Not Buying It: "Manipulative" Apple is just an example of marketing

by Uluroo — January 9, 2018

Your opinions about a product don't change the methods by which a company convinces people to buy it.


Nothing insults people's intelligence like saying they don't have the capacity to make their own decisions. Uluroo wonders if the people who think this about their readers are trolls, or if they have somehow convinced themselves they are right. Maybe they're both. But regardless, we're left with headlines and stories like this one, from Computerworld's Steven Vaughan-Nichols:

"You WILL pay a grand for the iPhone X." This article was published a week after the iPhone X's unveiling last year, but Uluroo is getting to it now because Steven has given no indication that he feels differently about the subject, and what Steven says is still applicable in 2018.

Is the iPhone X, with its starting price of $999 — with 256 GBs of storage it will cost $1,149 — worth the money? Nope.

You can just say things, and they become true! For example: There is a unicorn behind you. Did it show up yet? No?

Here's a thought: Maybe explain why the iPhone X is not worth the money. Saying things without proof is not how you tell people not to buy something.

Instead of explaining the unfounded claim he just made, Steven assumes that his readers have accepted the "fact" that the iPhone X is a scam and moves on to Stage II of the ranting. Wow, ranting is really easy when you just assume that everyone agrees with every word you say! And you can get paid to do this? Uluroo should transfer to Computerworld...

Will you buy it anyway? Yep.

Not all of you. But enough of you. And you know who you are.

Enough of you... to fuel Apple's evil schemes.

Now let me tell you why you’ll buy it.

Next, Steven will pretend he has a clue about your reasons for buying this scam of a smartphone. These reasons are actually not the real reasons you might plan to buy the phone, but we've already established that you're a sheep if you want this thing in the first place, so you must not really be able to see how Steven is treating you like an idiot.

Sure, it’s a nice phone. It has oodles of new features, such as an all-new 5.8-inch OLED Super Retina display, a faster A11 Bionic processor, wireless charging capabilities, and an improved TrueDepth camera. None of those are the reasons.

All these reasons you thought you wanted the iPhone X? Those are all nil. Instead, take a look at Steven's plans for your smartphone buying intentions. Remember, he pretty much thinks you're a lemming for wanting the iPhone X at all, so he can get away with pretending he knows what he's talking about.

Now that he's thrown out the real reasons people buy smartphones in the first place, Steven will move on to the part where he sets Apple up as an insidious group of overlords who manipulate you into paying $999 for their products.

... [The iPhone X's] one “newish” feature, Face ID facial recognition, creeps me out.

Uluroo won't get into the Face ID debate, because that's not the topic of Steven's article, but just know that because Steven is creeped out by Face ID, it logically follows that the only way Apple can get people to buy this device is by psychologically manipulating them.

To quote a recent Tweet of mine:
Millennial: I paid $999 for my 1st iPhone.
Baby Boomer: I paid $999 for my 1st car.
Greatest Generation: I paid $999 for my 1st house.

So yeah, the iPhone X costs too much, and so does the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Wow, Steven must really see us as low-watt bulbs if he thinks he can get away with ignoring the concept of inflation! Or does he really not understand what inflation is? Both possibilities are likely.

Do you want a good phone for under $300? Try a Moto G5 Plus, for $299.

You all are stupid for wanting to buy a good phone! Here, take this crummy phone, because it's cheaper. Remember, now that Steven has decided to ignore the iPhone X's obvious advantages over this $299 phone, it's easy to tell his victims — oops, Uluroo meant readers — to buy something cheaper.

A product's price does not determine whether it is too expensive. Maybe for some people, but not as a general statement. Some people find the iPhone X to be worth it (because of those reasons you threw out), and even if you don't agree, you could try understanding.

Having said all that, many of you will shell out a thousand bucks for the fanciest iPhone. Why?

Because, contrary to Steven's belief, we are able to read a spec sheet and think the iPhone X is better. Again, Uluroo isn't saying you have to like the iPhone X; just think about the reasons people have bought it already.

