“What people buy and what you sell are not the same things.” This is something I’ve believed as a marketer and copywriter for a very long time.
I was reminded of this recently while re-reading Cory Doctorow’s criticism of the iPad, way back when it was a brand-new thing.
His argument, in essence, was that the iPad failed because it’s not a computer.
Well, he’s half right. There’s nowhere that I can see in the box-copy or in Apple’s online material that says this device is a computer.
That’s not an oversight. And it’s not that the iPad isn’t a computer (it is).
It’s just not important.
Most people don’t want to buy computers. They want things to help them do stuff.
It’s no different than what we see with cars. Sure there are some who love to tinker and pull things apart and revel in the technical details of how the car operates. Then there’s the other 95 percent who just want something that runs well, looks good and gets them where they want to go and are entirely uninterested in the technology making that happen behind the scenes.
Realizing this is what fuelled a lot of the deep thinking that went into designing the iPad. Really…what would be the point of a MacBook Air minus a keyboard other than just being a MacBook Air minus a keyboard?
It’s not a coincidence that in 2007 Apple quietly pulled the word “computers” from their corporate name. It’s not just because their product line has outgrown the word. It’s because the meaning behind the word is not all that relevant to a large segment of the population.
They build and design computers. But what their customers buy are devices that help them do things.
What you are selling and what people buy are two different things.