Several years ago, I went to an apple orchard with my family. I think the whole trip cost around $35. What does this have to do with advertising, marketing, or branding?
Well, in 1976, Steve Jobs also went to an apple orchard. I’m not sure how much it cost him, but I imagine it was considerably less. But it was after this trip that he decided to call his company Apple. When asked why he said:
“It sounded fun, spirited, and not intimidating. Apple took the edge off the word computer. Plus, it would get us ahead of Atari in the phone book.”Steve Jobs, on the Apple name
It’s all in the name
The name also had an advantage in that it could be eventually translated into an easily distinct visual asset. But that was more of an afterthought than an intention. And that’s how the name of a billion-dollar company was chosen. No brand planners or focus groups; no months of research, back and forth, or overthinking. And most importantly, it cost him nothing more than a trip to an Apple orchid. Hey 6 figure branding agencies, how bout them apples?
There are tons of examples like this: Starbucks, Quaker Oats, Baileys, the Nike swish, etc. Most people pass these stories off to luck or the intuitive genius of their founders. Which may or may not be true. But if their intuitive genius had anything to do with it, it had nothing to do with the name or logo that was chosen. It had to do with understanding that at the end of the day, it almost pretty much doesn’t matter.
And that a name or logo or messaging (or even the advertising) doesn’t have to evolve from a “brand essence.” In fact, it’s better if it doesn’t. Their intuitive genius was understanding that when it comes to names or logos or messaging, the more distinct the better.
“The purpose of distinctive assets is, by definition, to be distinctive – not to be meaningful. Trying to build assets around some ‘meaning’ that you want your brand to have is more likely to fail because your brand’s meaning is probably very close to that of all your competitors.”Paul Feldwick in his book “Why Does the Pedlar Sing”
Apple is NOT the BRAND
By choosing Apple as a name (and eventually as a logo), Apple now had a brand that no one could copy. And few people could ever mistake for another brand. So the real secret to creating a brand like Apple is not to create a brand like Apple. It’s to create a brand like an apple. And do what Apple did. Create excellent products and great product advertising. Not great branding or marketing.
In fact, according to Apple’s VP of communication Allison Johnson, the two most “dreaded, hated” words at Apple under Steve Jobs were “branding” and “marketing.”
“In Steve’s mind, people associated brands with television advertising and commercials and artificial things. To Steve, “the most important thing was people’s relationship to the product. So any time we said ‘brand’ it was a dirty word.”
Think Different. Not like Apple.