Wednesday, 18 May 2011

TV Review - Secrets of the Superbrands - Tues 17th BBC3 9pm

Ever wondered how the likes of Apple, Sony and Microsoft persuade you to part with hard earned cash despite the fact that you don't really need any of their products?

It seems presenter Alex Riley has been pondering this very conundrum in the first of this three part series and it turns out we both share a special ability. We both are immune from the marketing charms and mass hysteria created by the titans of technology that have the average punter salivating at the thought of the latest must-have gadget, console or app.

Whilst I have PS3 this was bought when my old console died. I own an Ipod but I've had it for about 6 years. I have a computer and a mobile phone but they aren't the newest and whilst the continue to do their job I won't be seeking to replace them no matter how inferior adverts attempt to make me feel.

Don't get me wrong I'm no Luddite but I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I bought something I didn't need. Let's just say my Dad is a tight as the elastic on Anne Widdecombe G-string and I inherited the trait. Riley is as mystified by this slavish devotion to technology as much as I am.

Perhaps the leader in this ability to brainwash the masses is Apple. Riley talks to journalists and they whisper in hushed tones about Apple marketing nous.

"They never talk to us"

This counter-intuitive strategy enables them to shroud new products in secrecy. Like a wife who says he "only hits me because he loves me" Apple treats their punters mean to keep them keen and most are desperate to get hold of any new information. Even store openings are kept hush-hush and are greeted with a evangelical enthusiasm with Apple lovers coming from as far as the US and China and camping overnight in the middle of Covent Garden for the privilege of being first in a new store that looks the same as all the others. It is borderline madness.

We the help of an MRI machine and a team of neuroscientists, Riley discovers that for Apple nerds, holding up a picture of the iPhone4 stimulates the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in devout Muslims. It's not just the fact that Apple takes 30% of every app sold in its App store that they are killing the opposition. You have to hand it to Steve Jobs. He seems to have conjured the perfect symmetry between innovative products, expert marketing and hard-nosed business acumen.

It is stranglehold his competitors are struggling to overcome. In comparison to Apple, Microsoft are the technological equivalent of the middle aged man at a club desperately trying to impress the 18yr olds with his flares and hairy chest. Their PR is so bad that one media wag quipped

"If Microsoft had been put in charge of marketing sex, the human race would have ended long ago"

Bill Gates made a fortune licensing Windows to virtually every computer sold but the landscape has changed. Despite spending $5 billion on research their image problem is so bad you need a microscope to see the Microsoft logo and packaging for the Xbox.

Microsoft isn’t the only ones feeling the force of Apple. Riley tells us that despite selling a milion handsets a day Nokia are losing market share and losing money to Chinese bootleggers who copy their products and sell them in emerging nations for a fraction of the price. They haven't captured their share of the Smartphone market and are paying for it.

All in all a fascinating if light hearted take on the steady infiltration of big business into our homes. Riley's concludes that despite the market share battles these companies will continue to go from strength to strength as they offer Joe Public a means of expressing our basic human need to communicate be it through social media or a good old natter to friends or relatives.

Personally, I think people are overrated.

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