How to Brand Like Steve Jobs and Apple

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Posted Sep 01, 2011
Susan Gunelius

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 apple

Following 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.

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