Brands That Provoke

24 Mar 2004|Added Value

Last night I purchased an iBook. Otherwise known to diehards as a turbocharged 800MHz PowerPC G4 with 256MB of RAM and a 30GB hardrive with an Airport Extreme card. I pointed out to a friend that it was their “bottom of the line” model, and he corrected me, saying Apple has “no bottom of the line.”

I made it into the new Apple store in San Francisco in the nick of time before closing, having called earlier in the day to see if the shipment I was waiting for had arrived. The gentleman helping me purchase my iBook was hearing impaired (I like your values, Apple), and even above the “new-store” frenzy the process was seamless.

I signed on the dotted line and made my way out of the store to the front of the shiny, white spectacle where I awaited my friend. I stood there, bobbing up and down, side to side, not wanting to make a spectacle of my new purchase, but, well, yes, wanting to make a spectacle of my new purchase. The scene at the main store door after closing was the equivalent of a packed club after midnight. People who hadn’t been so fortunate to have arrived before the bell tolled were trying to nudge their heads past the security guard and get a glimpse of the interior, if only to *smell* the interior.

I ended up sitting next to a guy on the bus ride home who was instantly drawn to my big white box. “Oh. You bought a Mac” he said with no degree of uncertainty. It’s like he was trying to provoke me. Start a fight even. I was up to the challenge. “Yeah,” I said, still bobbing. “Why would you do something like that?” he said. “Why not? What, you’re not aware of their superiority? You must use PCs.”

My colleagues know that I use an incredible Sony Vaio at work and I’m not ashamed to admit it. But alas, I lashed back at this guy….and our discourse continued for a drawn-out 8 minutes.

On the scale of brand appeal, it’s interesting to see how some brands inspire such love and allegiance, and conversely, such opposition. It’s a scale of extremes….you’re either extreme or you’re not. Brands that evoke such extremes are ususally incredibly confident in their messaging, embrace a clear and differentiated set of values that not everyone buys into, are status symbols that have some kind of social inflection, or simply exist in stark contrast to other big players in a category.

As a brand strategist, it’s always fun to evaluate why you love the brands you do. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I like these extreme brands because embracing them tells other people that I’m not afraid to push the boundaries, that I can love something deeply, and that I’m not afraid to pick a fight with you about something that I believe in strongly. 🙂

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