Before Steve Jobs got his hands on Apple for the second time in 1997, things were far simpler. Serious business customers were different from their playful consumer counterparts.
Men bought technology products; women were fashion buyers. Kids had disposable income to waste, and mature folks cautiously invested their pennies. Branding promises were made in beautiful advertising, price was what mattered at retail, and customer usage and satisfaction were afterthoughts.
Most analyses of Apple’s branding success highlight specific qualities: The ads were great; product design trumped the competition; the packaging was exquisite; Jobs was a magician.
An entrepreneur just like you
No, he was an entrepreneur, just like you. And, by inventing a new reality, he ruined branding as we knew it.
He didn’t follow the approved checklist, and he never did what he was supposed to do. He knew that someone else’s success wouldn’t be his own, not because of his ego, but because it’s a fact that imitating others has never resulted in great successes.
Jobs left it to Apple’s competitors to produce lame, unsold computers with colourful lids, knockoff ads that inadvertently made Apple look better, and a world of smartphones and tablets that look like iPhones and iPads.
In doing so, Apple focused on doing one thing right: It was a business with a vision, a sometimes monomaniacal approach to operations, and a product and service offering consistent with its purpose.
A great brand built on a great business
Jobs’ insight was that you can never connect emotionally or meaningfully with customers with marketing. No segmenting, strategy, technology or psychological insight will deliver a great brand. You must deliver a great business. The brand will be the words and emotions people use to narrate it.
You can’t copy how Apple executed on this promise but you can copy the basic strategy. Do things better or, uniquely. Care about the details of your business more than your competitors do. Discover novel ways to communicate with customers. Improve what could get better, and replace what can’t with something else. Then repeat.
Tips for emulating Apple’s success
- Rule number one, don’t copy. It’s a fact that imitating others has never resulted in great successes.
- Create a business with vision, build strong operations, and a product or service that is consistent with its purpose.
- You must have a great business. Your brand is built around the words and emotions people use when talking about it.
- Care about the details of your business more than your competitors do.