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
As a former employee of Konica Minolta, I feel particularly well suited to discuss the CSR measures of the company, both in the US and more globally. Konica Minolta (KM) has been concerned and active in CSR measures for far longer than many other companies. In fact, in 2009, they set forth an aggressive plan called EcoVision 2050 that sought to reduce all CO2 emissions to 80% of levels that they had been in 2005. Then in 2017, they added a carbon negative pledge to that, and have since updated their performance to announce they will be carbon negative by 2030, 20 years ahead of schedule. (Message from the Sustainability Officer – Sustainability | KONICA MINOLTA, 2020).
Their commitment could be seen in the products that they produced. Especially in the cornerstone of the “copier” industry, toner. Traditional toner had been produced by high speed pulverizing of carbon, and adding developer components that carried the toner through to the imaging process, until it was eventually transferred to the paper through electrical charge, heat, pressure and oil. Not only is this clearly a carbon/coal based product, but the subsequent power and additive requirements are not characteristically friendly to the environment (The Creation of New Value, 2010).
Their answer was to create a new type of toner from bio-resin waxes, which were completely biodegradable, used low power OLEDs to create the transfer charge (instead of high power lasers), required far less heat to be produced, and drew 75% less energy. I was fortunate to be one of only two US executives that travelled to the Tatsuno, Japan (located near the site of the Nagano winter Olympics) toner factory. While located in the mountains surrounding Mt. Fuji, and not very practical to reach, the water from the crystal clear rivers was needed to produce the toner. The only waste product from that manufacturing process is soapy water that is safe for the environment. Even product materials flowed by gravity through each step until the final product was deposited in large distribution bags on the bottom floor. The entire plant was powered by Natural Gas which was plentiful in the region.
In the US, the Corporate HQ that I was located in made the bold step to reroof all of the parking carport covers with LED panels, which allowed them to produce nearly all needed power for the campus.
However, not all steps were Environment based. Leadership in Japan and the US created a 5 Material Issues plan that focused on social elements, and specifically employee welfare. Steps were taken to provide paths for employees to bring forth charity activities from their personal lives to the company’s attention for their support. It also engaged employees in the official charities on an ongoing basis, such as the 5K Bridge Run for the National Kidney Foundation which had scores of employees either competing to raise money, or directly donating. In every office around the country, you see local charities that are being supported by public and private events. Employees feel as if their priorities around social welfare are important to the company. (Message from the Sustainability Officer – Sustainability | KONICA MINOLTA, 2020).
With all of this said, there are certainly issues that are not in keeping with this CSR message that I have personally borne witness to. These are my views and opinions, and are presented. as such. In the past 3 years, the company suffered internally from image issues related to ageism and misogyny. Several female senior managers and leaders seemed to be pushed out of positions and let go, in favor of what was perceived to be younger, prettier, more “hip” people with hardly a part of the experience. Even though the senior leader they reported to was herself a woman, she was no friend to experienced employees. In fact, I personally frequently hear comments that “that’s just not the way the world thinks anymore, and it’s old fashioned thinking”. Yet, these individuals who had been let go were performing their tasks very well, and didn’t need to be “hip”. The results were significant legal battles. These employees filed lawsuits which are certainly public record, however, most ended in private settlements. Significant financial settlements in favor of the employees each time. Yet, internal workings within many areas of the company never changed.
Further unmasking of this two sided coin, was when much of the workforce was downsized, purportedly for Covid business results, in July of 2020. I woke up on July 1 2020 to an email from HR with 12 letters of dismissal for my employees (a team of 45(. At no time was I asked about performance of the individuals, workload, and the impact to clients if they were forced to leave. Instead, there was no allowance to talk or renegotiate, and the firings had to be done that day. There were 100s let go that day. Understand that the group I ran was an essential part of the ongoing operations of many of our clients, and not something where slack could be picked up by others. We had been trying to double our headcount up until then. This cold, surprise method of essentially letting a computer spit out the candidates for elimination had one added effect. It caused me to actively begin looking to leave the company with which I had been so proud to work for 17 years. I left as soon as the next round of early retirement was announced. I am not alone. Many others followed as the actions of the company seemed inconsistent with the messaging from Tokyo.
So after all I have seen, the company is definitely Green for both profit and the environment. They’ve done those two things well. However, the Global nature of leadership is that while direction from the top may be X, the direction determined to embody that in local or regional companies may look like Y. As such, while profit and environmental issues are green, so is the color reflecting the queasy feeling I get when I think about the recent history of employee treatment.
