Progress is a term that has become more and more relative with the passage of time. Right from the advent of technology, man has broken new ground with almost each passing fortnight, and has forayed into realms previously thought to be unreachable and beyond human comprehension. This thirst for knowledge, and mans’ innate competitive spirit has resulted in an economic landscape, for which even the adjective ‘cut-throat’ would be a gentle one. Innovations and path-breaking technologies are being invented left, right and centre, and no commercial entity can afford to rest on their laurels. Each enterprise faces an uphill challenge to stay relevant in this constantly changing market. Thus, when a single enterprise manages to break new ground with each new product it rolls out, both in the technological specifications as well as in the overall user experience, they deserve a very special place in the annals of history.
Apple in more than 40 years of existence has become an epitome of class and creative thinking. Despite their many detractors and naysayers, there is no denying that their level of success in achieving brand recognition and loyalty from their customers is unparalleled in todays’ market.
A Perfectionist and his Vision Comes to Play: Steve Jobs and the Branding of Apple
Steve Jobs is viewed with almost Messiah like reverence by each Apple loyalist, and the launch of each Apple product generates almost as much hype and fanfare as a blockbuster movie! Mile long queues outside Apple stores, all waiting with bated breath to get their hands on the latest Mac or iPhone are testament to the success of the brand.
Present day goodwill in the market for Apple is so high that they can afford to incorporate technologies much later than their Android competitors, and still be viewed as cutting edge! The recent launch of the iPhone 8 is proof of this phenomenon. Wireless charging on Android smartphones has been around for at least a couple of years, while they also boast a much greater level of customisability and ease of access compared to Apple devices. But Apple arrived with the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, and steamrolled their opposition out of the way!
A Bite (Byte) Taken out of the Apple: Make it Work
But this level of customer-loyalty and brand awareness wasn’t achieved overnight. It was all part of a marketing strategy formulated right at the time the company was launched. This strategy was drilled down right to the minutest details and executed to perfection, resulting in global perception of Apple as a reliable and desirable brand. The amount of thought that goes into each and every element associated with Apple is incredible, and in most of them, Steve Jobs’ visionary thought process is visible clearly. A quick glance at the evolution of the Apple logo gives us an insight into the workings of this great mans’ mind.
A Journey Begins with a Voyaging Mind: Newton and his Legendary Apple (1976 – 1977)
The bitten Apple logo is one of, if not the most, recognizable logos on in the present world. But contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t always the company’s logo. The very first logo for the company was designed by company co-founder Ronald Wayne, and in many ways, was symbolic of the ideals behind the birth of the company. The logo was an image of the great inventor, Sir Isaac Newton, sitting under a tree, with an apple dangling precariously over him. As this particular event and Newton’s subsequent discoveries on gravity went on to shape science and pave the way for progress for ages to come, this logo seemed apt for an enterprise with very similar revolutionary ideas. This logo was the one used when the very first Apple product, Apple 1 was put together by Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs’ garage and is thus steeped in the company’s history. The logo also had the following tagline, “A mind forever voyaging through strange seas of thought … alone”.
In spite of the aesthetic value of the logo, along with the parallels in ideals of Newton and the company founders, Jobs decided that the logo was too old-fashioned. He was looking to build a company that the young and technologically aware would identify with, and the present logo was deemed too arcane and heavy-duty. This was scrapped in favour of the logo we all know and identify with today!
All about a Warm and Positive Feel: The Rainbow Logo (1976 – 1998)
Steve Jobs envisioned a vibrant enterprise brimming with energy and creativity, and he wanted the logo to reflect this. Rob Janoff was the designer tasked with creating a logo that was both modern, as well as clean and concise at the same time. After considerable brainstorming, he came up with what is probably the most popular corporate logo of all time, the bitten apple with the reverse rainbow color scheme!
There has been constant pondering over what the bite signifies. The designer himself has said it is merely to distinguish the apple from a cherry tomato, with no symbolic significance whatsoever attached to it. This hasn’t deterred several Apple loyalists from seeking deeper meaning from it. Jean-Louis Gasse, a former executive, delved so deep into the mysteries of the symbol that he came up with unimaginable interpretations! For him, the bite into the Apple signified lust and knowledge, while the disorder in the color palette was synonymous with hope and anarchy!
Several thousand theorists have also seen the logo as a sort of homage to Alan Turing, the father of modern computers, who met his end after taking a bite of an apple laced with cyanide.
All this expounding over the thought process behind the logo has compelled the people involved in the design process to speak out. The decision to use rainbow colours was merely to humanize the company, and make the logo more attractive. It also coincided with the launch of the Apple II, which was the world’s first personal computer with colour display. Jobs was said to be involved in the decision to reverse the colours of the rainbow, and have green at the top. This was said to be a decision born out of practicality more than symbolism, as the top is where the leaf would be!
The logo also worked perfectly with the tagline “Take a byte into Apple”, which sent tech nerds into a reverie!
The 20-year period that this logo was in force was a period of both incredible highs and lows for the company. Steve Jobs had a very public falling out with CEO John Sculley over his reluctance to back forays into untested technologies, which culminated in the board ousting Steve Jobs from his place. Steve Jobs resigned from Apple, and Wozniak also left. The latter years of this logo were a time of hardship and rough competition for the company, with competitors eating into their shares, and a static management undermining the best efforts of the technicians. It wasn’t until 1997 and Steve Jobs return, that both an upturn in fortunes, and a subsequent change in logo took place.
Capturing the World with a Stylised and Millennial Look: The Monochrome Logo (1998 – present day)
Apple struck a deal with NeXT Technologies, owned by Jobs, which saw him come back to Apple as an advisor. At the time, the company was bleeding money, and severely lagging behind their competitors in terms of customer perception as well as sales. The management of Apple took pride in their exclusive and premium status, and in refusing to cater to the average consumer, had effectively alienated a vast majority of technology users. Computing and information technology for the general public was still in a nascent stage, and such arrogance on the part of the senior management at Apple had made recapturing the market a considerable challenge.
In the logo, Jobs saw a marketing opportunity which has paid dividends and has continued to do so to this day. He wanted to position and project Apple as a brand people would want to be seen and associated with. One of the most subtle and effective ways of doing so was to put large logos on the products where they would be easily visible.
The present logo was recognized the world over and tinkering with the base shape was out of the question. But the previous rainbow coloured logo would have looked silly on most of Apple’s sleek and futuristic products. This necessitated a shift away from the rainbow colour scheme, which Jobs immediately identified and acted upon.
The rainbow colour scheme was immediately replaced with a single colour, which when paired with the metallic palettes of most Apple products looked suave and classy. In recent years, the ‘millennial’ logo has also appeared as a glowing shield on the MacBooks.
In the years following this logo redesign, the company Apple has gone from strength to strength. In 1997, Apple launched the Apple Online Store, which enabled them to reach out directly to their vast customer base, pioneering online retail for electronic items in the process.
It was also in the collaborations in the years following the logo change that Jobs saw the design capabilities of Jonathan Ives. This marriage of creative thought streams is what gave birth to modern classics such as the iPod and the iPhone.
Marketing the Apple Way
Ever since its inception, Apple has been synonymous with impeccable quality. In those ages, competition was much less, with very few companies offering the same services. But Apple’s true success has been in staying relevant through the ages and adapting to the latest advancements and demands of the market.
They have always been lauded for their ability to package and position their products in such a way that their users are viewed as discerning and technologically up-to-date. The very fact that Apple dominates a market flooded with cheaper alternatives offering similar services at a fraction of the cost is a testament to the effectiveness of their marketing apparatus!