A conversation on Facebook and a quick surf revealed the aforementioned blog post to the Slo-Man. First of all, iSheep is a term the Slo-Man really likes, however, the Slo-Man did not coin this phrase. He wishes he had because it epitomizes the culture and combines into itself the most prominent face of that culture.
In the interest of transparency, (a first for the Slo-Man, who is not known to be transparent, but rather translucent in his outpourings), he must disclose that he is writing this on a MacBook Pro with his iPhone 3GS by his side. Note however, that the story is about the impending appearance of the iPhone 5 and the laptop is almost 2 years old and the iPhone is just coming to it’s first anniversary with the Slo-Man For neither item did the Slo-Man camp out anywhere. In fact the Slo-Man’s idea of camping hardship is a summer’s week in Muskoka checked into a Best Western, with day trips to nearby trails and parks and an evening of TV watching ( the summer Olympics were on….) in showered and airconditioned comfort after dinner in a full-service restaurant.
But this is not about the Slo-Man, it is about the personality types that make people line up to be the first to get the latest icon. The Slo-Man cannot fathom why waiting for a month is intolerable but waiting in extreme weather and discomfort is not. He suspects that some of the lines are beefed up by people secretly in the pay of the corporation’s marketing department, but it would be fair to say that quite a few of the people queuing up are not. A year ago in Canada, Netflix came under fire when it was discovered that some of the “excited customers” were actors being paid to, well, act as such, so obviously the marketing departments do have a hand in the line. This post is not about them, they are doing their best to sell products to the iSheep, the subject of this post, who are followers not leaders as they fondly imagine themselves to be.
The Slo-Man remembers many moons ago when cable TV first reared it’s ugly head, one of his friends was first to sign up for the 5 channels it offered. The Slo-Man, living up to his name, signed up a year later and was paying a fraction for over 100 channels. You may argue that the Slo-Man lost the opportunity to view what could not be viewed for a year, however, the fare dished out, (sorry!) was available in bits and pieces elsewhere anyway..
And that brings us to what the iPhone 5 will do that the iPhone 4 or even the iPhone 3 won’t. The iPhone 3 makes phone calls, surfs the internet, takes pictures and vide0s, has a touch screen and plays music. So do all the makes and models out there, some better than others, but functionally the same. Certainly, there will be incremental increases in the quality and maybe functional ease. However, the marginal value is not greater that marginal cost, real cost.
No – it is about having a tale to tell and and something to show. And a year later when the iPhone 6 comes out they will be back and somewhere in the future we will see interviews with a guy who managed to be the first in line for 10 consecutive launches. He will be celebrated at a scale below the Kardashians but celebrated he will be.
And what about other such examples? The launch of a new chain in a new country seems to whip up some of the same emotions in these people. Amongst the laughable in recent memory are the following launches in Canada:
Krispy Kreme donuts – cops in cars had to direct traffic for a 2 mile radius and a special tent was erected to keep the line sheltered from the snow!
H& M – hardly what you would call high fashion, yet had lines of people waiting for the store to open on it’s first day
Netflix – some of the crowd turned out to be paid actors
Abercrombie and Fitch – stopped displaying prices for all countries on the same tag because the hicks found out they were being charged extra
J Crew – set prices 40% higher than elsewere, a la Abercrombie and Fitch, later had to back track while murmuring about extra expenses
In these cases, you cannot even argue the case on the basis of the value of the incremental technological advances. Those J Crew corduroys that the Slo-Man bought in the US cannot be worth more in Canada and are certainly not worthy of the time invested in lining up to be the first.
So what makes these people behave like this? In the case above, the blog link at the top of the post, dear reader, not the J Crew corduroy jeans, it is an admitted publicity stunt, meant to increase traffic to the blog and consequently, hopefully traffic to buy whatever apps they make. Without going into a side rant here, but the Slo-Man has heard tales of the massive amounts of apps available for the iPhone and the last one year he has spent time at airports and in cabs, surfing to find apps that do something useful other than make cats kick balls through hoops. He has managed to install a sum total of 10, mostly to do with airlines and hotels he needs to conduct his day job. It has now become a fashion brought about by too much time and money and not enough brains to think or work to do.
So, children, go ahead and line up, avoid disappointment, pay premium prices so the Slo-Man does not have to, be technologically superior for a few weeks and check that device constantly, because the new one is coming in just a few months and you must have that first too, musn’t you? Don’t bother actually learning to use the device you have now fruitfully, because you will simply have to start all over again soon. And keep buying those J Crew jeans, people, while you wait for Target to open shop in your neighbourhood.
The Slo-Man wonders – don’t these people feel ashamed of themselves when daily images of the third world lining up for food and clean water are beamed everywhere, including those devices they carry so proudly? Oh wait, the Slo-Man has already established that these are people unable to think for themselves….
Shed a tear.