Message from the Sustainability Officer – Sustainability | KONICA MINOLTA. (2020). Konicaminolta.com. https://www.konicaminolta.com/about/csr/csr/message/officer.html
The Creation of New Value. (2010). https://www.konicaminolta.com/about/csr/csr/download/2010/pdf/2010_en_all.pdf
When looking at the brand rivalry of Microsoft vs Apple, I go back in my personal history to the time I first met Bill Gates at a conference in 1978 called Wescon. It was a chance meeting, and I learned about the basic programming language interpreter that he had written for the Altair computer. A brief discussion that opened my mind. I was just a child of 13 at the time and my father had “snuck” me in to the conference. I had just started learning about computers with one of the first TRS-80 computers from Radio Shack, and I was absorbed by the scene. In this discussion, Gates talked about the computer one day becoming something that not only could run a business, but that could be used at home to control lights, thermostats, and even play games. I remember the car ride home- when I was raving about the possibilities, Dad asked if I was too lazy to get up and change the thermostat or turn off the lights my self – why would I need a computer for that? For him, the computer he had bought me was for word processing and probably some simple games – a step up from Pong.
In that moment I learned that Microsoft would one day focus on the ubiquity of computing, controlling things, processes, etc. Apple on the other hand was different. I had the opportunity in the late 70s and early 80s to work with the Apple II computer. The focus was clearly more on visual actions than programming. More games, fewer business utilities. As I entered the business world in the Graphics Communications industry, specifically digital printing, that difference was never more apparent. Up until very recently, if you spoke with a graphics designer, media person or Agency, and you weren’t on a Mac, you would be scoffed at. Meanwhile, when I had to outfit my national team of production printing analysts with laptops, and I insisted on Macs, the company IT infrastructure pushed back hard, always insisting on PCs. I won that battle but it speaks volumes to the paths that these two giants took in their messaging – Corporate vs Artistic, Right Brain vs Left Brain, Numbers vs Number of colors.
In the famous 1984 Olympic Hammer Throwing ad for Apple, we saw this dystopian, artistic yet cold call to action – breaking free of the rigid business thinking into new and great heights of individuality. Microsoft, however, focused on creating the best possible business productivity software which was not unique, but served as an important evolutionary point in the development of corporate communications and governance.
Now in the last 14 years, since the iPhone was released, we began to see convergence in messaging. Suddenly, business apps could be run on your smartphone, and cloud based software could eliminate the need for big corporate PCs at a desk,
So in this battle, who was he Dog, who was the Underdog. I submit each was both, depending on the industry and use case for each. Brand messaging played squarely to their bases, like political candidates. Apple embraced the artsy, graphics, design communities, Microsoft the corporate IT world. Interestingly though, they both attacked the schools. Both had significant brand presence, having both given away hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment and software to early education, in hopes of snaring brand loyalty at the most impressionable age. This battle continues to this day.
For our purposes, I will focus on Apple as the underdog in the corporate IT space.In order to perform better in this space Apple must convince the IT CIO world that Apple MacOS X is a more secure platform than Windows. In fact, most breaches of security happen due to Microsoft failures. This should be an easy case for Apple to prove out, but they will need to think differently. At the core, Mac OS X operating system is built on Unix, considered the most secure computing operating system ever. Developed by Bell Labs, until recently, it drove most industrial equipment because of its bulletproof nature and secure structure. Apple however, was so focused on creating a new experience on top of Unix, that they never took advantage of their natural benefit. So my 3 suggestions for Apple:
A public Hack-a-Thon event where hackers of all types are invited to hack into a secure Mac based datacenter and a Windows based datacenter. Just the mere bravado will get attention
Actively market to CIOs the concept of convergence from Windows to Mac in the datacenter, while allowing Microsoft operating systems to operate on Mac servers. Replacing the hardware without significant change to infrastructure. It’s only natural that the OS comes next
Micro-influencer targeting – find those who are respected in the industry and work with them to change their mind – not by paid interaction but by genuinely responding to their belief in Microsoft superiority, and then documenting their transition to liking Apple products more. Earned Media is key here.
Why do Microsoft users prefer them as a brand? Simple, this goes back to the old IBM axiom that if you buy Big Blue, you’ll never be fired. In other words, andIBM mainframe (and later PC) purchase was always safe since it was a known quantity. Such is the case with the risk averse IT world. However, when flayed open for the world to see, IT professionals should see that my preference, Apple and the Mac hardware/OS platform, provides a historically longer track record of security and stability, while, yes, being the trendier and prettier of the two as well!
In 2014, Under Armour chose to take a bite out of a market segment that they previously had weak performance with. The women’s athletics marketplace had been a disaster when Adidas attempted to market to it, and they were the number two athletic-weat brand in the world. So why then, would Under Armour go after it just one year later. Simple, Kevin Plank, Under Armour’s founder, thought he could do better….and he did.