At almost the same time the Apple fanbois were gasping at the latest Apple pretties, I was at The Linux Foundation's Open Source Summit in L.A. listening to Nir Eyal, author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, explain how companies can pull you into buying their products even if they’re not the best.

Intriguing! The only problem with that is that there is no objectively best smartphone. Steven thinks he's already set the iPhone X up as a non-good device, so he sees the only reason people would want it is if they're Apple fanbois or if they're being psychologically manipulated. However, people at least think the iPhone X is the best phone available, so they are in fact buying the device because of their own free will. They're not buying an obviously bad device.

First, habits can make us buy luxury goods. And whatever else the iPhone X is, it’s a luxury device. That habit is formed by stimulating the anticipation of pleasure — not pleasure itself. Ever notice those endless “What will the new iPhone be like?” articles? Check.

Is Steven really so ignorant that he sees the rumor cycle as a path from "What will the new iPhone be like?" to "Okay, nobody cares, on to the next iPhone"? Because that is not how it works. Sure, lots of people like to speculate — Uluroo included — but that doesn't mean we don't appreciate the products themselves.

Even if this were a problem, which it isn't, this is the case with every other major smartphone that's released. Why is Apple getting singled out? Because clickbait. Because money. Because trolling.

You also manufacture desire by making the product mysterious. We’re attracted to the unknown. Apple is a master of this.

What, do you want Apple to make the stage-by-stage development process public? Every company tries to keep secrets. Apple has historically been better (aside from a series of leaks last year). That isn't wicked manipulation; it's a safeguard against copycats. This also allows Apple — and every other tech company that tries to keep its products a secret, so basically every tech company — to surprise people when the device comes out.

It also helps if the “reward” of a new iPhone is on a variable schedule. We know we’ll get a new major iPhone every two years. But exactly when? We don’t know — and we love it.

Uluroo showed someone this quote, and the person pointed out that companies follow regular production and release cycles so they can turn a profit off them. For example, Ford doesn't do a major Explorer refresh every year because they have to sell the current model for long enough to pay off the price of the various manufacturing components they used. Waiting a few years keeps the process profitable.

If you have a problem with tech companies following normal production cycles, you have a problem with every tech company, and maybe you aren't the sort of person to be covering technology.

This is all based on the work of — no, not Steve Jobs — the famous behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner. This kind of operant conditioning works just as well on Apple fans as it does on rats.

Yes, you heard the man right. He likens his readers — and Apple customers, including some of his coworkers — to rats. He is essentially ignoring the fact that some people buy things not because they are manipulated into doing so, but because they like said things. And if you can't accept that, you shouldn't have a job in the tech press. Uluroo is serious.

Essentially, Steven seems to have a problem with marketing. Apple, and all other technology companies, market their devices as better than others. Just because you don't think a particular one is the best does not mean Apple has to manipulate people in order to get them to buy anything. There are lots of people who think Apple's products are superior to other companies'. Why can't Steven accept this and move on? Steven, your opinions about a product do not change the marketing techniques a company needs to use to advertise it.

Steven is a conspiracy theorist. One of those conspiracy theorists with zero proof to back up anything they say. But they get paid to rant about stuff. In this case, Steven's ranting about marketing, even though literally every company uses it to survive. Some of the stuff he complains about is so obviously reasonable that you have to wonder if he's looking for problems.

This entire piece was an insult to Steven's readers, particularly Apple users. Steven thinks they aren't smart enough to make their own buying choices and that the things they thought they liked about Apple products were all false. And the way he goes about proving it is all based on the assumption that Steven's readers are idiots. The argumentation Steven uses is so misleading that one has to wonder why he thought he could convince anyone.

If you have a problem with marketing, you have a problem with every company on the planet. If so, you'll probably want to find some other job opportunities. The saddest part is that you had to hear this from a talking kangaroo.