.January 2008. PC brings in a referee to make sure Mac plays by the rules and doesn't keep saying Leopard is better and faster than Vista. Mac says the Wall Street Journal said that. PC complains, but the referee sides with Mac ejecting PC, who has nowhere to go.
- Time Machine
Click to view.January 2008. The first spot in the campaign to truly focus on a Mac feature. Instead of one Mac, we see 10, who represent Time Machine, a Leopard feature that regularly backs up your hard drive. PC admit it's awesome, and receives a load of thank yous.
Click to view.April 2008. The therapist from 2006's "Counselor" ad is back. This time, she tells PC that he's not to blame for his problems—that it's the result of clunky software and hardware. "It's not my fault!" PC keeps repeating, but then his breakthrough is compromised when he says, "It's Mac's fault!"
- Office Stress
Click to view.April 2008. As Microsoft Office 2008 is released for the Mac, PC gives Mac a stress toy for him to use when he gets overwhelmed. But in fact it's PC who is overwhelmed by stress over Mac's ability to run the Office software, and he puts the stress toy to good use himself.
Click to view.April 2008. Continuing the stress theme, PC is seen doing yoga to try to relax after a tough year of dealing with that "bad Vista energy." But the yoga instructor complains that Vista screwed up her billing practices, and she storms off. PC considers switching to pilates.
Click to view.May 2008. PC attends a support group for PCs living with Vista. The other PCs there tell him to take it one day at a time. One of them seems to be doing well, and says he's been error-free for a week. But then he repeats the line over and over, clearly needing to be rebooted.
- Pep Rally
Click to view.May 2008. Hodgman takes one for the team, as PC becomes a cheerleader, ready to "fight, fight fight!" as Mac gains popularity on college campuses. But the cheerleaders cheer, "Mac's No. 1!" After PC complains, they cheer, "PC's No. 2!"
- Sad Song
Click to view.May 2008. (Short version.) PC says Vista has him feeling down, so he sings a short country song called the "Vista Blues." Mac doesn't want to hear it, but PC goes ahead anyway. (Long has a pretty funny reaction shot during the song.) A hound dog howls at the end, which Mac admits is a nice touch.
Click to view.(Long version.) This extended version has more verses and brings back the profile camera angle not seen since the first batch of spots in 2006. At the end, Mac asks PC if the dog is his. It isn't.
- Calming Teas
Click to view.August 2008. Hitting the stress theme yet again, PC says he's come up with a line of calming teas to make things a little easier for PC users frustrated by Vista's annoyances. Mac says they should move on to some other topic. So, PC also introduces some new bath salts.
- Off the Air
Click to view.August 2008. A Mac Genius says it's easier than ever to switch to a Mac, as Apple can switch a PC's files to a new Mac for free. PC objects to this news, saying, "Fear of switching is the foundation of customer loyalty for PCs." He pulls a cover over the camera and says they're off the air.
- Pizza Box
Click to view.August 2008. PC tries to attract college students returning to school by posing as a free box of pizza. He mentions once again that Macs are the No. 1 notebook on college campuses, but figures if he masquerades as free pizza, he still has a shot.
Click to view.August 2008. Sitting in a king's robes on a throne, PC says he isn't worried about losing his "subjects" because switching computers is such a hassle. Mac reminds PC that Apple can switch a PC user's files over to a Mac for free. PC then declares Mac banished.
- Bake Sale
Click to view.October 2008. The first of two spots criticizing Microsoft for airing the expensive "I'm a PC" ad campaign instead of spending the money to fix Vista. PC tries to raise his own money for a Vista fix by having a bake sale. He gets Mac to bite into a cupcake, then says it costs $10 million.
- Bean Counter
Click to view.October 2008. Continuing the theme of "Bake Sale." PC is seen doing some budgeting, but he allocates the vast majority of the money to advertising rather than fixing Vista. Mac says the ratios seem off, and PC agrees, reallocating the Vista money to advertising.
- V Word
Click to view.October 2008. PC says a decision has been made to stop referring to the troubled Vista operating system by name, calling it simply "Windows" instead. He uses a red buzzer to interrupt Mac whenever he tries to say the word Vista, but has trouble when Mac says it a few times fast.
