How Apple’s Vision Fueled Growth – Branding Lessons

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About 8 weeks later since the first meeting that led to the Think Different campaign idea, shortly before the public airing of the campaign, Jobs presented the campaign internally. and presented the new marketing strategy to his employees saying “To me marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world. It’s a very noisy world and we’re not gonna get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is and so we have to be really clear on what we want them to know about us. Now Apple fortunately is one of the half a dozen best brands in the whole world. Right up there with Nike, Disney, Coke, Sony. It is one of the greats of the greats. Not just in this country but all around the globle. But even a great brand needs investments and caring if its gonna retain its relevance and vitality. And the apple brand has clearly suffered from neglect in this area in the last few years. And we need to bring it back. The way to do that is not to talk about the speeds and fees, it’s not to talk about MIPS and megahertz, it’s not to talk about why we’re better than Windows. The dairy industry tried for twenty years to convince you that milk was good for you. It’s a lie but they tried anyway. And the sales were going like this. And then they tried Got Milk and the sales are going like this. Got Milk doesn’t even talk about the product – as a matter of fact it focuses on the absence of the product. But the best example of all and one of the greatest jobs of marketing that the universe has ever seen is Nike. Remember, Nike sells the commodity. They sell shoes. And yet when you think of Nike you feel something different than a shoe company. In their ads, as you know, they don’t ever talk about the product, they don’t ever tell you about their air soles and why they’re better than Reebok’s air soles  What is Nike doing in their advertising? They honor great athletes and they honor great athletics. That’s who they are, that’s what they are about. Apple spends a fortune on advertising. You’d never know it. You’d never know it. So when I got here, Apple just fired their agency we’re doing a competition with twenty-three agencies that you know four years from now we would pick one and we blew that up and we hired Chiat-Day – the ad agency that I was fortunate enough to work with years ago. We created some award-winning work including the commercial voted the best ad ever made – “1984,” by advertising professionals. And we started working about eight weeks ago and the question we asked was: Our customers want to know who is Apple and what is it that we stand for? Where do we fit in this world? And what we are about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done, although we do that well. We do that better than almost anybody in some cases. But Apple’s about something more than that. Apple at the core – its core value is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better. That’s what we believe. And we had the opportunity to work with people like that. We have the opportunity to work with people like you, with software developers, with customers who have done it in some big and some small ways. And we believe that in this world people can change it for the better. And that those people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that actually do. And so what we’re going to do in our first brand marketing campaign in several years is to get back to that core value. A lot of things have changed. The market is a totally different place than it was a decade ago and Apple is totally different. Apple’s place in it is totally different. And believe me, the products and the distribution strategy and the manufacturing are totally different and we understand that. But values and core values, those things shouldn’t change. The things that Apple believed in at its core are the same things that Apple really stands for today. And so we wanted to find a way to communicate this and what we have is something that I am very moved by it – it honors those people who have changed the world. Some of them are living and some of them are not, but the ones that aren’t, as you’ll see, we know that if they’d ever used a computer it would have been a Mac. And the theme of the campaign is “Think Different”. It’s the people honoring the people who think different and who moves this world forward. And it is what we are about. It touches the soul of this company. So I’m going ahead and roll it and I hope that you feel the same way about it that I do.”

And the campaign began, a campaign that still resonates decades later and that arguably put Apple back on the map and laid the seeds for its future fortune.

Think Different became TV, posters, advertising. In various incarnations it featured the likes of Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Richard Branson, Muhammed Ali, Ted Turner, Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso and Kermit the Frog (with Jim Henson). After the outdoor campaign went up and the spot aired, it wasn’t long before Apple became the talk of the town. Some of the talk wasn’t good. A writer for the Los Angeles Times ripped on the campaign, saying something along the lines of, “It’s perfect that Apple is doing a campaign with a bunch of dead guys because the brand will be dead soon, too.” But the great thing was—good or bad—people were talking about a brand that had fallen off their radar. And they were talking a lot. Apple clearly had a pulse, and while they weren’t strong as a lion, they certainly gave the impression they were. This got the Apple faithful fired up, it got the fence-sitters back on board, and it got an audience that once thought of Apple as semi-cool, but semi-stupid to suddenly think about the brand in a whole new way. Apple was off to the races and about to make history.

While Steve Jobs didn’t create the advertising concepts, he does deserve an incredible amount of credit. He was fully responsible for ultimately pulling the trigger on the right ad campaign from the right agency, and he used his significant influence to secure talent and rally people like no one I’ve ever seen before. Without Steve Jobs there’s not a shot in hell that a campaign as monstrously big as this one would get even close to flying off the ground. When the “Think Different” campaign launched, Apple immediately felt the boost despite having no significant new products.  Within 12 months, Apple’s stock price tripled.

