Think social – further thoughts on the Apple brand

In the first of these think pieces on the effectiveness of the Apple brand, I tried to paint a bigger picture of a technology-driven brand that is authentic because it delivers on what it promises, and its products can be seen as highly effective tools for business and for managing your life.

It’s interesting to look at the sensory elements of the Apple brand as, certainly from the second coming of Steve Jobs in the late 90’s, Apple’s focus was more to Think Personal as well to Think Different.

The feeling that infused the brand from this period was the primary importance of not just the brand and technology experience, but in making that experience as personal as possible.

This can be seen in the ability to customize and personalize desktops in the Apple OS and the ability to choose the colour of the new iMacs, although my own first home machine was the ubiquitous bondi blue iMac. But this personalization of technology, nothing new itself when you think of the Sony Walkman, really started to work with the launch of the iPod – a personal music player you could personalize in almost every aspect.

This is the time of course when Apple became not just a major force in the music and entertainment industry, but one of the key players in the personal consumer market, often leading the way in a cluttered market with cutting edge products and services.

The real brand movement which we are experiencing today as the new iPhone 5 is launched, is that this personal element of the brand could pave the way for Apple to produce technology that would help create the social media landscape and add a social dimension to what is really quite an impersonal, new-age corporate brand.

I remember fighting for a long time fighting against buying an iPhone, as I used Apple computers all day at work, at that time only had a ten minute commute in Central London which is almost unheard of for most Londoners, and also had a 17-inch work PowerBook and my own Apple PowerBook at home. What could I possibly do with iPhone?

Yet here we see that social element of the Apple brand resurfacing again as it soon became clear that the iPhone was not just another Apple product, but one that represented much more, to the user and to the Apple brand.

It was through the iPhone and later the iPad that Apple was to help drive what we can call a Think Social brand and technology experience.

The Apple iPhone offered connectivity, but not just the connectivity that a phone, or even a Blackberry gives you, but the multi-touch connectivity of having access to almost all your technology and information, all the time and virtually anywhere. It lets you stay in touch and also touch others via technology in a way that had never been seen before.

You could say that Apple products, and by extension the Apple brand, helped create the social media age by providing the essential mobile devices which became the platform and the means for its emergence.

Without an iPhone and iTunes there would have been no podcasts and the big social media players like Twitter and Facebook would have had much less penetration as much of their new users are driven to their platforms through using smart phone technology. Mobile internet has created the personal stream of social media that need no longer be interrupted.

And here we have another part of the Think Social aspect of the Apple brand. Back in the late 80’s the expense of Apple computers was part of the brand experience. They weren’t really a personal computer, they were the only available computer for creatives and design professionals and as such users were an affluent, if sometimes counterculture, elite.

It’s interesting to note that Apple products are cheaper now than they have ever been in my lifetime and it’s the affordability of products such as the iPhone and the iPad that have helped make Apple a more successful, more profitable, and on certain levels, more social brand.

In spite of this Apple remains a distant, almost silent monolith that, especially in the post-Jobs era, has no unique defining voice. It is, more than most perhaps, a brand that speaks though its products and its technology, which could perhaps account for its seemingly unstoppable worldwide reach.

So Apple is a global brand that’s not itself particularly social yet provides the technology and the tools to allow a large part of the human race to be more social and connect meaningfully with others. That’s quite an achievement for a brand born in a garage, don’t you think?


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