When Is It Okay to Insult iPod Users?

by Chris Howard May 24, 2006

The Apple fraternity is up in arms at SanDisk. You see, to promote its latest player, SanDisk has set up an “iDon’t” website, with not-so-subtle comparisons of iPod users to sheep, chimps, cows, droids, puppets and more. Ironically, those revolting bloggers (excuse the ambiguity) are happily promoting the iDon’t campaign, providing links to the site.

It’s funny that SanDisk never made such a fuss about Apple’s own ads.

Apple much prefers subtlety, but nonetheless, it happily bags its competitors and their customers. Let’s just look at a few examples:

1984: That ad could easily be construed as saying PC users were a pack of mindless drones who’d been brainwashed by IBM.

Lemmings: Showed PC users as lemmings. Say no more.

Crowd Control: You know the one, from 10 or so years ago, where the presentation using a Windows 95 PC goes belly up because the user can’t get it working because the OS is a pain to use. Underlying message: Using Windows will make you look like an idiot.

Mac Intel: What did Apple say of PC users’ usage of computers? “Dull little tasks,” Ouch! Even Intel cringed at that one.

Get a Mac: Although the two guys are meant to represent the computers, they have been taken personally by many people who see them as not-so-subtle stereotyping of the users themselves. So not only do the ads convey that PCs are old, boring and stupid, but so are their users.

All Apple’s advertising has always had one simple message: There’s a better way.

If there’s a better way, then that’s also saying, “You’ve made the wrong choice.”

Now SanDisk is more in-ya-face than Apple, and spells that out quite clearly. Subtle or not subtle, both approaches are intended to make potential buyers feel they’ve made a mistake, screwed up.

So what happens when Apple runs an advertising campaign? There’s much mirth around the Applesphere, and chuckling at Apple’s creative subtlety, but the message is not lost—Windows users are dimwits who need to see the light.

What happens when SanDisk (or anyone else) runs an advertising campaign questioning Apples users’ choice? Woe-be-tide. The wrath of the Apple fanatics pours down upon SanDisk, the Apple blogosphere goes berserk with righteous zealots screaming for blood. I’m not going to name blogs, not wanting to start a blog-war, but there’s certainly a lot of self-righteous pontificating going on.

There’s an old saying that goes: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” Seems some of our Apple brethren aren’t comfortable with that one.

It’s easy to put the boot into Windows and look down your nose at Windows users and talk to them with airs and graces of superiority, but it seems it hurts when the boot is on the other foot.

Ironically, the SanDisk campaign says a lot of things even iPod owners having been calling for, such as licensing FairPlay to other music stores.

Of course, I’ll get flamed for writing this piece and loyalists will say that Apple ads are different because they are subtle. As we say Down Under, “Subtle as a brick in the face.”

Is the SanDisk campaign insulting? If it is to anyone, then the answer is yes. Have Apple’s campaigns been insulting? If they have to anyone, then the answer is yes. Insults, whether they be racist, sexist, religious or choice-ist, are in the eye of the receiver. I find the SanDisk ads insulting, but who am I to complain? I didn’t make a song and dance about any of Apple’s ads being insulting. I just said Windows users were overreacting.

The truth is Apple’s own ads over the years have been just as offensive to some, as the SanDisk one is now to iPod users. And for that reason, it’s time some of us in the Applesphere ate a little humble pie.


  • For the record, Beeblebrox has made some great posts, there are just times people disagree.

    milklover had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 22
  • I buy iPods because they work.

    So far, Apple’s been winning the design wars in the proof of concept phase. Only with iPod has Apple come up with a winning (as opposed to ‘whining’), cross-cultural product.

    As such, they’ve become the brand to beat. That’s quite the accomplishment.

    Anyhow, the proof is in the popularity. Every time SanDisk slags iPod, they’re reminding someone out there that they haven’t bought an iPod yet.

    No worries. In my mind. No worries.

    James Bain had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 33
  • Well, the single point that breaks your article is that Apple advertisements have always shown Apple as BETTER choices and products, as they INDEED are.

    Nobody chooses Windows because Windows is better…that’s why they may be regarded as lemmings.

    As for iPods, they are CLEARLY the best choice out there, in design, interface, integration with music stores and overall quality…not just because they are “trendy”...

    So yeah, we don’t have to eat crow or be humble, because our choices are simply conscious…sorry to burst your bubble of analogy.

    brlawyer had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 7
  • There’s nothing wrong with Apple’s ads, and there’s nothing wrong with SanDisk’s campaign, either. Suck it up and stop whining, people.


