Steve Jobs, the man, the myth, the legend. I can make the argument that he single-handedly built one of the, if not the, most successful brands in the entire world from the ground up. He defined a brand so strong that it is now recognizable in every country, and is sought after by a large portion of consumers. In my opinion, it has even altered consumer culture from the top, down. He told consumers what they wanted before they even knew it themselves. He brought people together, and developed a loyal customer following that is rivaled by few, if any, other corporations across the globe. The Apple brand is now iconic, and a shining example of what I believe is a company very in-tune with consumer culture.

In class, we have discussed various concepts that deal with consumption and the culture surrounding it. One of these concepts was Canclini’s “imagined communities.” According to Canclini, these communities consist of people with some commonality, whether it be where they’re from, or even the products they use. Although the members of these communities may never meet, the individuals feel connected to the whole, and to the other members. The expansive following that Apple has is a great example of this. Much like the Prius drivers in Curb Your Enthusiasm, when Apple users see other Apple users, there is an instant connection. They may choose to verbalize it, but most of the time, it just an acknowledgment. These two users have a shared understanding that although they have met in person, there are millions of others in the world that share their consumption habits, and thus, their Apple culture.

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The main reason I believe in Apple’s brand, and especially what Steve Jobs had built, is because of the meaning they are able to appropriate to all of their products. When consumers think of Apple they think luxury, forward thinking, simple yet sophisticated. Similarly, when they see the products on the street that same meaning is conveyed. We discussed that the consumer plays an important role in the consumption process with their ability to assign meaning, but I would like to disagree with that in regards to Apple. We take away the meaning that they want us to take away. Through their advertising campaigns that were simple, yet vibrant with an air of elegance and progress, we were informed as to what meaning to get out of Apple products. I would argue that consumers have only as much power as a company gives them. With that being said, I would like to use this statement to comment on the recent revelation of the Apple iPhone 5C.

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Since the last reveal event for the iPhone 5, rumors about the upcoming iPhones have been swirling around the tech sphere. One of those mentioned a cheaper, lower end phone available in various colors. It is no surprise that they had been thinking about making a cheaper model; Samsung controls a larger market share of the smartphone market than Apple does currently. To make a cheaper phone would make it more accessible to the people who might otherwise buy a Samsung smartphone, thus, hopefully increasing Apple’s market share. That is great in theory, but I have a huge problem with the fact that they actually went through with it. The Apple brand is known for an element of exclusivity, and perhaps that’s what makes it a little more desirable for consumers. (Oh, you don’t have an iPhone?) The imagined community thus seems more elite, and if you are part of that community, you are also just a little bit better than nonmembers. What Tim Cook has done is to shatter this notion of exclusivity by trying to cater to more consumers.

At the same time, I believe he has also sacrificed the meaning that Steve Jobs had previously instilled in the company’s products. While they previously conveyed luxury and high quality, the plastic phones are now open for interpretation. Consumers will now be free to assign whatever meaning they would like to these phones, because as soon as you alter the phone in the ways they have, the meaning can no longer remain the same.

Finally, De Certeau discusses the secondary production that happens when a product is used, and one of these secondary productions can be identity. Many Apple users are business professionals. Whether young or old, when they are in meetings, they pull out their phones and check their email. By adding the colors, Apple has seemingly shifted who their target consumer is. Business professionals in a meeting will not want to pull out a hot pink phone with a perforated neon yellow case to check emails. This usage would produce a criticism of taste, a questioning of professionalism, and portray an identity that is not appropriate for a serious workplace. In this, the new phone has alienated much of Apple’s customer base, as those who buy Apple products use them for business, but are also willing to pay the extra money for good quality. Plastic is not the high quality that these customers want from their phones, they will likely find a phone that suits their wants.

Steve Jobs seemed to have a very clear understanding of the concepts of consumption that we have discussed in class thus far. He created meaning for his products, and he created a need in consumers for them as well. The iPad was thought to be silly, a comically large iPhone with no real purpose. Yet, soon, consumers were clamoring to get their hands on one. Instead of the classic way of viewing consumer culture, that the masses decide what is produced, and what survives, Jobs turned that theory on its head. Cook is cracking under pressure. He is seemingly selling out, and instead of progressing the company forward; he is trying to fall in line with other smartphone companies. The most important part of a company, and perhaps the consumption behind its products, is it’s branding. Effectively with this release, in my opinion, the iconic, revolutionary Apple brand Jobs spent his life building is dead.

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