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Those Mac users think they're so cool

People look at the new MacBook Air at the 2008 Macworld at San Francisco's Moscone Center.

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KAI RYSSDAL: It was technology's turn in the earnings barrel today. After the bell, Amazon reported a 28 percent rise in first quarter profits. Apple said its profits jumped more than 35 percent. That's got to have shareholders thankful for all those iPod and Mac owners out there, thankful for the advertising and marketing teams, too, They've made a splash with those commercials, the ones where the techno-hip Mac guy triumphs over the clueless PC guy.

Andrea Gardner reports Mac owners might be a little clueless themselves.


ANDREA GARDNER: You know the commercial.

MAC COMMERCIAL: Hello I'm a Mac --- And I'm a PC.

Apple rolled out these ads to make you think Macs are much cooler than PCs. After all, the Mac guy wears designer jeans and sneakers, and the PC guy is overweight and balding, but over time, many consumers have found themselves charmed by the bumbling PC, and irritated by the lofty Mac. Marissa Gluck is a marketing analyst with Radar Research.

MARISSA GLUCK: The character of the Mac guy is almost too perfectly cast. He is smug. He is condescending. He's just that uber-hipster you love to hate. It just makes you want to slap him.

According to a new marketing study, if you own a Mac, you might want to slap yourself. Mindset Media surveyed 7,500 computer users in 20 different personality traits, such as self-esteem, pragmatism and modesty. They found that Mac owners pretty much personify the Mac guy from the commercials. Among other things, they think they're more extraordinary than the average Joe. That's according to Mindset co-founder Sarah Welch.

SARAH WELCH: This is a group that is not afraid to shout its accomplishments from the mountaintops. They're happy and proud to talk about their successes and their accomplishments, and that can come across as possibly a bit conceited.

The survey revealed that Mac users often describe themselves as perfectionists. They're also more likely than PC users to whiten their teeth, drive hybrids, drink Starbucks coffee and eat organic food. Nitty-gritty research like this helps companies craft an advertising message around their customer's mindset. Again, marketing analyst Marissa Gluck.

GLUCK: It gives advertisers just a fuller understanding of who their target market is. What are their preferences? What makes them tick? Why do they buy certain products?

Apple didn't commission the Mindset survey, but it's clear that the company knows its buyer. Apple's computer market share has grown significantly since these ads debuted in 2006, but there are risks when companies create ads that precisely reflect the persona of their core consumers. For some, it could be too close for comfort, says Gluck.

GLUCK: I do think that Mac users recognize themselves in the Mac guy, but there's probably that uncomfortable recognition, that slightly uncomfortable degree of self-hatred that you've become a cliche.

After taking an honest look in the mirror, I too realized that the Mac cliche is fitting: perfectionist, Starbucks drinker, organic eater, and yes, even a bit superior. Not surprisingly, I own a Mac, sigh.

In Los Angeles, I'm Andrea Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Andrea Gardner is a journalism professor and writer in Pasadena, Calif.

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