Who Is the Guy in Your Apple Commercial?

Customer profiling.Get a Mac.jpg

Those are two words you’ll never hear in everyday conversation. They belong on the chalkboard at business school, in a dense textbook about marketing, or maybe in one of those “strategy sessions” where the boss wants to know why the hell no one is buying your company’s latest product.

It’s a boring term, one that, as a writer, I’m almost ashamed to know and understand, but it also represents one of the most powerful marketing weapons in existence. Like a rusty gun that never runs out of bullets, it’ll help you kill 95% of business problems before they ever rear their ugly heads.

So I’m going to write a post on it.

Just to make it a little more interesting though, I thought I’d ditch the term and add a little bit more of a contemporary spin to the idea that it describes. Chase away any worry of being asked a question like, “Who are customers and how do we target them?”

Instead, I’ll posit a different, hopefully more insightful one: Who is the guy in your Apple commercial?

Marketing Lessons from Apple

Apple is pretty darned smart these days.

Instead of pumping our televisions full of hyped up, meaningless commercials that cost millions of dollars to create but no one pays attention to, they went with simple, cheap, and smart. Each features a Mac guy and a PC guy going through a skit that pokes fun at the PC guy and makes the Mac guy look cool.

They’re called the “Get a Mac” commercials. Not only are they effective at generating word-of-mouth and positioning Apple against the competition, but they’re also a perfect example of what customer profiling is about: making your customer real.

If I asked you to picture the Mac guy, could you do it? Sure. You’d probably imagine Justin Long, the actor in the commercials.

More importantly, if I asked you to develop a new feature that Mac users would go gaga over, would you create a business application? Not likely. The Mac guy wouldn’t like that. Though, he would probably like a way to publish his iTunes play list to his twitter account.

Do you see what I’m talking about? If you can make your customer real, you don’t need heaps of market data to tell you what they want. You just picture them in your head and ask, “Is this something they would like?”

Or, better yet, call them up and ask them.

Customer Profiling Is about Relationships, Not Research

The best marketers don’t just study their customers. They know them. If you asked them to tell you about what their customers will want in the future, they would pick up the phone, call one of them, and hand you the phone. “This is Fred,” they would say. “Ask him for yourself.”

The point is, customer profiling is really just a fancy term for building a relationship with the people that support your business. Demographics, segmentation, and needs analysis are all important tools, but if you really want to succeed, you’ll get to know your customers and carry them in your thoughts everywhere you go.

Eventually, you might even develop a mental image that represents your average customer. You’ll create a “Mac guy” for your own company. Then, whenever you make a decision, you’ll ask yourself, “Is this something that he would want?”

Who Is the Guy in Your Apple Commercial?

So, take a minute to think about it. Who is the guy in your Apple commercial?

  • Where does he spend most of his time? In the field? In front of the computer? At home?
  • What really ticks him off?
  • What other products is he a fan of?
  • Is he high strung, or pretty laid-back?
  • How old is he?

You could go on and on with the questions. If you buy that customer profiling is like building a relationship, then there are hundreds of things you’ll need to know before you can say that you really understand them.

It’s also tougher if you’ve never had any contact with them. For instance, this blog is only a few weeks old, so I’m still developing a feel for who likes my content and why. I’ve got a fuzzy picture of the average reader, and it gets a little clearer every time I hear from you.

Thank you for sticking with me. We’ve already got a great community going here, and you’re building it just as much as I am. If you haven’t already, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail. I’d love to hear what you think.

And who knows? Maybe one day, you’ll be in our Apple commercial.