Why Apple Lost Its Shine

 

At Macworld in 2007, Steve Jobs announced to his fans that, with the introduction of Apple TV and the iPhone, Apple Computer officially had become Apple.

Diversifying the product portfolio was the public rationale for shortening the company name.

Reality: Jobs had branded the company so powerfully, starting with his “Think Different” campaign 10 years theretofore, that the solitary Apple moniker sufficed.

Moreover, Apple shined so brightly that its unique logo could appear nakedly, without the company name, and everybody recognized and respected it. Apple meant chic and cache.
 
Think Product

No longer. The shine is gone. The magic and mystique of Steve Jobs have dissipated.

What is Apple now? A product mill. A bushel of apples. The new campaign is Think Product.

Yesterday, CEO Tim Cook appeared with Jim Cramer, host of Mad Money on CNBC, to explain Apple’s revenue and stock slump. He made an arrogantly disturbing remark, portending an avoidable branding suicide: “We’re going to give you things that you can’t live without, that you just don’t know you need today.”

First, customers don’t need, and do not buy, “things” (remember that, Internet-of-things zombies). Second, Cook launched the Apple Watch, about a year ago; a lot of people are living without it. Third, people know their needs; they don’t know all the possible solutions.

I’ll bet Mr. Cook hasn’t called AppleCare or visited a Genius Bar recently. Rarely does either venue provide a pleasant experience. Customer experience is a major component of brand.

When Mr. Cook told Mr. Cramer, “we’re going to give you things that you can’t live without,” my immediate reaction was: Who is you? The purveyor of a product mill often can’t define the target customer, because it has none: it hubristically believes it can satisfy everyone, with every product, at all times, despite strong competitors.
 

 
Rumors are that Apple will produce an electric car. Why? Because it’s technically possible? Recall when IBM tried to sell telephones and AT&T tried to sell computers. Disasters.

Such quixotic behavior is a sure sign that a company’s brand — its bond with customers — has faded, and, in knee-jerk fashion, its focus has turned to products and technology.

Newsflash: If well-defined customers and their needs aren’t the focus of your business, you cannot sustain success.

Mr. Cook would do well to remember why the “Think Different” campaign succeeded. Hint: it was about customers, not about products.
 
Parting Advice to CEOs

Your brand is about your customers, not your company or products.

The fastest way to dull your brand is to make branding your last priority — or none at all.
 
POSTSCRIPT #!: Apple’s Annual Profits Fall for First Time in 15 Years as iPhone Sales Decline (10.25.16)

 

About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.

 

© 2016 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.

 

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