You remember Apple’s “Get a Mac” series of commercials that ran from May 2006 to October 2009?
The commercials were short vignettes featuring John Hodgman as the sweet-yet-bumbling PC and Justin Long as the creative, hip Mac.
Those 66 short spots were named the best advertising campaign of the previous decade by Adweek.
The success of the long-running campaign leads one to believe that Apple certainly knows who its ideal customer is. Of course they do … because they chose their ideal customer, right from the birth of the Macintosh itself.
That doesn’t mean that everyone responded favorably to the ads. While researching for this article, I ran across a commenter who maintained that the campaign had “backfired” because the PC character had actually been more appealing to him.
No, the campaign didn’t backfire (no one runs a series of ads for three years if they’re not working). Instead, Apple chose who not to attract as much as they chose who they hoped to convert.
Sounds like really great content marketing to me. In fact, given the nature and duration of the Get a Mac campaign, it resembled serial online video marketing more than traditional advertising.
So, the first (and most important) step in our 3-step content marketing strategy is determining your “Who.”
Who do you want to attract and speak to, and just as importantly, who do you want to drive in the other direction? It all comes down to your values, first and foremost.
Apple’s values were well reflected in the Get a Mac campaign — creativity, simplicity, and rebellion against the status quo. These core values were consistently present in the prior “Crazy Ones” campaign, and before that, the iconic “1984” ad.
Some feel that Apple has lost the ability to innovate since Steve Jobs passed. Whether or not that’s true, I think the perception of Apple has changed among those of us who were initially strongly attracted, because their advertising now, for the first time, tries to appeal to a more general audience.
Steve would definitely not approve.
On the other hand, think of Patagonia. The founder of the outdoor clothing and gear company invented an aluminum climbing wedge that could be inserted and removed without damaging the rock face. This reflects Patagonia’s founding core value:
“Build the best products while creating no unnecessary environmental harm.”
Of course, not every company has a core value built into the founding story. Most businesses exist to simply sell things that people want, so it’s up to management to find the core values that they want to reflect in their marketing to attract the right kind of customer.
For example, there’s nothing inherently ethical about ice cream, beyond ingredients. So Ben & Jerry’s adopted the values of its two founders, which had nothing at all to do with ice cream.
Not everyone who likes ice cream necessarily agrees with reduced Pentagon spending and the fight against climate change, but the people who do care about those things turned Ben & Jerry’s into an iconic brand.
It doesn’t have to be all sunshine and light, either. If your core values fall in line with a “Greed is good” mentality, you’ll certainly find people out there who share this worldview. You just have to unflinchingly own it.
In the Get a Mac campaign, Apple literally created a character that personified what their ideal “swing” customer aspired to be. It’s time for us to do the same.
You can call them personas or avatars if you like — I prefer character. That’s because the first step is the research that allows you to create a fictional, generalized representation of your ideal customer.
As far as fiction goes, we’re creating a character that will be the protagonist in their own purchasing journey that your content will help them complete. Since this journey is based on as much reality as we can glean from our research, it’s more like a fictionalized drama “based on actual people and events.