A year after the “Think Different” launch, Apple introduced their multi-colored iMacs. The computers represented revolutionary design, and they became some of the best-selling computers in history. But without the “Think Different” campaign preceding and supporting them, it’s likely the jellybean-colored and gumdrop-shaped machines would have been viewed by the press and general public as just more “toys” from Apple. The “Think Different” campaign would win many awards, and the “Crazy Ones” would go on to win several commercial-of-the-year honors.

A mere 14 years later Apple became the most valuable company on earth. Segall described Apple’s transformation from almost bankrupt to the most valuable company on earth as: “A feat unprecedented that we’ll likely never see it again in our lifetimes.”

A marketing Lesson from Jobs and the “Think Different” campaign

Be really clear on what you want people to think about you.

Ken says that the campaign worked because it was authentic: “The great thing about a really powerful idea in advertising is authenticity. I’ve worked for companies that wanted to do a brand campaign and the first thing they try to do is decide what they want to be and then they create a campaign that would fulfil that vision. But we didn’t have to do that with Apple. Steve didn’t want something that felt like advertising, he wanted something that was authentic. And the words Think Different could have been hanging in the garage when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the very first computer in the late 70s and it would still work today if you featured those words under an iPad. They don’t use it anymore, but the spirit of Think Different certainly was one that captured the essence of Apple.”

Apple’s transformation is attributed to this thing called simplicity, and it isn’t just in Apple’s products, it’s the result of a company that believes in simplicity up and down the line. Steve had a thing about simplicity from the way the company was organised, to the way it advertised, to the way it offered support, the way it sold in the retail stores. You could see it was in his head when he looked at any issue that was on the table, he would be analysing it for ‘is this clear enough, is this quick enough?’ It was that thing that set Apple apart. The reason simplicity works is that the world is a complicated place and if you do something simpler then it stands out. In Apple’s case when they make a product it’s usually noticeably different and simpler than the other guys. With its products Apple likes to place its features up top – the ones you use the most often are the most accessible. When the people who were in the iPhone product team at Apple introduced the idea to the agency, they pulled out their BlackBerrys and said: ‘This is what we’re all using, what most of the world uses, there are a lot of great features in here. But you have to drill down: inside a menu, inside a menu, inside a menu’. What they thought was so cool about the iPhone was that it not only had those features and then some, but everything was just so damned obvious.

People talk about doing things ‘faster better cheaper’ but eventually are only allowed to do two of the three. Simplicity is the way to do all three: you have fewer people working on something, you have better ideas in the end, and you do it quicker without all the extra expense. In the case of Dell and Intel, one would not believe how much money was spent in focus groups and testing of things that never saw the light of day. At Apple it was just people sitting around tables saying that ones better than that one, let’s go!

THE ROAD TO AUTHENTICITY

THE VISION STATEMENT

There is normally a lengthy list of things you need to consider when starting a business, and if you don’t manage them properly, your excitement can quickly turn into overwhelm. What can support you to stay inspired and on the right track when starting out? You guessed it: this is your vision statement. A vision statement provides the direction and describes what the founder wants the organization to achieve in the future; it’s more about the “what” of a business. It is different from a mission statement, which describes the purpose of an organization and more about the “how” of a business. A vision statement for a company or organization focuses on the potential inherent in the company’s future, or what they intend to be.

  • If you were to take a photo of your future business now, what would it look like? What do you want your business to be recognized for one day?
  • If you don’t aim for anything, you might not hit anything. The more specific and clear you are, the better your chances are at seeing your vision turn into reality.
  • The importance of a vision statement cannot be overlooked; not only does it provide long term direction and guidance, but it also gives you the inspiration and the necessary energy to keep going when you feel lost.
  • To craft an inspiring vision statement, dream big and use clear language.
  • An inspiring vision statement should inform a clear direction and priorities for the organization, while challenging all the team members to grow together.
  • Imagine how you want the business to be like in five to ten years.
  • Infuse the business’ values in the statement.
  • Make sure that the statement is implying a clear focus for the business.
  • Write your vision statement in the present tense.
  • Use clear and concise language.
  • Ensure the statement is easily understood.

There are many different types of vision statements and there is no wrong or right way to do it. The most important thing is to resonate with it. It will always inspire you and give you a clear targeted direction.

THE MISSION STATEMENT

While a vision statement might contain references to how the company intends to make that future into a reality, the “how” is really part of a mission statement, while the vision statement is a description of the “what,” meaning, what the company apsires to be. An organization’s mission statement should clearly communicate what it is that they do. Many mission statements succumb to an overuse of words in general, but especially jargon.  Good mission statements should be clear, concise, and useful. Some might also add “inspiring” to the list of descriptors, but including this as an upfront criteria often ends up with a Frankenstein that is a part mission, part vision statement (desired end-state), and almost always too long.

A mission statement describes what business the organization is in (and what it isn’t) both now and projecting into the future. Its aim is to provide focus for management and staff. A consulting firm might define its mission by the type of work it does, the clients it caters to, and the level of service it provides. For example: “We’re in the business of providing high-standard assistance on performance assessment to middle to senior managers in medium-to-large firms in the finance industry.”

