Apple, Inc. was originally founded as Apple Computer, Inc. In 1976, the year of its founding, the logo on the left in the image above was originally designed by the third, lesser known founder of Apple, Ronald Wayne (Apple Explained, 2021). However, it is the change from the rainbow apple logo that Steve Jobs quickly selected over the Newtonian Apple landscape logo, to the monochromatic Apple Silhouette in 1997 that indicates the major brand shift upon which the company became beloved.
On August 27, 1999, Apple replaced the rainbow logo with the monochromatic logo. “Like our products and our customers, the Apple brand continues to evolve,” read their marketing positioning statements at the time. (Dormehl, 2021) This marked the return of Steve Jobs to Apple and the kick off to their new branding, summed up in the “Think Different” tag which began to permeate their marketing materials.
“THINK DIFFERENT’ represented a new direction in Apple products. Simplicity and sleek design became the hallmarks of the Apple product offering. In 1998, right after the logo change, Steve Jobs discussed this with BusinessWeek saying, “That’s been one of my mantras—focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” (Farfan, 2016)
The brand vision supports their overall company mission statement: “Man is the true creator of change in this world. As such, he should be above systems and structures, and not subordinate to them.” (Farfan, 2016) This brand vision has persisted and been built on since 1998. The Think Different tagline speaks to man being the entity to be served by technology, not the other way around. Up until that point, computers drove how people interacted with them: usually a desktop computer with a corded keyboard and mouse. This method of interaction made humanity subservient to the method of interface with the technology – at a desk, on a chair. Changing this on it’s head, where humanity becomes elevated by using technology, drove the amazing success that Apple has seen after 1998. Interestingly, at that time, Apple also dropped the Computer from Apple Computer Inc and just became Apple Inc – a foreshadowing that they would be more than just a computer company.
This brand transition resonated with consumers at it made us feel part of something stylish, yet revolutionary. Thinking Different bucked the Big-Blue IBM style office culture in favor of a Gen X friendly streak of independence. Employees at Apple sensed this new paradigm as it drove the success, and very public failures, of many within Apple. External stakeholders benefited as customers, but investors needed performance. As this is not a blog about finances, I will pass on a lengthy discussion about what failed and what worked. In some cases, the company’s investors were its worst enemy. However, everyone acknowledged that Think Different summed up the challenge Steve Jobs was driven to conquer.
So what do we take away from Apple’s successful branding shift and naming?
- Understand what your brand ASPIRES to. It’s not that the logo or company name needs to directly address it, but it should evoke emotion that supports the company aspiration. The simplicity of an Apple falling from a tree inspired Newton to theorize about gravity (well that’s at least the simple fable about it). It is the simplicity of that Apple, and an understanding of how it acted in nature that drove Apple to it’s $3Trillion USB valuation it enjoys today. SImple form, revolutionary impact. Not everyone will be branding the next Apple, but the ASPIRATION must drive the name, vision and mission of the company. It should drive day to day internal interactions with employees and other internal stakeholders. It must permeate the actions that everyone takes every day. Make the brand ASPIRATIONAL and share broadly what that Aspiration means through the name.
Apple Explained. (2021). History of the Apple Logo [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LWWH5LiMJc
Dormehl, L. (2021, August 27). Today in Apple history: Rainbow Apple logo gets a modern overhaul. Cult of Mac. https://www.cultofmac.com/498704/rainbow-apple-logo
Farfan, B. (2016). What Is Apple’s Mission Statement? LiveAbout. https://www.liveabout.com/apple-mission-statement-4068547