In 1984, Apple stunned the world with its now iconic “1984” commercial. It firmly established Apple’s brand and ultimately set the stage for the company’s significance in the emerging personal computers market. The commercial attained legendary status, but Apple, like every brand, would still need to relentlessly compete for attention and relevance.
A year later, Apple attempted to match its previous success with “Lemmings,” a commercial that dramatized the lemming-like behavior of the PC-based workforce. The ad, while arguably brilliant, was widely considered a flop, since the image of businessmen following one another over a cliff confused customers. Over time, Apple’s brand slowly degraded, losing touch with its core audience and missing an opportunity to connect with the growing base of consumers seeking personal computers.
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he was on a mission to not only turn the company he co-founded around, but also rebrand the company to connect with consumers. In a recently-surfaced internal video, Jobs, who died Oct. 5, focused on the importance of brand as he introduced the employees to its iconic advertising campaign, “Think Different.”
“For me, marketing is about values,” said Jobs, “This is a very noisy world and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. So, we have to be very clear what we want them to know about us.”
The company then looked inward in an attempt to answer the questions: Who is Apple, what does it stand for and where does the brand fit in the world.
“What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their jobs done,” said Jobs during the company meeting, “Apple’s core value is that we believe people with passion can change the world…for the better. Those people, crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones that actually do.…Here’s to the crazy ones.”
The “Think Different” campaign ran from 1997 to 2002 and effectively rebrand Apple for years to come. But that was just one example of how the company would use branding to compete for attention and relevance over the years.
Brand Empathy: Always Improve Experiences
In May 2011, Millward Brown Optimor released its annual BrandZ survey that ranked and valued the world’s top brands.
Apple surged to the number one spot, soaring 84 percent relative to its 2010 ranking. The company boasts a brand value estimated at $153 billion. Google came in second, however its brand value fell by 2 percent to $111 billion. IBM came in third, with a 17-percent increase in brand value year over year to tie Google at $111 billion. McDonald’s ranked fourth, growing 23 percent and earning a brand value of $81 billion.
Any other company would likely be thrilled to be in fourth place, but not McDonald’s. The company is undergoing its most extensive store-by-store makeover in the chain’s 56-year history. Gone are the famous yellow and red interior colors. Instead, McDonald’s is adapting to a new era, creating an experience marked by muted colors, wooden tables and faux leather chairs. And, that’s just the beginning. McDonald’s is pouring $1 billion into redesigning the consumer experience. The goal is to create an elegant and upscale presence similar to that of Starbucks, Chipotle, and Panera Bread.
As Jim Carras, senior vice president of domestic restaurant development for McDonald’s told USA Today, “McDonald’s has to change with the times and we have to do so faster than we ever have before.”
Meanwhile, don’t expect Apple to slow down despite its newly-minted, first-place position. Apple will continue to innovate, even as the company mourns the loss of its chief visionary. Expect Apple to continue to inspire meaningful experiences, and establish a sense of unparalleled belonging. This is the charge of any brand that wants to stay at the top of the brand value list. In the face of digital Darwinism, reinvention, constant relevance, and perpetual value become the pillars for an adaptive business.
Everything begins with embracing a culture of innovation and adaptation — a culture that recognizes the impact of disruptive technology and how consumer preference and affinity is evolving. Social and mobile networks, gamificiation, tablets, smart phones, syndicated commerce, and augmented reality represent some of the game-changers that businesses must either embrace or deeply study to determine bottom-line impact. If organizations cannot recognize opportunities to further compete for attention and relevance, they cannot, by default, create meaningful connections, a desirable brand or drive shareable experiences. The brand, as a result, will lose preference in the face of consumer choice, which may one day lead to its succumbing to digital Darwinism. Jobs put it best: “This is a very noisy world. So, we have to be very clear what we want them to know about us.”