How to Brand Like Steve Jobs and Apple

In the wake of Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple, the company he built not once but twice, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the 5 key lessons Steve Jobs and Apple have taught us about how to brand. In my How to Brand series here on AYTM, I discussed the six primary steps of branding: research, values, messaging, education, experiences, and perception. But for Apple, there is more to the story of how to brand that you can learn from.

steve jobs appleFollowing are 5 lessons to commit to memory and apply to your business if you want to learn how to brand like Steve Jobs and Apple.

1. Create Dreams that Stir Emotions

An iPhone isn’t just a cell phone, nor is it just a smartphone. Nope. The iPhone represents the dream of doing everything on the go and being really cool while you’re doing all of those things. You’re truly free with an iPhone and the dream that the iPhone promises, thanks to clever branding by Steve Jobs and the Apple team, evokes a multitude of emotions in consumers. It’s genius.

2. Keep It Clean and Simple

Walk through an Apple store or buy an Apple product. You’re not inundated with messages, text, instructions, and clutter. Instead, you’re presented with a clean and simple image and experience. Have you bought anything at an Apple store? The entire buying process revolves around the easy message — from the advertising (remember those Mac Guy vs. PC Guy commercials) to the packaging.

3. Tell a Story

Every story has a hero. Create stories that present your consumers’ problem and explain how that problem is eradicated with the help of your brand as the story’s hero. Apple is my hero because while my PC crashes and acts weird all the time, my Mac is always reliable and “just works” — just like the commercials say it will. What brand is your hero? Could any of your customers say that your brand is their hero? Create a story so they can say your brand is their hero.

4. Be Visual and Visceral

Watch an iPad commercial or listen to iPad messages and it’s hard to resist that gadget. Seriously — watch the commercial below and tell me you have absolutely no interest in ever owning an iPad. The lesson to learn is this: Don’t just tell people what your brand is about; show them, so they can see for themselves how your brand could easily help them or become a part of their lives.

5. Offer a “Wow” Factor

What’s so cool about the MacBook Air? It fits in a manila envelope! Now that’s cool! With each product, Steve Jobs and Apple attach some kind of wow factor that consistently reflects the brand promise, gets people talking, and makes them think they must have the product.

Can every brand learn how to brand like Steve Jobs and Apple and effectively apply those lessons to their own markets and consumers? Absolutely. While the dreams, emotions, stories, visuals, and wow factors change based on the brand, market, consumers, and so on, the concepts remain the same and are actually quite basic in principle. That’s why they work so well.

Image: Collin Allen

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius
Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as and She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of, an award-winning blog for business women.

7 Responses to How to Brand Like Steve Jobs and Apple

  1. James DeFranco says:

    Apple also has a reputation for being extremely proprietary, extremely controlling of their products, and unwilling to compromise their “vision.” They are the definition of a walled garden.

    • Stan Murrell says:

      say if it works for them, it works for them. There’s a reason why their
      products are always consistent, always sleek, and always innovative.
      They may not always listen to the consumer; they may not be as developer
      friendly as Windows, for example, but you have to hand it to them…
      they do have an always consistent, always dependable product.

  2. Daphne Morrow says:

    I like the Genius Bar, personally. For someone like myself, that’s not
    really very tech savvy, the Apple Geniuses are humble to say the least.
    And I think that says a lot about branding, too – when I think of the
    Geek Squad, Best Buy’s approach, I think of a really expensive repair
    guy. But the Geniuses are – to me – just really great teachers.

  3. Jonathan Murray says:

    I’m excited to see if Apple’s still got it… let’s see how well Tim Cook does without Steve Jobs…

    Guess we’ll find out any minute now…

  4. max says:

    i like AirDrop

  5. MHAWinner says:

    I need a brand story for web design to reach clients. i need an experince.

  6. I am writing an article on personal branding and was looking for examples. Though this piece talks more about apple’s branding rather than Steve Jobs’ personal brand, it does help a great deal. Thank you!

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