Apple and branding - what can we learn?

The Apple brand pulls you in. If their products could talk, they’d whisper "buy me". This is a company that as a brand, haven’t just got it right, they’ve got it perfect.

Every part of the Apple brand works seamlessly together - their products, packaging, and even their retail stores. There is a sense of simplicity and luxury that comes across whether you’re lifting the lid of a Macbook, opening a new iPhone package, or stepping in to buy a charger in one of the Apple stores.#

1984 really wasn’t like '1984'

It all began in 1984 when Apple released this advert during the Superbowl, turning it into a piece of history. Despite critics' predictions that it would flop, this is actually where Apple’s branding success began.

The advert takes place in a futuristic setting, with a group of expressionless bald men marching along a dreary corridor and into a large hall. The colour pallette is dull with mostly greys and blues and there is a Big-Brother-like voice addressing the group. Suddenly a blonde-haired, brightly dressed athlete runs into the room chased by guards. She swings a sledgehammer at the screen where the Big-Brother figure is addressing the room and it explodes leaving the group of zombie-like men with mouths open in shock. The message on the screen then reads:

"On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like '1984'."

Apple 1984 Super Bowl Commercial Introducing Macintosh Computer (HD)

This advert can be interpreted in more ways than one; does the grey palette represent the dull PC predecessor of the Mac? Is the group shocked at the idea that there could be something other than PC?

No tech talk

This hugely plays on people’s need to feel they are part of something; it hints at the benefits of separating from the dull robot-like monotonous life and being part of something colourful and new. And Apple have carried this message throughout every advert since.

Take their original iPod campaign (2004) for example, with the iconic dancing silhouettes - the advert doesn’t show how to use the product or what features it has, but rather focuses on the fun attitude and demeanour of the person using it. What unites all of the anonymous silhouettes are the white headphones. Being seen with them meant people around you knew you had an iPod - inadvertently making you young, fun and vibrant.

Another iconic Apple advert, for the iPad air, sees an image of a pencil on a table with changing surroundings; an office, a fashion designer’s room, a laboratory, a classroom, a home, a music room. A voice narrates "It’s an extremely simple tool, but also, very powerful. It could be used to start a poem, or finish a symphony..". Without knowing the ad is for an Apple product, viewers assume the narrator is describing the pencil, until the iPad Air is pulled out from behind it.

Apple - iPad Air - TV AD - Pencil

Once again, Apple choose not to mention any features of their new product, yet convince their audience that this is the ultimate tool for creativity. They sell their product by assigning feelings to the idea of owning it. In fact, the crux of this advert is not that the iPad is as thin as a pencil, but rather that it opens as many creative doors.

Perhaps the most memorable ad that delivered Apple’s message of being young and cool, was the Get a Mac Campaign (2006), which saw a whopping 66 adverts with two characters who embodied the traits of PC and Mac. PC was played by the slightly older, more business-like, nerdy character (whose uncanny resemblance to Bill Gates, the CEO of Microsoft at the time, was most likely intentional) whereas Mac, played by Justin Long, gave users the sense of being young, casual and approachable.

This campaign once again saw Apple associating their products not with technical detail, but rather with persona types, feelings and emotions.

There wasn’t a cable, phone screen, or any other technical detail in sight. Not a single Apple product in any of the 66 ads. Just an overall feeling of being cool if you were a Mac and nerdy if you were a PC. It sent a deep message to Apple users that you are either a Mac or PC.

All "I'm a Mac I'm a PC" ads Part 1

It is this successful combination of Apple’s branding message with the product, that instills a feeling that simply being seen with that device or product, allows you to inherit those traits.

And speaking of wanting to be seen with a product, the iconic Apple logo is so cleverly placed on each of their products, it lets others in the room know exactly what brand you are using. This is a result of a 'correction' to the unconventional upside down orientation of the logo on their laptops (notebooks). It was only in 1997 that Steve Jobs flipped it to be the right way round for onlookers, recognising the importance of having others see the Apple logo the correct way up rather than the laptop user themselves.

Carefully chosen language

Apple’s branding strategies however, stretch far beyond just advertising. The way the company introduces their products with carefully chosen words such as 'the thinnest ever', or 'the most advanced yet' makes users feel like they have the best product in the world, regardless of whether this is actually true. And with no tech talk in any advert, how could anybody know? In fact, Apple introduce features that most users have had for a long time but successfully make it seem as though they have just invented the wheel.

Invitations to their press events are a perfect example, where their branding message of being innovative is delivered through the idea that there is something you need to know and be a part of.

In 2012, Apple released this invitation for the launch of their third generation iPad. The play on words in their tagline "We have something you really have to see." fills the audience with anticipation, but Apple are also offering a cryptic clue here, about a feature of the product they are about to launch. In this case, the retina display of the iPad 3.

gettyimages-869823702.jpg

An ecosystem

Even without ever mentioning product features, it takes users a matter of minutes to discover how to connect and sync Apple devices. In fact, the more Apple products you own, the more benefits there appear to be; apps, music and videos are all in one place and are accessible on every device. Users can access their media from their car (on their iPhone), at work (on their iMac) or even in transit (on their iPad).

Having the same experience on all the products you own makes for a much softer learning curve. And not having to learn something new is attractive; it leaves more time for fun. Users can have the latest, newest iPhone without ever having to learn a thing. Open the box, turn it on, and after signing up, you’re ready to use it in exactly the same way you’ve been using your five previous iPhones.

Getting it right

So whilst not all of us are Apple fans, there is no doubt this company has got their branding right. In fact, statistics show that American homes with at least one Apple product have an average of three.

We all have that one friend with an Apple phone who also has an iMac, Macbook and a couple of iPads in their home. Either that, or we are that friend.

And if you’re still not convinced, consider this; What other company has thousands of people camping outside their stores overnight in order to pick up a pre-ordered product?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail from gettyimages.

Comment

Our Companies

Quick Links