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Does Apple Really Want the Crazed Few Defending its Reputation?

iStock_000000582779XSmallReading Tom Krazit’s excellent article on Apple’s hard core fans reminded me of my own recent experience. In my attempt to explain why I thought Apple could no longer rely on its evangelist users, I was attacked, mocked, and abused by the very same group I was discussing.

Krazit observed the same thing with one of his articles…

Nothing in the article suggested that Mac users are revolting against Leopard, or that serious Leopard glitches have knocked the Mac user base offline, or anything even close to that effect. The majority of the discussion in the Talkback section, however, descended into the usual Mac vs. PC flame war. In addition to attacking each other, several people took me to task, saying that since they had never had a problem with their Mac or with their Leopard installation, I was clearly manufacturing problems as part of a sinister plan to either attack the Mac and put Apple out of business at the bidding of Microsoft, or through some naked self-interest of both myself and CNET to generate page views.

Does that sound familiar? If you’ve ever authored, or read, an article that has even a hint that Steve Jobs is not some kind of omnipotent being or Apple is less than perfect, you would have seen the ensuing attack by Apple’s “fanboys.”

As Krazit points out, this is a small hardcore group, created by Apple itself…

On his Web site, [Guy] Kawasaki describes his role at Apple in the mid-1990s by saying, “My job on this tour of duty was to maintain and rejuvenate the Macintosh cult.” There was a dedicated group out there who still believed in the Mac and its promise as an alternative to Windows, but they weren’t organized, and their morale was low.

In an inteview this week, Kawasaki recalled signing up 44,000 hardcore Mac users in 1995 on a listserv named, quite appropriately, “EvangeList.” “All I would do is disseminate good news,” Kawasaki said.

Sounds just like a summer blockbuster movie that turns up every few years. The government creates a group of super-soldiers who then go crazy and become uncontrollable.

Of course, most Apple fans are friendly, balanced in their opinions, and not insane (and have likely read this far, before deciding to leave an abusive comment). They’re still passionate about Apple and they’re ready to tell others how much they love their MacBook Pro–this is where I’d place myself. However, their voice is often drowned-out by those that accuse others of FUD, assume you work for Microsoft, and won’t hear a bad word said against Apple.

(As a side note, in my last post, the very people that attacked me included Apple employees. They tried to mask their identity, but didn’t do a very good job. Want to spot them in future blog comments? They’re usually simply “Steve” or “David” – no last name, no URL left.)

So, after “burying my headline” deep in this commentary, here’s my thought for Apple. Passionate customers is one thing–every company dreams of having customers that will defend its reputation–but don’t you think its getting out of control? Take a look around the web. It seems that the number of people discussing your rabid “EvangeLists” is growing. What persona is being conveyed to outside observers when they read comments and forum replies from a minority group with a megaphone and a penchant for abusive rhetoric?

I’ll leave you with this, Apple’s positive sentiment–as measured by customer satisfaction–slipped nearly 5% this year, and is now only 3 points higher than HP. Apple’s hype may well be in top gear, but as it grows and reaches the masses, it’s going to need more than just a hard core team of advocates.

  • http://www.brianchappell.com Brian Chappell

    Tom Krazit works for Microsoft!

  • http://successcreeations.com Chris Cree

    Andy, Perhaps the slipping customer service rating is a result of more mainstream folks making the switch to Mac’s. I bought my first Mac this summer after decades with Windows machines.

    I imagine I’d score a bit lower on user experience than a long time Mac user would simply because I see so much that’s different and have many deeply ingrained habits that have to be unlearned. It’s all the little stuff, like hitting the CMD+Right Arrow key to get to the end of a line instead of the “end” button, that adds a touch of frustration to the transition.

    Not worse. Or better. Just different.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Chris – I agree with you. When Apple’s customer base was smaller, the evangelists made up a higher percentage of all customers. That’s obviously changing, which means they can’t rely on those evangelists to influence everyone else.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Brian – you forgot to call me a shill, or use FUD in your comment. ;-)

  • mig

    As an ex mac user I must confirm that most mac fanatics I ever met really had no good reasons for liking mac because “it’s easier” and “I hate PC’s”. I hate those typical answers. I say: Macs suck! Apple has crap customer care policies and their products force upgrade upsells or else your computer will slow down… I’m so glad that this comment is about to get hated on by some right winged-like minded mac loving fools.

