The former is 95 years old, and the latter is just two! One has utilitarian value the other cult value. Whereas more than 25,000 people pass through Grand Central each day, thousands of people come to the Apple store on 5th Avenue to go nowhere fast. They caress the iPods and gaze at other cool people.
Like the station, the 32-foot glass cube that sits on top of the store is open 365 days of the year. When I visited it seemed that people were treating this like a piazza, or park. Some were engrossed over their Macbooks, some having conversations and others seemed transfixed around the huge ‘genius bar’ waiting for their turn to be delighted.
It struck me that like the station, there could very well be a ticket counter, and the people would pay to get in. Not that this is even necessary. Apple devotees are actually paying to be there –with their attention. Today. In a time when people are largely ignoring brands and blocking out branded messages, getting people to walk in (opt-in?) to an environment that’s eighty percent logo is pure genius.
A few blocks away, there’s a Best Buy right next to a Circuit City. I didn’t see young people sitting outside their sidewalk with open laptops, or taking pictures of the Best Buy logo. Apple has cracked the code of branding and billboarding by not simply slapping a logo onto a large (expensive) flat surface, but by building a shrine that pretends to be sign that pretends to be a store.