A mission statement often informs the vision statement, which describes where the company aspires to be in the future. These two statements are often combined to clearly define the organization’s reason for existing and outlook for internal and external audiences like employees, partners, board members, consumers, and shareholders.

A mission statement is intended to clarify the ‘what’ and ‘who’ of a company, while a vision statement adds the ‘why’ and ‘how’ as well. A mission statement should inspire your team to work towards a common goal. It’s your link between your lofty ideas and the people who will do the work to make them happen. One has to stop looking at them as mission statements and start looking at them for what they really are: rallying cries.

CORE VALUES

This is where most organizations stop. Vision and Mission. Statements of where we are headed, and what we will do to get there. It is the rare organization that takes the time to then define HOW they will do that work – the talk they want to walk.

Values describe the desired culture. They serve as a behavioral compass. A values statement describes what the organization believes in and how it will behave. Not all organizations create or are able to uphold a values statement. In a values-led company, the values create a moral compass for the company and its employees. This compass guides decision-making and establishes a standard that actions can be assessed against. A values statement defines the deeply held beliefs and principles of the organizational culture. These core values are an internalized framework that is shared and acted on by leadership.

The Values Statement will look outside the organization, to the visionary outcomes you want to create for your community. What values will need to be present in the community for your vision to come to pass? What values would the community need to emphasize? What values would have to be the norm? From there, your Values Statement will look inside, to see how your own work will model those values, to teach those values by example. How will your work reflect those values?

How will you ensure you are modeling those values to the community? When you have a tough decision to make, will you always err on the side of those values?

The rare few who do indeed have a code of values – a Values Statement – may point to the sign on the wall in the lobby, to prove they have such a thing. But in practice, they have no mechanisms for ensuring their stated values are used in their work. They have no way of translating the sign on the wall into the decisions they make and the actions they take every day.

Management cannot create a new values statement and expect the values to simply become core values for the organization. For an organization to have an effective values statement, it must fully embrace its values and use them to guide its attitudes, actions and decision-making on a daily basis. Developing a values-led organization can be a difficult and slow process that should be attempted only by organizations that are willing and prepared to make a long-term commitment to the established company values.

Boards face values-based dilemmas at the board table all the time – they just don’t recognize them as such. Any time the board is faced with the question of “What is important here?” that is a values-based decision. Any discussion that focuses on the question, “What’s more important – this, or that?” is a discussion of values. And without prior discussion of what values will guide decisions, each of these discussions has no context for the decision. Absent a values-based context for decision-making, groups are more likely to default to fear-based decision-making when things get tough. And those fear-based decisions are more likely to cross the very lines we would have agreed we would not cross, had we talked about those values in the first place. The only defense against making fear-based decisions you may live to regret is to have discussed core values ahead of time.

OPERATING PRINCIPLES

If values provide the compass, principles give employees a set of directions. The global logistics and mail service company TNT Express illustrates the difference in its use of both terms. TNT United Kingdom, the European market leader, lists “customer care” among nine key principles, describing it as follows: “Always listening to and building first-class relationships with our customers to help us provide excellent standards of service and client satisfaction.” TNT’s Australian branch takes a different approach: Rather than outline detailed principles, it highlights four high-level “core values,” including: “We are passionate about our customers.” Note the lighter touch, the broader stroke.

Operating principles are the rules of the road that enable people to know what’s in bounds – and what’s out-of-bounds – in their companies and workplaces. Operating principles can serve as guides, helping people make sound decisions, building trust and enabling greater innovation. Operating principles or rules of engagement can take many forms. They can be short and sweet; they can be long and detailed. The important point is to take the time to define them. You wouldn’t play a game of baseball or football without defining the rules. It’s no different for the workplace.

If the purpose of a strategy is to change the trajectory of an organisation away from its default future – the place it will end up if it takes no action – then essentially it’s about making informed choices about what needs to be done differently to drive the organisation in a different direction. As important as defining what the organisation needs to do, it should also make explicit what it should stop doing. If strategy is essentially about making choices, then these choices can be articulated through a set of principles, where a principle is defined as a ‘conscious choice between two equally valid alternatives’. The power of articulating strategy through a set of operating principles is that it makes the strategy meaningful to people throughout the organisation. It informs them as to which choices have been made – and those that have been rejected. It also defines how the leadership expects the organisation to operate in the future and provides guidance on how everyone can contribute through the decisions they make and actions they take. Changing the trajectory of an organisation is a bit like changing the direction of an ocean liner – it takes time. The more people understand how living the operating principles will change the trajectory of their organisation, the more likely they are to contribute.

Google has ten operating principles that guide its work:

  1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
  2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well.
  3. Fast is better than slow.
  4. Democracy on the web works.
  5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  6. You can make money without doing evil.
  7. There’s always more information out there.
  8. The need for information crosses all borders.
  9. You can be serious without a suit.
  10. Great just isn’t good enough

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