- I Can Do Anything
Click to view.December 2008. Animated Mac and PC return, and PC is pleased, because he can do anything, like talk to animals. A bunny hops past, and PC asks where he's going. Off to the Apple Store for some last-minute gifts, says the bunny. PC responds by dumping a snowman head on him.
- Tree Trimming
Click to view.December 2008. Animated Mac and PC are seen decorating a Christmas tree. Much as they did in 2006's "Goodwill," they appear to be setting aside their differences in the spirit of the holidays. But once again, PC ruins it, this time by writing "PC Rules" in lights on the tree.
- Biohazard Suit
Click to view.April 2009. The campaign revisits the issue of PC viruses directly for the first time since the "Viruses" spot in May 2006. PC appears wearing a biohazard suit to protect himself from viruses and malware. He eventually takes mask off to hear Mac better, then shrieks and puts it back on.
- Legal Copy
Click to view.April 2009. PC tries to say positive things about himself, but every time he does, a bunch of legal disclaimers appear on the screen. Eventually he says PCs are now 100 percent trouble-free, and the legal copy fills the whole screen.
Click to view.April 2009. A rare moment (like 2008 "Time Machine") in which a spot is built around a specific Mac feature. This time, it's the "Faces" option in iPhoto, which recognizes faces. Lacking this feature, PC resorts to flipping through his thousands of photos one by one.
- Time Traveler
Click to view.April 2009. PC uses a time machine to travel to the year 2150 to see if PCs have resolved their major issues like freezing and crashing and are as hassle-free as Macs. But as soon as PC arrives, future PC freezes, which answers the question.
- Customer Care
Click to view.May 2009. This spot returns to the theme of how helpful Mac Geniuses can be. Asked if PCs have something similar, PC thinks back to endless frustrating phone calls he's had with customer care over the phone. "Eh, it's about the same," he tells Mac.
Click to view.May 2009. The campaign addresses Microsoft's "Laptop Hunters" ads directly by introducing Megan, who's looking for the perfect PC. She has lots of demands, but her insistence that the computer have no viruses, crashes or headaches sends all the PCs fleeing.
- PC Choice Chat
Click to view.May 2009. PC gets his own radio talk show called PC Choice Chat, offering advice on which computer to get. But each caller wants something he can't deliver—a virus-free machine or Mac Genius support. The final caller says he's getting a Mac, and PC hangs up on him.
Click to view.August 2009. Mac appears alone with a customer, who asks him what kind of computer she should buy. He tells her she should buy a PC no matter what. After she leaves, Mac peels off his mask, revealing himself to be PC in disguise. The real Mac arrives and says, "I don't even wanna ask."
- Top of the Line
Click to view.August 2009. PC and Mac appear with a customer who's looking for a new computer. PC introduces her to the "top of the line" PC, played by Patrick Warburton. But when she says she doesn't want thousands of viruses and tons of headaches, he says she's asking for too much.
Click to view.August 2009. PC is seen doing sit-ups, as a personal trainer barks at him. PC explains that it's been a rough time, with lots of accolades for Mac, so he working out to get back in shape. He asks the trainer for some positive reinforcement, so the trainer compliments Mac.
- PC Innovations Lab
Click to view.September 2009. PC introduces some advances made in the "PC Innovations Lab," like bubble wrap to protect the machines and a long cord instead of a better battery. One PC has a very special addition: cup holders. PC takes a cup and says, "Cheers! To innovation!"
- Broken Promises
Click to view.October 2009. The final three spots of 2009 focused on the newly released Windows 7. Here, PC is happy to announce the software's release, and says it won't have any of the problems his last operating system had. Mac feels like he's heard that before, and we see he has.
- PC News
Click to view.October 2009. Acting as a news anchor, PC goes "live to the Windows 7 launch" but is shocked to see people upgrading to a Mac, since they have to migrate their files anyway. PC: "Let's go to a commercial." Mac: "We are a commercial." PC: "Let's go to another commercial."
- Teeter Tottering
Click to view.October 2009. A woman holding a box of her belongings says she's excited for the upgrade. PC figures she's talking about Windows 7, so he tries to grab the box. But she's decided to go with Mac instead, which she says would be "the real fresh start."