Taking a Byte From Apple's Core

March 5, 2008

The world's best companies realize just how much of a business asset their brands can be. They understand that their brand personifies all their other efforts. And as we all know, Apple gets it. But let’s examine how this technology giant puts its brand first in every effort they undertake.

Form and Function:Rethinking the Personal Computer
In 1997, the company then known as Apple Computer was on the verge of bankruptcy. Only the return of its infamous former CEO, Steve Jobs, and a bold new design for the personal computer, the iMac, saved the company.

One of the first things Jobs did was to simplify the company's product offerings. This move has proved to be invaluable. First, it allowed Apple to gain control over its design and manufacturing processes, which have allowed them to let superstar industrial designer, Jonathan Ives, shape each and every one of their products. Second, and possibly more important, the simplified product line personified a greater brand strategy of simplifying the personal computer.

Retail Explosion: Service and Experience Live Up to the Brand Promise
Apple has always been able to create great advertisements, but to most of the public, the brand had become almost invisible... until the Apple Store. With other computer manufacturers closing their retail stores, Apple began opening theirs. What sets Apple Stores apart is a commitment to letting the brand guide how the store is designed and operated. Much like their products, the company's retail outlets are an extension of the brand.

It isn't just the store itself: It's the staff and their tools. Just recently, I was in a New York City Apple Store, trying to purchase an iPhone amidst the holiday shopping rush. After speaking to an employee with an iPhone in-hand, I started off to what I thought would be the long line for the registers. Instead, I was informed that if paying by credit card, I could do so right with the same employee who had shown me the product. He pulled out a hand-held credit card scanner and asked if I would like my receipt printed or emailed. "Both," I replied! The very epitome of simplification: paying without being herded into a line of cash registers!

OS X: The Digital Personification of the Brand
What few may know is that what spurred the reunion of Apple and Jobs - at least initially - was Apple’s desire to use his company's (Next Computing) software as the foundation for the new Mac OS. It has worked brilliantly. OS X, in almost every way, embodies the Apple brand and sets it apart from its competitors in both aesthetics and performance. The software features an architecture that allows any application to use a unified set of features. This enables Apple to retain control over a core set of functionality, guaranteeing all applications perform in a similar manner. Great for users, great for the brand: simplification.

The newest version of the Mac OS, named Leopard, features a technology named "Core Animation". With Core Animation, developers now have access to a standard set of animations that they can use with their applications. What you will start to see is that all applications will not only borrow from a set of user interface components, but also emote a standard set of user interface interactions. Every application written for the Mac will have the personality of the Apple brand.

We branding professionals love to write Apple case studies. But it's rare to find a company that so thoroughly lives its brand. Apple: Simple to the core.

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