I just got an e-mail from a supplier stating that they were the exclusive supplier of fleece jackets made by Columbia Sportswear. Never mind that I don’t believe them. What they are probably saying is that they are the exclusive supplier in the decorator industry. Chances are you can find the same thing retail. And, if it is a private label item, thus really making it exclusive, there still isn’t anything unique about a fleece jacket. “Exclusive,” in this case, means a “monopoly” in the marketplace.
Economic theory states that monopies are bad, and laws make them illegal. The practice of monopoly, however, is highly desireable. It is touted in marketing, practice and desire. What it sells is pride. My supplier is trying to tell me that their product is unique. When people want “what’s new,” this will be the thing to give them. And, it will be to my competitive advantage.
Pride is another word for cool. Is Apple cool because its stuff is cool or because it works better? Apple is the exclusive provider of the iPod. Does the price reflect the component costs or the cool monopoly? Cool people should have money. People aren’t usually considered cool if they are poor. When people are poor and talented we usually describe them as “dedicated”, or some other innocuous word. Being cool is mostly for rich people. If you can get the people with money to “buy with pride”, well golly, you got yourself a sale. You (the seller) declare your pride in yourself, and they (the buyer) declare their pride in themself.
Am I cool because I use Apple stuff, and it costs a little more? Or, am I cool because of what I do with it? Probably a little of both. Part of me wants to be dedicated, but to be wealthy would be cool. Then I could buy all the cool things I want.
What is clear, is that advertisers do try to sell you pride. Humility and advertising is like oil and water. It seldom mixes. The advertising that says we’re #2 and try harder is a rarity, and even then, pridefully points out being #2. The whole idea of competition and defining yourself as compared to others is prideful. Microsoft vs Apple is both a marketplace battle between monopolies and a personal one of pride.
When the Apple community looks at Microsoft, we let out a collective yawn. We have more pride than they do in quality. They likewise look at the Apple community and yawn, because they have marketplace dominance. Pride is one of those things that can blind you.
The iPod and iTunes now bridges the gap between the two communities. Everybody’s pride will have to be redefined. Apple will be touting marketshare growth and Microsoft will tout new quality improvements. The roles may someday reverse, but not the pride. The cost of that pride is built into whatever product you buy.