In 1997 one of the largest brands in history was about to go under. Apple’s market share had been overtaken by both Microsoft and IBM, plummeting from a peak of 14% in 1988 to below 3% in 1997. Many predicted that this was the end of Apple.
Following the departure of Steve Jobs in 1985 — forced out of the company by the board of directors at the time — Apple decided to bring him back in 1997 while facing possible bankruptcy. What Jobs immediately set out to do was figure out the problem that was in front of them.
Apple had great products, in many ways superior to its competitors. It wasn’t the product that needed to be revisited — it was the story being told to consumers.
Prior to Jobs’ re-entry to the company, the marketing for Apple had slipped. From a brand that launched itself with a groundbreaking aspirational campaign in 1984, by the 90s, Apple was advertising its computers via specification. Trying to capture the hearts and minds of everyday consumers through hardware facts and technical features is like trying to win over the left with conservative values. This completely missed the brand’s ethos, which was the reason for Apple’s early success.
‘Apple has a branding strategy that focuses on emotions. The Apple brand personality is about lifestyle; imagination; liberty regained; innovation; passion; hopes, dreams, aspirations; and power to the people through technology. The Apple brand personality is also about simplicity and removing complexity from people’s lives; people-driven product design; and being a humanistic company with a heartfelt connection with its customers.’ — The Brand Personality of Apple Inc. Essay
A marathon, not a sprint
The first thing Jobs did was return to those original Brand Values to create a new marketing campaign. Coming back to these core values is what saved Apple.
So on August 8th, 1997, Apple released a campaign called Think Different — dreamed up by Jobs in collaboration with the world-famous agency TBWA. The campaign celebrated some of history’s greatest thinkers — Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, and Amelia Earhart, to name a few — all locked up tidily with the Apple logo and the words, Think Different.
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward.
— Apple, Think Different Campaign, 1997
With these words, Apple was now associated with the power of great minds, who challenged the status quo, as symbols of revolutionary thinking. This marketing campaign brought the original essence of the brand to life, in the same way that 1984 did. It was simple: with your purchase of an Apple product, you were in the same category as Einstein.
And people bought it like hotcakes.
This would not only change the course of history for Apple but would go on to change the world as we knew it.
Enter the power of brand and marketing
A year after the fateful Think Different campaign was launched, Apple’s stock price had tripled.
Today it’s estimated that the average household owns 2.6 Apple products. If you look around yourself now, you’ll likely see one — unless you have a diehard aversion to the brand. Apple is in everyone’s hands, ears, and minds. And even if you don’t like the brand, you can’t escape it.
Think Different was a testament that some of the most groundbreaking ideas throughout history are born out of hardship.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
— The Republic Socratic Dialogue, Plato, 375 BCE.
What does this mean today?
In our current climate, the world has just gone through one of the most significant crises of this century. Many brands are now facing a lot of uncertainty.
The truth is, even if you lost everything, what you would still have is your brand.
Other players can easily copy your product, but your brand will always be unique to you.
What is a brand?
The word brand has roots in an Old Norse word, “brandr” meaning ‘to burn’ (directly onto the bosoms of cattle back then). The application of the term brand has gone through a remarkable journey over the years.
During the 18th and 19th centuries — with the rise of the Industrial Revolution — mass production meant that brands had to work harder than ever before. More products = more choices. And consumers wanted to understand why they should make these choices.
In the 1870s, registered trademarks were introduced to the brand landscape. Brand was now your intellectual property. Trademarking meant that brands were protected from imitation, and companies could claim ownership over a name and brand essence, protecting their IP in the market.
Only a few decades ago, people were pretty happy with branding referring to a stringent set of logo rules in a Brand Guidelines document and a single Pantone colour they could slap onto everything they released. This was known as ‘brand’ to the general public. But with the proliferation of the internet, the rise of social media, and the changes in our collective social attitudes, brand has moved out of the box and into something much harder to define today.
Brand moves around so much; we might liken it to something living, more like a person. We, as consumers, relate to brands the same way we relate to people.
“I love this brand.”
“I like what these guys are doing.”
“I really like their values.”
“Oh no, I wouldn’t go with that brand.”
David Ogilvy described brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attribute”. And the keyword here is intangible. Brand exists only in the minds of your consumers.
But what brand can achieve is tangible:
Brand has a significant influence on purchasing decisions. Your brand can become a deciding factor for customers when they make a decision to buy.
Brand creates an identity for your business. Brand will give you a personality beyond your product or service, something customers can relate to and connect with.
Brand makes you memorable. It is essential your brand is easy to remember, and that your company has a face that distinguishes you across every medium.
Brand supports advertising and marketing. Branding should underpin all marketing and advertising initiatives; distinctive design adds recognition and impact, and the brand’s ethos helps you define what messages you want to communicate.
Brand builds an extended family from employees, to networks and shareholders. Everyone within your enterprise is connected through brand. With an employer brand, you have the ability to create a reputation to attract the right people for your teams.
Building blocks for success
Values, Mission, Vision, Purpose, Tone of Voice, Personas, and Visual Identity are all building blocks for what your brand stands for and, ultimately, what your audiences stand for. These aspects of your brand should be reflected in everything you do and say.
People choose brands because they connect to them, and in some ways, because they represent their values.
So if this is brand, then where does marketing come into play?
Put it this way, if brand was a book, then marketing would be its publisher.
What is marketing?
Marketing is ultimately a brand’s voice. It takes all the aspects of a brand and figures out the best way to present this to the world.
The word ‘marketing’ first appeared in the sixteenth century and derived from buying and selling in an actual marketplace. Competition grew amongst various stall owners wanting to sell similar products. ‘Does it do what it says on the tin?’ wasn’t enough to result in a sale of your product identical to the one two stalls down. To survive, brands needed to communicate why their product was more desirable than others. So the focus of marketing was, in effect, creative and persuasive storytelling about brands.
Marketing as we know it today began in the 1950s when companies used print, radio, and TV to advertise their brands. And like brand, marketing has gone on a journey as more and more outlets for messaging have appeared over the last seventy years.
The primary purpose of marketing is to attract consumers to your brand. Ethically, that message should be helpful and educational, providing information to customers to enable them to choose a product or service that will improve their lives.
The brand and marketing relationship
The relationship between brand and marketing is twofold. Without brand, marketing wouldn’t exist. Without marketing, the longevity of the brand would be in question. And you need to get the brand right in order to tell the right story.
This is why values are so crucial = brand.
And why what you say is so essential = marketing.
Your most valuable asset
Strong brands are safeguards against uncertainty — perhaps the most resilient asset in these times.
In the case of Apple, without those original brand values, the iPhone may never have seen the light of day, and we’d be living in a pretty different world right now.
So if you’re wondering why you would invest in your brand in the current climate, perhaps you should instead be asking yourself this:
Would you rather own all of Apple’s manufacturing facilities, supply chains, and latest technological developments? Or — would you rather hold the license to sell under the brand?