Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Apple Inc.'s website is an extension of its brand: its chief function is to maintain and support the company's established clientele while simultaneously working to expand it.  Thanks to its variety of streamlined, intuitively designed products, Apple has accumulated a remarkably high level of brand loyalty—among the highest of any company in the country.  It has succeeded in attracting a specific demographic of users, many who now refuse to use any computer other than a Mac.

What does such staunch customer loyalty suggest about Apple’s approach to marketing, and how does this manifest itself in its web component?  In the following posts, we will closely examine the components of Apple’s website to determine the relationships that exist between the design of the website, the nature of its content, and its overall credibility.



Design largely determines how successful a webpage is in communicating its message to its users, and the customizable nature of the Internet lends itself to countless design possibilities.  Evident in the vast array of templates across the Internet, site designers are constantly seeking to “break through the clutter” and capture Web users' attention.

Interestingly, Apple benefits from choosing a daringly minimalist aesthetic route.  Like its products, the website’s design is sleek, unobtrusive, and user-friendly.  While lesser-known sites would not likely attract much attention with such a simple format, the approach works to Apple’s advantage.  The site’s streamlined look reinforces Apple’s goal to provide a simplified alternative in the computer world—a substantial reason for the company’s snowballing popularity.

Keeping true to its minimalist approach, the site's color scheme is uncomplicated: exclusively black and grey font, light blue links, and a steel-colored menu bar, thematic with the recent release of Apple's first eco-friendly aluminum laptops. It is superimposed over a clean white background, making tasteful use of white space and reducing eye clutter.

Layout and Organization

Upon loading the Apple website, the user is greeted by a preview, selected at random from a series, that calls attention to new products and developments in the Apple world.  The prominent placement of new content emphasizes Apple’s role as a leading technological innovator.

At the top of Apple’s webpage is a menu bar, which remains fixed in place while one navigates from page to page.  This feature is beneficial in that it provides the user with direct, effortless navigation to any area of the site at any time.  Moreover, the menu bar clearly delineates the site’s disparate topics, providing designated sections for the Apple Store, Mac products, the iPod and iTunes, the iPhone, and customer support.

The information on the Apple website is detailed and logically presented.  Included under the support section are complete online manuals for each product as well as thorough walkthroughs for troubleshooting.  The site also boasts guided video tours for several products such as the Mac OS X Leopard, Apple's newest operating system.  These visual tours demonstrate the products' features and capabilities in a series of easy-to-understand visual steps.  Apple effectively provides well-organized information, to the extent that even the most inexperienced user will (ideally) be able to master everything the brand has to offer.

The site includes several interactive features, including discussion forums for quick-response, hands-on support.  For those wary of solving problems through indirect online interaction, Apple offers customers the option to make an appointment with a real-life representative via the Genius Bar.


Apple’s takes a transparent approach to marketing its brand.  Its honest, uncompromising method appeals directly to our current generation’s growing disillusionment with indirect, padded, or sugarcoated approaches.  In this chaotic age of information overload, people have less and less patience for deception in advertising, and Apple is receptive to this mindset.

Directly related to this advertising approach is Apple’s preoccupation with continuing to expand its following.  It strives to appeal directly to PC users who are dissatisfied with the performance of Windows and PCs in an attempt to convert them to the Mac world.  To achieve this end, it stresses the relative ease of acclimating to the Mac operating system—likely the chief reason for many potential converts' trepidation—as well as switching from a PC to Mac, by including a series of useful tutorials (again presented in video format for maximum convenience).

Role in Popular Culture

Macs are commonly regarded as the “anti-PC” in society, and Apple does not shy from this comparison.  To underpin its straightforward marketing approach, the website includes a video section that grants any Web user instant access to every Apple television ad, past and present.  By doing so, Apple shows itself eager to cultivate the Mac’s perceived role as the alternative to the PC world.

The company’s most recent TV commercials center around the backlash against Microsoft’s Windows Vista and overtly reference its alleged inferiority to the Mac OS X Leopard.  The ads portray two men who serve as foils to the PC (a conniving, bespectacled middle-aged man dressed in corporate business attire) and the Mac (a friendly, fashionably dressed young adult played by famous actor Justin Long).   The rhetoric involved with these advertisements encourages a stereotype that Mac users are “hip” and have their finger more closely on the pulse of today’s generation, whereas PC users are outdated, stodgy, and/or square.

Some have argued that Apple’s campaign strategy is snobby and elitist for stereotyping PC users in this manner, and as such can be interpreted as somewhat anticompetitive.  But to the company’s credit, it is upfront and uncompromising in its stance, and this ultimately displays Apple as a company that is highly confident in the quality of its products.

Ethos and Credibility

Given the reputation that precedes a company such as Apple, one would assume that the contents of its website are credible.  But it does help to consider the website’s content in the context of Apple’s established role in society.  As we have previously mentioned, Apple’s unrivaled innovation in computer technology has entrenched the brand name so firmly in popular culture that it commands a role of authority in its field practically by default.

The iPod, which some have labeled the watershed for Apple’s post-millennial success, has become a landmark of popular culture and has given rise to the “MP3 generation.”  In effect, Apple has essentially reinvented the entire model of today’s music business.  The company later capitalized upon the iPod’s success with the iPhone, the first all-touch-screen multipurpose phone.  Evidence of Apple’s monumental success and influence can be seen everywhere today—specifically in “iPod copycat” MP3 players (such as Microsoft’s Zune) and the proliferation of iPhone-esque touch-screen phones (affectionately referred to as iFakes).

Additionally,’s sleek site interface and uniform stylization of font and color lend Apple a professional aura and make the website easy to read—not to mention that typographical errors are entirely absent.  It appears that ample time was put into the site’s design to maximize its correlation with the intuitive nature of the products detailed within.

Conclusion is orderly and comprehensive.  It provides a wealth of information related not only to Apple’s computers and operating systems, but also to its accessories such as iTunes, the iPod, and the iPhone.  This all-inclusive format makes it clear that Apple considers itself to be much more than just a computer company.  It also provides direct access to free software updates and downloads and includes an organized support section that leaves no question unanswered.

The only area of concern with Apple is its marketing strategy, which could be construed as unethical or anticompetitive.  In 2008, Apple easily outpaced Microsoft in net sales (compare Apple’s 35% increase with Microsoft’s 18%), and feedback generally favored Mac OS X Leopard over Windows Vista.  Despite having prevailed over Microsoft in recent times, Apple still felt compelled to run the aforementioned string of anti-PC “attack ads.”  Considering Microsoft was busy gearing their ads toward Seinfeld fans and its own dissatisfied Vista users, Apple was quickly subjected to accusations of elitism, unfair tactics, and smug intentions.

Overall, though, Apple’s website unquestionably achieves its rhetorical goals.  The site’s savvy design and flawless organization echo the company’s intentions to satisfy the needs of its audience and further bolster brand loyalty, all the while remaining receptive to newcomers and converts.