When Under Armour launched the multi-channel campaign, he threw more at it than any other marketing effort. He wanted to saturate the market with messages of non-traiditional athletes succeeding in very athletic ways. He was telling a story that a ballerina, or a boxing beauty queen, was as much of a tough, strong athlete, as the football players that made up the core of the Under Armour customer base.
The contraposition of beauty and brawn made the campaign a success. Under Armour grew their women’s clothing revenues to 30% of their total revenues. People got behind the message, and soon expansion into even more products and market segments followed.
Do what can we take away from this story….
Just because someone else tried, doesn’t mean that the market segment you are wanting to attack won’t respond
Shifts in market segments require creating discomfort in the mind of the consumer, forcing them to think about your product in a way they hadn’t yet. Think of it as Cher in Moonstruck slapping you across the face and yelling “Snap Out of It!”
Moving into a new market segment requires shifting mindsets from the inert set to the evoked set. Inert meaning that no one thinks about you in the segment, but they don’t have anything against you. Evoked means that when they think about the segment, they think about you.
It’s not necessary to use influencers, as much as it is to use aspirational examples, to bolster the story that drives the emotion to think of your product. It just so happens that influencers tend to be the best of what they do. They tend to be the aspirational source, but not always. Sometimes we are inspired to do better when a kid in a wheelchair offers a fuzzy blanket in exchange for a donation. So your segment your targeting may or may not need “Influencers”, but perhaps just micro-influencers.
SO what market do I think can be marketed to, as a new segment? Well, according to the CDC over 40% of all Americans are obese… not overweight…obese. So I’m not targeting a diet food, or an exercise program. I would target the personal professional and casual clothing industry. Big people have the need to look good at work or out on the town, but anyone overweight, much less obese, has to battle the looks of disdain and even fear when a skinny rail of a millennial sees you walking towards their department, knowing they have nothing that will fit you. This a huge market potential that currently is served really by only one retailer, DXL. Previously, Rochester Big and Tall also existed and targeted high end clientele. However, they suffered from poor word of mouth and no social media environment to whom to market, and they were ultimately purchased by DXL. A company that could develop a multi-channel, inspirational campaign that lifted (no pun intended), the obese man and woman up, with products that were of very good quality materials, built well with wearability in mind, and priced like similar products in the 99% of other stores, would certainly corner the market. And yes, I would be one of those customers!
If I were to categorize the type of consumer I am it would be this: an Individual consumer who is influenced by cognitive responses to the marketing I encounter. When searching for my last farm truck, for example, my attributing reliable and powerful engines to the FORD brand and the PowerStroke Diesel engine led me to spend twice as much on the truck as I had originally wanted. I felt that taking all things into comparison, that one element would be the most compelling.
My purchase decisions are made following my researching the possible solutions to a need which I have identified. I rarely buy on impulse, and for the most part ignore the very compelling marketing efforts at the checkout aisle! Rather, when I look at the fundamental messaging that influences me, I respond to imagery which is aspirational to my specific vision and goals for life. I seek products that are positioned as reliable and peer-reviewed, but I don’t want to be one of many. I want to buy the fringes. That is to say, those products that are the best (supported by professionals who use them, but that are less known by the general public. As an example, I hosted a radio show as the Executive Chef of the only live cooking radio show in the world. Every week I cooked on air with chefs from around the world. From those engagements, I would learn about the best knife or the best pan. It was then that I discovered carbon steel pans. These are not your standard Calphalon or All-Clad. These are purpose built pans that conduct heat quickly and form the basis of the pans used in most high end restaurants. The specific brand that I chose was based on their marketing positioning their version of the pans as the highest rated amongst Michelin chefs.
Marketing Design may be easy to quantify as to what I respond to – that is to say a focus on that product being for those in-the-know and what the smartest and most knowledgable really buy. The story telling needs to be good, and needs to capture my imagination, while appealing to my cognitive reaction.
Marketing Research influences me in a far different way. If I PARTICIPATE in the market research, I am far more likely to be interested in a final product which comes to market (this goes back to wanting to be in-the-know amongst a small group). However, general market research is only relevant to me when it helps paint that picture that supports my buying habit. Knowing that the top Michelin chefs preferred that brand, for example, paints that story I need to make a purchase decision. But a 5-star google rating from any Tom, Dick or Harry that buys a product has no sway with me. The research needs to look for causal, correlated points that infer the experience level of the user and the exclusivity of the product. Qualitative over quantitative points are most helpful in these cases.
From a post-purchase behavior I frequently compare what I wanted with what I actually got. A gap between the two of significance would be enough for me to turn my back on that brand, and even possibly on a product category. The post-purchase behavior is crucial in product lifecycle planning as it helps determine if consumers will re-purchase or move on to a different product. It’s always less expensive to nurture and keep your current customers than it is to find new ones, and conduct the relevant research, etc.