Steve Jobs: Brand Innovator
Around 8 pm Wednesday night the world lost an absolute genius. Steve Jobs passed away and left the world that he changed reflecting on his life. As we all took a minute to consider the products and innovations Steve Jobs brought to our lives, its hard to imagine that one man could have such an impact on society, and its hard to imagine what the world would be like today had he not been around.
Although entire anthologies could be written on the Steve’s technological innovations, his revolutionary business model, his $1 per year salary, and the way in which he lived his life. I’ll try to briefly describe one of the more underappreciated areas of Steve’s genius, his incredibly consistent, unwavering branding.
Starting with the iconic “1984” commercial spot, a TV ad still widely regarded as one of the greatest TV ads of all time, Apple set the gold standard in branding that no other business has come close to touching.
In many ways, Apple’s brand messaging reflected Steve Jobs’ personal beliefs. They were and still are a company built to satisfy the minority. A company that always strives to see things differently, and produce products unlike anything else.
In the past 30 years, Apple has always seemed to find ways to stay ahead of the game in their branding and advertising. Apple was one of the first companies to pursue product placement in movies in a big way. Starting around the mid 90s, Apple’s presence in major movies is undeniable. Sarah Jessica Parker’s character in “Sex and the City” famously was an Apple brand advocate, never far from an Apple notebook or iPhone, and who can forget the iconic scene from “Legally Blonde” when Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle Woods’ brightly colored orange Mac Book stood in stark contrast to the sea of black PCs in her Harvard classroom.
Apple products always stand out. Apple was the first to realize the marketing potential of flipping their iconic apple over on laptops so that brand recognition would be no problem for everyone else in the room. Apple’s decision to accompany their iPods with easily identifiable white ear buds meant that concealed or not, everyone knew that the trendy person on the bus was using an Apple product.
In their ads, Apple has always been untouchable. The gold standard of the industry. Their brightly colored iPod ads bent the lines between advertising and art. Their incorporation of music driven ads has become the standard for technological products. Whether printed in magazines or aired on TV screens, Apple ads have always been different, have always been outstanding, and have always delivered that same message Steve instilled in the company with that first 1984.
Steve Jobs will be remembered forever as an innovator and a man who changed the world, but for all his technological advancements, his attention to detail in the branding of his products was nothing short of genius. His understanding of the necessity of connecting with his audience, allowing them to belong, and consistently delivering the promise is what branding is all about. Nobody does it better than Apple and nobody truly “got it” more than Steve Jobs.
He will be missed.