Selling the Personal Computer

Since the advent of the personal computer various manufacturers have heavily marketed their products. Personal computer advertisements have exhibited two distinct tactics in their marketing: an appeal to functionality and an appeal to aesthetic. Through the various eras of marketing computer advertisements have appealed strongly to one side or attempted to synthesize functionality with aesthetic
The differences in marketing strategies can clearly be seen in 2 advertisements from the 1980s. The first advertisement from 1986 shows a spokeswoman for IBM displaying a speech to text feature. The advertisement highlight the performance of the product by showing its ability to perform even during the most homophonic sentence.
The second advertisement from 1984 features a woman pursued by uniformed guards running into a room of seemingly mindless people and throws an axe (hammer?) into a televised face in the center of the room. While the advertisement clearly references George Orwell’s novel 1984 the ad does not feature any inkling of the product being marketed. The advertising markets the aesthetic of creative rebel in the face of mindless drones rather than the features of any particular product.

The paper will examine 4  discrete eras of PC marketing and examine the relevant marketing material of the time period. While the dichotomy seems to be especially striking in the two advertisements above, the marketing of computers evolved and the focuses are not so extreme in different eras.

Takeaways for Rumination:
Which advertisement appealed to you more?

Can a product marketed on aesthetic be said to not live up to it’s potential? I ask this because the aesthetic qualities are so hard to concretely define in stark contrast with functionality based advertising schemes where products ‘A’’s feature perform better than product ‘B’.

Though we are now 28 years after the 1984 commercial Apple still markets its products as part of a larger creative aesthetic. Have these styles of advertising affected you choice in personal computing device?


One comment

  1. I have to give it to Apple in terms of marketing because if you think about it, any company could create the products that Apple has been creating but what sets them apart is their ability to obviously create a great product (being a critical success factor) and then marketing its design and functionality in a simple way that appeals to normal people like us. I personally am not influenced by marketing when it comes to products especially technological products. What does it for me is ease of use and therefore simplicity which Apple manages to provide.

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