The Mac versus PC commercials have been playing on television in North America and elsewhere for quite some time. They are very engaging. Many people stop whatever they are doing to watch them. If you have not seen them, check out Mac versus PC on YouTube. They pose a challenge to Microsoft Windows and merchants of PC technology because they clearly and amusingly demonstrate the drawbacks for using a Windows operating system versus the Mac system. But why are they so powerful? What patterns do they use to get and keep your attention?
The commercials feature two characters. One, the PC, is a man in a beige business suit and tie, wearing glasses and an outdated haircut. He is geeky and basically, uncool. The other character, Mac is a youthful good-looking, friendly, and cool guy. Every 30 second commercial focuses on a problem with the PC operating system highlighted while the Mac character stands by, shrugs because he does not suffer from the same issues.

In the early commercials the Mac got to hold the hand of the Sony girl with all of the beautiful accessories while the PC didn’t speak her language. When Microsoft introduced Vista another character appeared. It was Vista security system personified by a menacing man resembling the stereotypical CIA agent who interrupted to ask “confirm or deny” to each statement or action the PC character wanted to make. A more recent one ridicules the introduction of Windows 7 by doing a flashback in time to all the promises to fix problems that PC made with each new version of Windows.

The obvious appeal to the commercials is their whack at Microsoft. Who doesn’t like seeing a giant fall off the beanstalk (unless you are underneath it!)? But there is more to their success at a deeper, below conscious level. If we examine them using psycho-linguistics, the commercials contain language and visual patterns which trigger the motivation of most viewers and this is why they are so successful.

The Language and Behavior Profile (LAB Profile) can explain exactly what attracts so many people to the commercials. My first book, Words That Change Minds describes this tool. The LAB Profile enables you to understand language and visual patterns that affect how people get motivated and what makes them take action. Most people are unaware of these patterns as they operate at a below-conscious level. When a communication such as a television commercial, matches the key patterns of particular target groups, they can have a huge impact on motivating and getting people to do things.

Here are the LAB Profile Patterns at play in the Mac versus PC commercials:

Away From: Language and images used to indicate a problem or situation to be avoided, fixed or solved. Anything that shows something that you want not want is “Away From”. The language and images move away from something. The PC character represents the things people detest about the PC; problems to be avoided!

Options: Any language and images promoting choice, variety, alternatives or breaking the rules. The Mac character represents a “better choice” than the problem-ridden PC and appeals to people who like alternatives.

Procedures: A step by step approach with a clear beginning, middle and end. These commercials are procedural since they have a clear story with this structure. Each one has characters and a plot.

Internal: Internals are people who want to make up their own mind and are difficult to influence.

External: When people become External, outside factors and people have a big impact. They care about what others think of them and may follow the crowd.

Thing: Language and images referring to objects ideas, data… things.

Person: Language and images about people, relationships using their names.

Since these LAB Profile Patterns operate outside normal awareness, they have the power to influence how we think and what we do. The LAB Profile can help you convince people in one-on-one communication and help you reach large groups in mass communication.

In the Mac versus PC commercials the use, (intentional or unintentional) of the above Patterns motivate very distinct groups of people who use computers. Mac users tend to be attracted to the idea that they are different from ordinary mortals. These are the people who like to color outside the lines, and believe they are creative. They want variety and options, alternatives to the plain Jane mainstream technology.

PC users prefer to have a Procedural approach when using their computers. They want a standard step by step procedure when using technology. They want to continue using the procedure they are accustomed to using.(This does not mean that they want this in all areas of their lives, simply when they are using technology.)

Why do the commercials attract both PC and Mac users?

The commercials promote an alternative to the ubiquitous PC, therefore they have an LAB Profile Options quality — attracting people who are likely to already own a Mac (or to have wanted one for a while). This is like speaking to the choir, preaching to the converted. Maybe they will succeed at getting Mac users to buy the latest version. But look at the sales figures. Non Mac users are buying in droves!

According to, Mac sales went through the roof in 2008:

• 50% of Macs sold at Apple retail stores are to those who are first time Mac purchasers
•Able to achieve 2007 revenue levels in Q1 08- Q3 08
•Increased US PC share from single digits to 18 percent of unit sales.
•One out of every 3 dollars spent in US retail computer sales is spent on a Mac
•39 percent notebook share in US higher education (higher than Dell)
•400,000 visitors a day at Apple retail stores reported in July 2009, 9 out of every 10 personal computers purchased worth over $1000 were Macs.

The secret is partially in the story! Commercials with characters and a plot appeal to the Procedural PC user. When you add in the other elements that make it universal you have the irresistible appeal to action for just about anybody:

Away From: The commercials put a finger on all the issues that drive PC users crazy! Error messages, having to reboot, viruses, unwieldy software….. Yuck!

Person and Thing Patterns: Whether you feel empathy for people or just want the facts; these advertisements are for you.

Internal and External Patterns: The commercials use the “universal close” that makes sales people drool. No one overtly tells you what to do, you draw your own conclusion – that appeals to Internals, and yet it is clear from the commercials that droves of people are converting to Mac, so the Externals are influenced by that.

All this happens in about 30 seconds. Most people are only aware that they just like the ads. And then the sales go up. It is not clear if the creative minds behind the Mac versus PC commercials are knowledgeable about the LAB Profile, but they could be. If you want to find out more about how people get motivated and why they do what they do, check out my books:

Words That Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence and my brand new second book:

The Customer is Bothering Me. How to Change Attitudes, Improve Results and Grow the Bottom Line.

Please let me know what you think!

Shelle Rose Charvet

Author's Bio: 

Shelle Rose Charvet is the international expert on influencing and persuasion, and is known world-wide for her bestselling book “Words that Change Minds: Mastering the Language of Influence.” She is a Certified Trainer of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). She is also a Certified Speaking Professional from the Global Speakers Federation and a Certified Life Skills Coach since 1983. Shelle Rose Charvet is an expert in below-conscious communication processes: what drives people to do (or not do) things, outside of their awareness. People and organizations seek her out because of her solutions to marketing, sales, negotiation and team management challenges using NLP and the LAB Profile® a psycho-linguistic tool for uncovering how people get motivated, how they think and make decisions.