A section titled ‘Steve and the art of branding,’ in ‘The Steve Jobs Way: iLeadership for a new generation’ by Jay Elliot (www.jaicobooks.com), narrates how it was the famed ad agency Chiat/Day that produced Apple’s ‘1984’ commercial.
Enthusiasm bordering on fanaticism
The agency had been around since 1968 and a description of it comes in the words of Christy Marshall, a journalist, thus: “a place where success breeds arrogance, where enthusiasm borders on fanaticism and where intensity looks suspiciously like neurosis. It is also a bone in the throat of Madison Avenue, which derides its inventive, often riveting ads as irresponsible and ineffective - and then mimics them.”
For anyone who needs clever, innovative advertising and has the guts to dare use an in-your-face approach, the above description provides an unusual but fascinating checklist of what to look for, adds Elliot. And Lee Clow, the man who dreamed up ‘1984,’ sees his people as “50 per cent ego and 50 per cent insecurity. They need to constantly be told they’re good and they’re loved.”
The ‘face’ of Apple
The author recounts how, as Apple grew, Jay Chiat, the head of the agency continued a process that had already begun on its own: promoting Steve as the ‘face’ of Apple and its products, much as Lee Iacocca had become during the years of the Chrysler turnaround. Sadly, however, the lustre wore off after Steve’s departure, as Apple devolved into a ‘me too’ computer company, selling through traditional sales channels like all the competitors, and measuring market share instead of product innovation, traces Elliot.
As someone who served as the senior vice president of Apple Computer, reporting directly to Steve Jobs, Chairman of the Board, the author devotes a section on how Steve built the brand. Steve has a master craftsman’s ability to create a consistent, positive product image in the minds of his customers, extols Elliot. “He combines stick-to-itiveness with an intuitive sense of exactly what it takes to get the public enthralled with a product. He understands that this isn’t just a question of how well the product is designed and how smoothly it works - although these are of course critical factors - but of how it is perceived by the user, which of course is the key to product success.”
Going back in time, the author informs that the overwhelming success in branding the Apple II was what drove IBM to the decision that they needed to enter the PC market. Though IBM Labs had personal computer products in the 1970s, the company was in the business of leasing mainframe computers to large companies and did not understand the consumer marketplace, the author reminisces. “Having IBM as a competitor made Steve nervous at first, but IBM never figured out the things that for Steve were second nature.”
There are valuable ‘retail’ lessons in a chapter devoted to the topic. Steve’s post-1996 innings saw him laying the groundwork for what a few would consider visionary and many would consider foolish - a move into retail - writes Elliot. “Steve Jobs, with no background in retail and no real knowledge of how retailing operated, was going to try to eliminate the middleman. Within weeks of his return, he began one of his riskiest projects ever.”
One learns from the chapter that the big computer chains and other resellers were raking off 35 to 40 per cent of revenue on each Apple product they sold. The antidote, as Steve worked out, was a technology approach, and in the form of an online store launched in November 1997, using WebObjects, a web server and application framework that had been developed at NeXT. “Soon Steve was announcing that the new Apple.com online store had received orders for $12 million in its first month.”
Another bold decision, again to reduce dependence on mega-retailers that had little incentive to position Apple’s products, was to connect directly with consumers through own store in Tysons Corner Centre, in McLean, Virginia, on May 15, 2001. Despite the dire predictions by experts in the retail field and others, the Virginia store racked up more than 7,000 sales on its first day, Elliot reports. At the time of writing, www.apple.com/retail/storelist, with its inviting line - ‘Come to shop. Return to learn.’ - speaks of ‘over 300 stores worldwide.’
Imperative read for passionate product people.