Apple is No Longer a Consumer Brand — It’s a Fashion Icon

Or Apple’s Breakup Letter to the Consumer

Apple announced two new devices today; the Apple Watch and the new MacBook. These devices, though inevitable through the means of business and the ever-increasing pace of technological advancement are no surprise by any means to anyone who follows tech, but for those that do, it may be surprising how Apple has developed and marketed their new products.

I’ve been an Apple fan. Nearly five years ago, I was giddy to get my hands on an iPad, a then-amazing device that today sits on my bookshelf as a backup for my Android tablets. I was all about Apple, and what they believed in. After all, Steve Jobs was still alive, and the tablet market was just in its infancy. Then, my love for Apple shattered once I finally got my hands on the mystical tablet, and Apple was announcing the iPad 2. I was pissed, but little did I know, this would become the way of Apple, and some particular product lines by other device manufacturers.

So why was that little anecdote necessary? First, I’d like to cover that I’m not a Google-fanboy simply shitting on Apple for being a strong business, rather I see Apple as the hallmark of modern capitalism. They’re making things that give people reasons to buy the next version of their hardware, and selling proprietary accessories to go with them, and people are willing to fork out the money for it. It may not be the most ethical way to sell products, but it’s business. With that in mind, I like Apple as a brand. They’ve made a name for themselves, and the Apple logo is immediately recognizable. In fact, my love for the old-style white MacBooks my school used when I was just thirteen led me to purchase a similar white MacBook just weeks ago. Seeing the glowing white apple gave me a feeling of success, nostalgia, and happiness; everything that a good brand should evoke in someone like me. Finally, I have seen the transition Apple has made, with today being perhaps the most obvious step towards Apple’s move from well-loved consumer brand to the next big name in fashion, which is why I feel qualified and perhaps obligated to share my thoughts.

Phil’s obsession with the iPad practically dominates an episode of Modern Family.

The idea of Apple as a fashion brand is nothing particularly new, especially with Apple’s prominence in so many movies and TV shows. We always see trendy people typing away at MacBooks, tweeting away on iPhones, and slashing away at virtual fruit on iPads. Modern Family has even had an episode dedicated to getting an iPad, where the words “Apple” and “iPad” practically make up half of the dialogue. In the movie Oculus, Karen Gillan’s character has more Apple computers than any normal human being should ever have, and an iPhone to top it off. There’s no confusion that through slick marketing and coincidental cameos, Apple has come to be associated with beauty, success, and superiority. Given this, people are attracted to these products because they believe they will gain some of these qualities by having a device, or perhaps to create a facade which they intend to use to make others believe they have the aforementioned qualities. With this said, there are those who purchase Apple products exclusively because they have to, whether for work, gifts, or they simply prefer the Apple experience over the experience they may have had with others. These people, though certainly good customers (arguably by force), are the exact demographic that Apple no longer wants. These people are those who will buy a MacBook and use it until it dies, no matter how beat up it gets, because they just want something that does what they need. They don’t care about the latest bell or whistle, and chances are most can’t afford to buy a MacBook every six months. Why continue to sell to these people?

Oprah once called the iPad one of her favorite things, only to later give the same title to the Microsoft Surface.

From the standpoint of the ethical businessman, what I have just said is horrible. Business should not be just about dumping products and moving on in the eyes of the ethical businessman, it should be about selling products and making sure that each and every customer has a good experience with your products. Unfortunately, many companies that utilize this sort of policy seem to be scarce, and though Apple may have seemed like this type before, I do not see any reason to believe that the tech giant has kept long-term experience as a high priority for its customers. Apple knows that there’s a vast following of the company; a following that will buy each and every thing they can get their hands on, regardless of how similar it may be from the product that came before it. These people range from Apple geeks to celebrities (anyone remember Oprah’s iPad plug?), and they’ve got deep pockets for their favorite company. Apple is more than happy to sell their products to these people, because the products practically sell themselves with this demographic, all thanks to constant stimulation through marketing and product placements. So why fashion? Because much like Apple fans, fashion fans will follow their leaders without question, no matter the price or potential consequences.

This ad image for the Apple watch nails the profile for a high-fashion jewelry ad.

The parallel between the fashion industry and Apple is perfect. Both have seasons, emphasis on branding, and followers that will do anything and everything to keep up with the latest trends. The latest devices, the Apple Watch and the new MacBook, these are fashion products. Sure, they’re gadgets that can be used like most of the competition’s gadgets, but the emphasis of these devices is to be flashy, beautiful, and superior. Case in point, Pebble has been around for three years now, and is credited with starting the smart watch movement, but Apple is joining the movement marketing their watch as the best smart watch, not only for its looks but for what it can do. In recent news, Apple has been promoting their watch as superior on the grounds that their materials are superior (Apple has even “invented” its own brand of gold), and that their watch will help you do more, be more, and live a happy and successful life. For someone who has read countless articles on technology, I’ve never seen the materials and design of a device as highly scrutinized by its maker as I have with Apple. Most others will talk about their products and what it can do, because at the end of the day, that’s what matters (right?). If functionality is more valued over aesthetics, then why is Apple planning a twelve-page spread for Vogue, and putting their Watch on the wrists of beautiful people pre-launch? Furthermore, who else but someone concerned with their image buy a gold computer? Personally, I find a gold computer to be anything but beautiful, but the fashion world would likely disagree, calling it “innovative”, “beautiful”, and “a work of art”. When Apple decided to make iPhones and iPads in gold, many people questioned the decision, posting images of memorable Star Wars characters and ranting on social media and blogs everywhere. A gold MacBook is a fashion item, albeit a useful one, however the stunningly different aesthetic shows that Apple has moved from making the ultimate computers to the ultimate fashion accessories.

Fashionable clothes, much like gold MacBooks, can look pretty weird.

So what happens when a computer company becomes a fashion company? Will Apple suddenly decide to stop production of computers to make clothing or accessories? It’s unlikely, though they certainly could move in that direction with the decision to make aesthetics one of the main selling points for their products. As a result, we’ll see prices go up, further growing the exclusivity of Apple to those beautiful, successful people, and it may reach a point where the average consumer will never be able to afford Apple’s products, and it won’t matter, because those that can afford Apple products will gladly pay a premium to be able to say and show that they use and wear Apple products. Furthermore, the people that will buy Apple products under such conditions will likely buy new generations of Apple products as they come out and without question, so as to keep up with the trends so as to avoid being caught with last season’s “look”. Cutting out the average consumer wouldn’t even matter with the amount of revenue Apple would see with a fashion-oriented business model, rather it’d probably help Apple to flourish, and the average consumer would simply move on to develop loyalties for other brands.

Simply put, enjoy Apple products (if you so choose to) while you can, because it’s very possible that tomorrow you may not be able to afford it. It’s business at its best and worst, but at the end of the day, it’s about money.