As Apple prepare to launch the new iPhone 5, it seems a good time to try to re-evaluate the Apple brand and look at some of the elements that make the brand so powerful and, whatever you views on the company and its products, ultimately very successful. And as we ask the question ‘just what is it that makes Apple, so different, so appealing’ it would be interesting to hear your views of one of the world’s most intriguing brands, for most people seems to have an opinion on Apple products and their brand and marketing approach.
Open you mind.
Imagine the computer marketplace in the days before Apple. Maybe imagine if Apple made cars, or designed buildings. Try to get an idea in your mind of how they might work and how they might look.
We know that Steve Jobs, (sadly it will soon be a year since he died), was influenced by the industrial designs of Braun’s Dieter Rams, for example, but a crucial part of the Apple brand is the quality and function of the products themselves. This is a key element of the brand and brand positioning.
The Apple brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum and has evolved over the years as the products themselves have developed.
Apple may now be ‘the biggest business the world has ever seen’ valued at some $628bn (£393bn), you can get more background here, but the early mythology of the company with drop out Zen-influenced Jobs and super nerd Wozniak working out of a garage, is as essential to the brand as even today as the world’s biggest business it still positions them as the underdogs, the challengers, an underground movement that has nevertheless grown to be the biggest and the best.
Apple in the early days really did try to ‘Think different’ as they were the start of a new breed of business, a new type of tech entrepreneurs, and especially with the attention to detail in terms of product design and software nuances, were genuinely trying to build something different, something that hadn’t existed before even if they were ‘inspired’ by other products and operating systems. They were always aiming high of course.
In the early days the Apple brand was more of a social movement, the 2003 book Brands and Desires describes Apple as a religion, ‘the global cult brand of the creative set.’ The famous 1984 commercial even explicitly positioned Apple as the Orwellian underdog up against Big Brother corporations like IBM.
It was when Jobs returned to the company in the late 90’s, bringing a lot of new software and technical skills he had developed at Next, that Apple really started to Think Big and to become a worldwide player in not just personal computing but in the evolution and development of many channels of consumer technology.
Apple got bigger, but that attention to detail and that essential technology and design quality always remained. Pick up any iPad, pick up an iPhone of any vintage, or start using a MacBook Pro for any creative or production task, and you can feel that power.
That’s the technology in your hands, it’s a curved, rational, yet tangible essence but that’s also the brand you can feel through your fingertips. The company may continue to make huge profits, but the Apple brand promises quality in its products and rarely fails to deliver on its promise through every detail and through most user experiences.
This makes Apple a technology-driven, authentic brand. It’s a brand that helps you work, create, manage, understand and live you live just that little bit better. The Apple brand has, even today, more in common with Picasso than with IBM. A brand that delivers what it promises will always be successful and will always continue to evolve and become more than just another Silicon valley technology company.