  • http://www.intuitive.com/blog/ Dave Taylor

    But you haven’t realized, Andy, us Mac users are Mad! Mad! MAD!

    Bwaahhhahahahahahahahah!

    Must be the ability to sidestep those evil boys in Redmond, or something in the Apple Kool-Aid or something.

    Now, if only Mac OS X worked properly, the apps didn’t crash, my iPhone didn’t randomly freeze at times, my iPods always worked as I wanted, Apple support hadn’t randomly reformatted my 160GB drive on my MacBook Pro a few weeks ago, Apple corporate worked with the media, and on and on and on.

    Oh well, it’s tougher to take over the world than it used to be, I think.

    :-)

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Dave – LOL – you know Leopard has frozen on me a few times, but if I were tell an Applevangelist, they’d probably tell me it was something “I” did.

  • http://www.joedolson.com/articles/ Joe Dolson

    Well, Andy, they would of course be right. After all, if you hadn’t sullied your pure Mac with actions it would never have frozen.

    You must not have realized: Macs aren’t for using — they’re for observing! ;)

  • http://blog.kango.com Elliott Ng

    Andy, I love the irony of this thread…the fact that a company with passionate users and evangelists just doesn’t care about engaging with their customers! My question is: can visionary companies be great listeners? Can companies great at listening to customers also be visionary and go places that customers cannot yet envision? Anyway, when I grow up I want to have some fanboys too, just like Apple and Ron Paul.

  • Dean

    We think all this Mac “irrational fanaticism” is silly and worthy of ridicule.

    Sincerely,
    Trekkies, Fanilows, and Parrot Heads

  • http://www.profits4sure.com Janice

    I have used Macs since the early days and although I have to use Windows for certain applications, I would not trade my Mac for anything else. I it is what you get used to.
    Call me a Fanatic? That’s a strong word! ;-)

  • Joe S.

    “As an ex mac user I must confirm that most mac fanatics I ever met really had no good reasons for liking mac because “it’s easier” and “I hate PC’s”. I hate those typical answers. I say: Macs suck! Apple has crap customer care policies and their products force upgrade upsells or else your computer will slow down… I’m so glad that this comment is about to get hated on by some right winged-like minded mac loving fools.”

    Apple rates amongst the highest in customer service ratings.
    This is why people dispute comments…like the lack of knowledge in this one. I think instead of resorting too name calling, which seems to me very unprofessional maybe the author of these article should defend their statements & back them up with facts. They usually can’t, so thy resort to the old Mac Zealot BS. If you check the thread you will also find plenty of people on the PC side that attack anyone that says they are happy with their choice of buying a Mac. In fact in most cases the PC vs Mac thing is started by some Windows user & the rest pile on. It usually is just a bunch of insults no real meat to their argument because the have nothing but anecdotal knowledge backed up buy hearsay. Look at the comments in your thread. Read your own comments. If you can’t back up your arguments & resort to name calling or insults…you’re probably full of shit. Nothings perfect…what denotes the quality of a product is the number of imperfections. I think MS has a huge lead in that Dept. (Imperfections)…I use both. Most of Mac users have used both. You can’t say the same thing about Windows users. The topic of you’re article is not some new phenomenon it has been going on for years. There is nothing new here.

  • JS

    FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) goes back way before Apple
    was ever thought of. The modern IT usage of it goes back to
    NCR and its founder Patterson in the 1890s – he found bagging
    competitor’s cash registers a very effective marketing technique.
    His offsider was T.J. Watson who went on to IBM. Patterson went
    to gaol for his crimes, and the Sherman Antitrust act was born.
    (See Richard DeLamater’s Big Blue: IBM’s Use and Abuse of
    Power.)

    IBM then took over people’s thinking because people like to
    sound knowledgeable by pouring scorn on competitive products.
    There was never any shortage of IT types who bagged anything
    not IBM. These people then moved on to Microsoft. IBM
    successfully bagged Burroughs even though Burroughs
    machines were way ahead of anything else (with high-level
    language operating systems, virtual memory, etc). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B5000. Robert S Barton who was
    the principle designer of the B5000 and B1700 went on to be a
    professor of computer science at Utah University, where he was
    very influential on Alan Kay the inventor of the window and thus
    everything Xerox and then Apple did (and then Microsoft copied
    in a rather inept way).

