It all started with the iPod and its eye-catchy silhouette ads. Then came the iPhone and with it lines of eager customers camping outside the retail stores. And just a couple of months ago came the iPad and its addicting and innovative user interface. In just a couple of years, Apple went from an small U.S. company to an innovative multinational corporation. Its loyal fan base has been growing with each passing year, and with it, Apple’s contribution to popular culture.
Apple first came into prominence in popular culture thanks to its iconic white earphones; they became a symbol of the brand. At a time when most earbuds were all other colors but white, Apple used their white earphones to separate themselves from the competition. As a result, it was entirely obvious if one was using an iPod or some other MP3 player based solely on the color of the earphones.
But this did not happen overnight. In fact, it took years of masterful advertising to make the iPod a part of popular culture–a must have product that was cool, trendy, and fashionable. No doubt, the silhouette ads played a large role in this.
Every time such an ad played, the viewer saw a black silhouette in contrast with the white earphones dangling around in rhythm with the music. Those white earphones became synonymous with coolness, with the need to express oneself, to be free and just let loose and dance; you could have all that if you just bought the iPod. And because their white color made them distinct from the competition, it was easy to see who was part of Apple’s culture and who was not. Everybody had to have the iPod for it was a symbol of one’s identity. It told those around you that you were cool and trendy. As a result, virtually everybody had one, and the iPod became part of popular culture.
Now fast forward to June 29, 2007. If you happened to be walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City that morning, you would have seen a long line of eager customers that stretched as far as the eye could see.
If you came up to the people in the front of the line, you would have found out that some of them had been camping out for up to five days! The media coverage was even more impressive. Apple didn’t spend a single penny on advertising before iPhone’s launch; it was all done by the media. Virtually every major news network ran a story about the iPhone launch that night and technology blogs were saturated with coverage the following day.
Why all this excitement just for a phone? I mean, there was almost as much excitement and anticipation on June 29th, 2007 as there was on November 4th, 2008, when Obama was about be elected to become the first U.S. black president. Why all this excitement just for a phone? Well, Apple had masterfully built a reputation for itself over the past couple of years thanks to the iPod, and with it, a loyal fan base. In popular culture, Apple was seen as an innovative company capable of producing high-quality, easy to use, must-have products like the iPod, the iMac, and the MacBook. And now they were about to release a revolutionary new device called the iPhone. It was a phone, an iPod, and an internet device all in one. It had a breakthrough touch interface. It was cool. It was trendy. It was about to become the phone to own, just like the iPod was the MP3 to own. It was about to become the must-have gadget of the year. And just like the iPod came with its catchy silhouette ads, the iPhone came with its memorable “There is an app for that” ads that helped it rise to unprecedented fame and become an aspect of popular culture.
In fact, Apple is more than just an aspect of popular culture. Apple embodies popular culture. It generates popular culture. Their products are recognizable by virtually everybody. Their customers are some of the most loyal and passionate fans around who are willing to camp out for up to five nights in order to get their latest product. Their launch events generate talk in popular culture and become historical. Their brand is synonymous with innovation, coolness, trendiness, and fashion. Their retail store openings draw huge crowds. Their ads become a part of popular culture. Apple is popular culture.