Without Steve Jobs, Apple has lost its mega bite
Company should channel the visionary founder and give its phone some personality, says ex-creative director
Without Steve Jobs, Apple is losing its personality.
That's according to the former Apple creative director who helped Jobs build a cult following for the Apple brand. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Chiat/Day director Ken Segall revealed how Jobs was obsessed with creating an aura that made people “lust” for his products. This is something Apple is now missing, despite being one of the world’s most valuable technology companies, claims Segall.
A failure to cash in on customer loyalty through emotional marketing campaigns might prove problematic for Apple as it prepares to weather a market that shows signs of cooling.
“These days, Apple does a different campaign for a different phone, which I always thought was a lost opportunity. They should be building a personality for the phone, a thing that people might want to be part of because it rises above the features of the moment,” says Segall.
“That is the challenge – when you are in a more mature category and the feature differences are significantly less, how do you advertise something like that? That is where the skill of the marketer comes into play.”
Investors would have been asking executives tough questions about what they have up their sleeves for the next iPhone on Tuesday, when it reports earnings for its financial third quarter. There are concerns if there are no big features coming, its loyal following may begin to think twice about buying the next model.
In recent years, Apple has focused its ad marketing campaigns on single features, such as “shot on the iPhone”, which can be spotted on bus stops up and down the country. “There are all kinds of internal things going on at Apple,” says Segall, who put together some of the company’s most famous campaigns, including the “Think different” slogan which was credited with turning Apple’s dry, corporate image around in the 1990s.
“The passing of Steve Jobs created a completely different approach to marketing, which we can see the results of,” he adds. “They had some great moments and some not-so-great moments. As a marketer I look at that and can see the difference between Steve being there and not being there very clearly.”
Apple’s new best friend
The majority of Apple’s revenues come from smartphone sales. However, the market is becoming “mature” and the frenzy may have hit its peak.
In 2017, Gartner reported that worldwide sales for smartphones had declined for the first time. Although this could be written off as a blip, consumer demand in the West is angling toward investing in longer lasting, higher quality devices. The only places where double-digit growth remains is emerging markets looking for cheaper devices. Apple has not chased after these in the same way rivals Samsung and Huawei have, although it has made some inroads in China.
Without major innovations on the cards, Apple’s best friend is advertising. The dark art of social media recently became more transparent, as designers tasked with making websites and apps admitted they had been encouraged to make products as “addictive” as possible. But Apple was one of the first to cotton on to the power of forming emotional attachments with its customers, Segall says.
In the late 1980s, Segall took a job as creative director at BBDO, the ad agency handling Apple in Los Angeles, while John Sculley was chief executive. Segall then moved to work with Steve Jobs on his failed venture NeXT, where he remained for three years. He was later installed again at Apple when Jobs retook the reins in 1997.
Segall recalls how Jobs needed society to be emotionally involved with the brand, and talked often about the “brand bank”, which he said would buffer the company in the event of a product failure or scandal.
“Steve had in his head that if people had a deep, emotional connection to Apple, customers would not give it up even if it was shown to make a poor judgment in some part of the world or was found to be in violation of the law, like European taxes, for example,” Segall says.
Traditional companies have long counted on data, not gut instincts, to make decisions, and Segall feels that Apple, once a trailblazer, is no longer any different.
“Tim Cook goes by recommendation of the people around him,” he says. “And those people are ‘a little vanilla'.”
Being bold has not always served Apple. Segall, who insists Cook is a great businessman, admits there’s a balance to strike.
The company suffered a public relations crisis when, during the Super Bowl in 1985, Apple did a “lemmings” advert that appeared to suggest that PC customers should jump off a cliff. “It was a horrible dud that really damaged Apple,” Segall says.
Despite his concerns, it is likely that Cook will leave investors with a smile on their faces as he is expected to report bumper profits even if iPhone sales drop.
“Apple is having success moving buyers up the iPhone price curve – 26% of customers paid more than $900, up from 24% in March and only 5% a year ago,” according to UBS. And Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, says the “irrational love of Apple” remains.
Samsung has transformed from borrowing Apple’s designs to paying homage to its advertising, adopting a much more recognisable brand in recent years after hiring a former L’Oreal marketing guru who turned Samsung from a utilitarian brand to one “you could fall in love with”.
As far as Wood is concerned, rivals “should be watching over their shoulder”.
“I call Apple the Hotel California of smartphones,” he adds.
– © The Daily Telegraph