    The FUD technique was used on Apple and for a while very
    successfully. Thankfully these IT people are not so successful
    these days because people are not so naive about computers
    and can spot their rubbish. They still tend to be very vociferous
    in spreading lies and Apple supporters often respond to their
    lies an unreasonableness and attract derogatory labels like
    “Apple fanboys”, etc.
    Join the team.
    As the author pointed out in his previous article, Apple is not
    perfect – things go wrong with computers, it’s just the nature of
    the game, but Apple cares very much about quality and
    innovation and avoid many classes of problems you get with
    Windows and PCs.

  • JS

    Another good response to your rather loaded article:
    http://macdailynews.com/index.php/weblog/comments/15774/
    I don’t think you are a shill just another blogger passing on Cnet FUD out of ignorance. Cnets articles on anything to do with the Mac are usually short on facts & full of poor anlysis. For someone to point out their factual errors or have a difference in opinion does not make them a zealot.

  • JS

    Here is a comment posted by a Windows user on Cnet from the article that you are writing about:

    Windows users are capitalists.

    Linux users are communists.

    OS/2 users are NAZIs.

    BSD Unix users are socialists.

    Mac users and Apple // users are homosexuals.

    Commodore 64 users are poor.

    Atari 800 users are jerks.

    Amiga users are Europeans.

    MS-DOS users are cheapskates.

    Yeah no mental issues there.

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  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    It looks like we have our first group of “First name, no link” commenters, ready to trash the post.

    Welcome! :-)

    @Joe S – you said “Apple rates amongst the highest in customer service ratings…maybe the author of these article should defend their statements & back them up with facts”

    So you didn’t read the facts I listed in the last paragraph then?

  • http://www.cyclelogicpress.com Partners in Grime

    Leopard’s Spaces, Time Machine, and Quick Look are awesome!

  • Joe S.

    “It looks like we have our first group of “First name, no link” commenters, ready to trash the post.”

    Like I said back up your statements with facts…instead you say that I am trashing your post. Did you see the quote from another person that posted at the top of my post? You immediately took it personally. Why is that? You look at one side of the equation. Ever been to a Mac forum? Most of the users that leave a response aren’t exactly easy on Apple.
    Yeah there are people that leave insulting comments on both sides. Isn’t it strange that communities on the internet are pretty much just like the real world? A mixed bag. No one trashed your post. I just disagreed with one of your respondents statements & with an article that compares a snowflake to a blizzard. How does leaving my full name change that? Maybe you should actually read some of the usual MS waterboy responses in the article you wrote about also.

  • http://www.danperry.com/ Dan Perry

    Wow, almost a week into this thread and you didn’t have to close comments? Color me surprised.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Dan – me too!. My guess is that those that commented were more civil – otherwise they’d prove my point. ;-)

  • Joe S.

    My guess is that you only believe what you want to believe.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Joe S – you still haven’t acknowledged that my article does include facts – what are your thoughts on the surveys showing a reduction in Apple’s customer satisfaction?

  • Joe S.

    Andy,
    My thoughts are you can take a snapshot in time of anything.
    What does the overall picture look like. Will these stats change by next quarter? Will they get worse over time (more than one year or one month) or will they get better. No one knows….right now they are just a blip on the radar. You analysis of everything else is just anecdotal. Cnet, ZDnet are not reliable sources…not when it comes to Apple. Next you will be quoting Rob Enderle & Paul Thurrott.

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    @Joe S – you’re right, we need to look for the trend.

    You seem quick to downplay my thoughts, Cnet and ZDnet as reliable sources. The same surely applies to you–if not more so–as your comments are as good as anonymous. We know nothing about your credibility.

    Just an observation. :-)

  • Joe S.

    You seem to have deleted my response

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    “Joe S.” posts are only deleted if you violate our comment policy or they get caught in our spam filter.

    It’s probably a good time for both of us to move on. You appear to be intent on undermining my post and the post that I link to – without actually debating the content. While I enjoy engaging comments, I think we’ve hit an impasse here.

  • Joe S.

    The post was there & then it was gone. There was nothing in the post that violated anything. You’re right. We are at an impasse. Next time I will try to agree with everything you say. Would that be better for you? My post had links to back up my statements. Sorry you can’t seem to handle that…have a nice life.

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