What would Apple have to do to ruin your relationship?
Your relationship with a brand isn't entirely dissimilar to your relationship with a lover. What might make a committed Apple user leave the brand?
I've been counseling a friend this weekend.
She has flown thousands of miles to get her man. She hasn't seen him for 13 years, but she's suddenly convinced he's, well, the one.
Yes, of course he's engaged to someone else. But, really, this is the maze of relationships we're talking about. Anything is possible. Anything seems reasonable. Anything might send things in an unexpected direction.
Which, naturally, led me to thinking about Apple.
Your relationship with a brand isn't all that different from your relationship with a person. A brand makes you feel a certain way. You love it because, well, you just do. Your life is somehow made better and more meaningful.
For many, Apple is "the one."
Yet what would Apple have to do in order to ruin its relationship with these people? Is there a breaking point where some, or even many, Apple faithful would walk away from the relationship and decide it just isn't working any more?
Here are a few scenarios, taken from my regular viewing of Brazilian soap operas:
1. Apple is unfaithful
Somehow, things aren't the same. Apple begins to behave strangely. Instead of working late at the office, Apple starts to knock off early by producing things that look like, well, knock-offs of other Apple products. Or worse, of things that are already out there. (That's a 7-inch iPad. Oh, wait, it's 7.9 inches, huh? OK.)
You get the feeling Apple's not telling you everything they used to. You get the feeling something's a bit off. But you roll with it for a while. Until you hear that Apple is producing a tablet/laptop hybrid.
2. Apple gets boring
Relationships go through their ups and downs. You get used to each other's ways. You measure your expectations according to your knowledge of each other.
Sometimes, though, you just want to throw something at your partner because they're being precisely the way they've always been. Yet suddenly that sameness isn't reassuring any more. It's boring. You look at the iPhone 5 and it's a lot like the iPhone 4S. You look at the iPad Mini and it's just like the iPad was in the dryer too long and the screen went dull.
You start to look at, well, others. You see they are bigger, shinier. They have live tiles instead of dead icons. You are tempted to at least try them. But what if you do? What if you like them? What if they're exciting? You ask your friends. They say: "What harm can it do, as long as Apple doesn't know?"
3. Apple insists you become one of the family
One day, you wake up and realize that all of your days off are taken up by family occasions and expectations. Yes, Apple's family, not yours.
Your music is now at Apple's place. Your papers are all at Apple's place. Apple even has a house up a mountain in a cloud, where a lot of your stuff is kept. You end up realizing that whatever you need to do, it's easier if you use the connection between one member of Apple's family and another. Uncle Cloud and Auntie iPhone are there to smooth your path.
Which is all very nice, at first. But then you realize you're trapped. What if your future mother-in-law (Big Sis, as she's curiously known) starts making demands of you that you never expected when you were swept along by the fun?
What if the Apple family cook begins to dictate what you should eat and when? What if your future father-in-law tells you that you can't have non-Apple family friends any more, because that would cause, well, friction in the clan? What do you do then? Rebel or conform? It's one of the big human questions.
4. Apple gets old
One day, you look your lover in the eye and what do you see? Someone who looks just a little past their prime. Someone who's been wearing Levi's for 30 years and still thinks they're cool. Someone who's happy to have got old and who thinks (mistakenly) that they still look like George Clooney.
You, meanwhile, have made sure that your tastes have changed. You're human. And you're under the influence of so many products, so much advertising and design, that other parts of your life have altered radically since your first Mac and your first iPhone.
You've moved on from BMWs, through Mercedes to a brief, painful fling with Volvos. You've had a traditional house and a modern condo. You've worn your shirts (and skirts) high, low and somewhere in between. You've flitted from Zara to H&M to Gucci to even trying to make your own stuff based on things you saw on "Project Runway."
With every style decision, you've tried to feel younger and fresher. Even if, occasionally, wanting to offer a nod to maturity. But you've always bought Apple products. Because, well, you have.
You need to feel young again. Old people wear Apple products. Your grandma has an iPad, for goodness sake. And not even an iPad 2. You don't want to be seen with old. You want young, fresh, brighter, bigger, shinier. It just takes one small piece of courage to break away. You don't even need to see a lawyer.
5. Apple becomes a bit of a pain
In relationships, we can be very judgmental. We need to believe that our lover is a "good person." We need to believe that they will always be lovely to puppies, kittens and kiddies. This reflects upon us, after all.
But what if, one day, our lover gets a little too moody? What if our lover loses their temper and acts like an utter beast, cursing and spitting like an injured NFL lineman -- or a Hollywood actor on a really, really bad day? Do we look at them differently? Of course we do.
Just as people are increasingly looking at companies and wanting to hold them to, good Lord, ethical standards.
So what if Apple keeps on suing to defend the patently indefensible? What if Apple sues BlackBerry with a claim that it has the patent on the, um, keyboard? Do we suddenly look at Cupertino and feel the love has died? Do we decide that we were in love with a bully and, well, nobody likes a bully?
Relationships can change in a moment. One day there are "I love you's," "I want to elope with you's," the next there is an outage in the power station of love.
Our impulses move us faster, on occasion, than we realize it's happening. Keeping a relationship going is hard. In the face of all the potential vicissitudes, how long can you be committed to Apple? What will it really take to keep your love alive?