I'm a PC
My daughter, Erin, is a Mac. She lives in Washington D.C. and works with me on lots of projects. I write words and she designs pages. We send data back and forth through Google, and everything translates well between us. The computers get along with each other, and so do Erin and I – even though I’m a PC and she’s a Mac. Different needs, different technologies.
I sit most evenings and smile at those Apple TV commercials where the PC guy tries to get over on the Mac guy, but always comes up short, mainly because Apple is paying for the ads.
Microsoft has its own commercials and I enjoy those as well. They show dozens of ordinary people (people just like me) who proudly proclaim, “I’m a PC!” Microsoft does this because they want me to know that there are plenty of others in the world who think like me and buy like me, and they do this to make me feel as though I’m a part of something big and important – a Movement.
I figure all of this must be working for both companies because they’re sure spending big bucks on all those ads. They seem to be on the air every few minutes. But I suspect that both companies are really just convincing their existing customers that they, the customers, are doing the right thing. I wonder whether either ad campaign is changing anyone’s mind.
Microsoft just introduced their latest version of Windows, and Apple responded by featuring people who stand between the PC guy and the Mac guy with cardboard boxes filled with files. The people in the ads are trying to make up their minds which way to go, because now that there’s new technology available from Microsoft, people have to make a change (according to the Apple ad). But my guess is that most people will stick with what they have until circumstances force them to make a change. They’re comfortable with what they have, and it costs money to change, but Apple and Microsoft have products to sell, and one way to do that is to make people feel uncomfortable with the status quo. That’s what these ads are all about. They’re showing and telling us about others who are making the change, and in a hurry. Hey, no one wants to get left behind, right?
In the Apple commercial, people decide to abandon PC and go with Mac because there are supposed to be fewer problems on the Mac side of the fence. The commercial ends that way because it’s Apple’s commercial.
I watch these commercials day in and day out and I wonder whether I should switch to a Mac. I call my daughter, Erin (a Mac), and talk to her about it. Erin reminds me that all I do with my computer is write stories with Word, create PowerPoint programs, and surf the Web. I’m not gaming or using heavy graphics programs to design Web sites. “Keep it simple, Dad,” Erin says. “That works for you. Why spend more money than you have to spend?”
So I’m a PC, and as I watch those ads, I can’t help but think about commercials that knock the competitor, as Apple’s do. When you run ads like that, you’re basically telling your competitor’s customers that they are stupid. They must be or they wouldn’t be using the competitor’s stuff. Right?
Seems like a dopey way to try to win someone over.
I watch those Apple ads and dig in my heels. I’m going to stick with my PC, and I’m going to root for the people in the Microsoft commercial because they’re my people. They’re on my team.
Of course, Erin feels the same way about Apple. Her heels are also dug in. We’re on different teams, but we still get along just fine. She’s not moving over to my team and I’m not moving over to hers. We’ve made up our minds. Apple and Microsoft are working hard to get their existing customers to dig in their heels. That’s all.
And how about this? We all just wrapped up another political season. When my TV wasn’t bringing me Mac vs. PC, it was telling me about all the crooked politicians that were trying to win my vote. One guy would come on and talk trash about the other guy. And then the other guy would appear in the next commercial, telling me what a rat the first guy was. Neither guy was telling me much about what he stood for; he just wanted to make me hate the other guy. It was politics as usual and it didn’t change my vote because I had already chosen my team long before the ads began. These negative ads just made me dig in my heels and defend my guys against the other guys. How dare those other guys insult my guys?
You probably do the same thing. It’s human nature.
Which brings me to the heating business.
I am an admirer of technology (love that iPhone!), and I also understand that many of the American contractors who practice the art of hydronics from day to day are mostly interested in getting the work, getting the work done, getting paid for the work, and getting on to the next job as soon as possible. That’s it.
Oh, and they hate callbacks. They like to use stuff that’s been around for a good long time and is proven in the field. They’re reluctant to change their ways or their favored products unless there’s a price advantage (and it better wind up in their pockets), or unless they’re having a major problem with the product they’re currently using. Other than that, they settle down into a comfort zone, like big dogs on an old rug. And they dig in their heels.
So for a manufacturer to win a contractor’s business away from the competitor, the manufacturer has to either come out with a cheaper price than the competitor is offering for a very similar product, or hope the competitor has product problems at some point.
If the manufacturer has breakthrough technology that’s going to save the end-user money on fuel or electricity, the manufacturer has to figure out how to make that product profitable for the contractor. I think that just saying their technology is better than the competitor’s falls on deaf ears because the contractor doesn’t benefit from the superior technology. His customer does.
So, manufacturers, I ask you this: What’s in it for the big dog? That’s the question. You want the big dog to get up off the old rug and learn the new technology so his customer can save money? You want the big dog to follow a path of greater resistance, learning how to sell something new? And you want him to stand behind the new technology with promises that he may not himself believe. What’s in it for him?
The manufacturer can advertise to that contractor, explaining how much electricity and how much fuel his customers have been wasting for all these years by using the products that the contractor has been pushing. This means that the contractor has been stupid for all these years.
The manufacturer can try to make that contractor feel ashamed about what he’s been doing since he first picked up the tools, make him feel dopey and contrite about his day-to-day business, make him change his evil ways, go and sin no more. But you know what? When you try to tell a contractor (or anyone for that matter) that he’s been wrong, that person is probably going to dig in his heels and fight you. That’s human nature.
Unless the manufacturers who are promoting the new technologies can show the contractor what’s in it for him, I think they’ll be spinning their wheels. They’ve got to give the big dog a reason to get up off that old rug. Trying to make him feel stupid about his current choice in products isn’t going to work.
As for me, I’d like to see the PC guy knock that Mac guy on his keister. Just once.