    Dogger Blue had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 34
  • I do not think that this “idont.com” website has any valid points to make.You are disguising your own corporate company in a sea of rebellious propaganda. You are no better than the “iTatorship” you are supposedly against. At least Apple obviously advertises, and doesn’t try to disguise their own marketing as some sort of rebellion. It seems that your only argument for buying your player is that it is not an iPod, seeing that your only posted reviews are from sources with a known anti-Apple bias. You haven’t given reasons yourself as to why the iPod is bad. Oh, but of course. This is marketing, accuracy doesn’t matter, now, does it? Apple is not simply successful due to marketing. People (and critics) actually like their products. That is why they sell, and the reason why most Apple customers are extremely loyal. I’d like to see what kind of a loyal following you have. How many people have bought SanDisk players? Exactly. I’d like to see the product behind the marketing.

    marmorek had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 3
  • ^ Email I sent to idont.com. “you” refers to SanDisk.

    marmorek had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 3
  • Here’s a leap in the self decency and logic pool for you - what time are we spending here dithering about a simple music player? Who here walks up to a fella he sees using a different player than his and smacks him upside the head?

    C’mon people - it’s music. Who cares what we’re using? I admit I bought an iPod - but frankly I don’t care if it says “Sony”, “Creative”, or “Tonka” on it… it’s the quality of the hardware. Shall we bicker or do we like what we like, or what? Yeesh. Kids.

    Haven’t we noticed that those companies we follow after behave no better than anyone else, and can’t be expected to? Perhaps it’s up to us to show a little maturity and let it slide. Isn’t it GREAT that we can carry all these tunes around with us in our pockets? We know what they’ll do. Who’s the bigger man, the guy with the slingshot or the one with the bandages?

    If you think I’m off topic here, then you’re clearly not paying attention.


    Visen had this to say on May 24, 2006 Posts: 1
  • Actually, the iDont.com site DOES try to give reasons for why the iPod is bad. They think to sites that criticise the iPod especially on its cumbersome and expensive battery replacement system. (Of course, you can get third party batteries for the iPod, but they don’t mention that. And yes it is a difficult procedure but replacing the battery on the Sansa player is not exactly a piece of cake, you have to undo a bunch of tiny screws. It’s still easier than the iPod though because there is an expectation that the user will do the replacing.)

    They also make brief reference to “restrictive formats”, which is of course laughable, because the iPod plays at least as many open formats as the Sansa, and although the only DRM paid for tracks available on the iPod lock you into iTunes, the only DRM paid for tracks available on the Sansa lock you into Windows Media Player, so this is a complete wash.

    So yes the advertising is misleading and contains misleading claims. But you can’t say they didn’t TRY to criticise the iPod itself. And crying foul over their mocking of iPod users is just hypocritical, because Apple does that in spades.

    It’s all fair game. What’s good for the goose, etc…


    Dogger Blue had this to say on May 25, 2006 Posts: 34
  • Welcome, ciaocibai! I’m pleased to hear our honesty and objectiveness is appreciated. Thanks.

    Chris Howard had this to say on May 25, 2006 Posts: 1209
  • I think it’s quite possible this SanDisk campaign will end up giving _more_ air time to the iPod and actually _increase_ its mindshare…

    Benji had this to say on May 25, 2006 Posts: 927
  • The way I see it, Apple’s marketing is more truthful because they actually make the better product. The marketing is usually a load of crap no matter what company you choose.

    Although… Apple has never made fun of other mp3 players in their iPod ads. It’s only the Mac ads that are superior.

    shrimpdesign had this to say on May 25, 2006 Posts: 16
  • I still wonder who this “SanDisk” company is… but I don’t care really. They got their PR stunt, so be it. Doesn’t make their product any more interesting.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on May 25, 2006 Posts: 371
  • seriously now, what a bunch of iDiots up here..

    it’s only a marketing campaign, whats the fuss all about?

    after all, YOU ARE NOT WHAT YOU BUY

    Don’t go cheer for apple, or m$, or sandisk, or whoever, start reasoning what serves you best.
    I’m a PC/Windows user, why? because it suits me
    Does that make me a MS loyalist?
    i have an Apple Cinema Display, why? because itsa great display
    Does that make me an Apple fan boy?

    it’s all about pros/cons no matter what image they try to push you

    This was a very rational article, and no one should say otherwise

    selbs had this to say on May 26, 2006 Posts: 1
  • i have an Apple Cinema Display

    apple computers are better computers than apple displays are good displays.

    I agree with you, though.

    Benji had this to say on May 26, 2006 Posts: 927
  • This is plain silly. Two things to notice:

    1: A lot of people are sheeps. The buy the iPod not because it’s the best product but because it’s the most well-known brand. When they visit their local electronics store they don’t ask for a harddrive based mp3-player, they ask for an iPod and the reason is pure ignorance.

    2: People have claimed that iPod is the best player. Is it? It does not have the best sound quality (most seems to aggre that iRiver hold this honour) nor the most features (Creative maybe?) nor the best battery life. It does have a amazing amount of third party products. Still, most will not install the player in their car or buy a Apple HiFi-system so that reason kind of fall. All in all, a lot of people will with good reasons agree that the iPod is not the best player even if it’s in the top tier.

    Anyhow, people, it’s just an ad. And a funny one that is. Those that can’t accept it truly needs to think about their relation to the things they own.

    Calista had this to say on May 28, 2006 Posts: 3
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