Any animus toward Apple aside, they still captivate and elevate in ways that small businesses, solo-preneurs, creative professionals, and creatives & authors can learn from.
Many of my clients and groups struggle with telling the Story of who they are and what they do with consistency and integrity. And others actually feel trapped by their brand – as if it took a wrong turn or as if they’ve outgrown it. They want to change their brand but are at odds of how to do so with integrity.
If you’ve wondered how to shape, improve, or even change the Story of your business, brand, or product, Apple still makes for a good model. So, I’m going to break down what they’re doing in their most recent ad campaign and give you some take-aways. I’d appreciate your feedback, responses, and experiences shared in the comments section below.
The Old Story of Apple
First, my filters. I’m not a die-hard Apple boy because I’m generally not a zealous team player for any digital brand. I had an Apple ii in 1984 but switched to PCs from 1997-2011. I’ve had both Apples and PCs in the house and studio since 2011. And I must admit, the more Apple I experience – from product to customer service – the more I like.
Second, many people have perceivable problems and biases with Apple. Here’s the Old Story of Apple perpetuated in the past year or so:
- Apple has unethical manufacturing practices. The frame, heightened by this New York Times piece, that many people carry with them these days is Apple = China. Not a good frame for business and morale. This is a frame Apple has yet to resolve, but they’re trying.
- Apple doesn’t play well with others. Apple does suffer from several compatibility issues, and I’ve written them two letters of complaint on such. Apple = Spoiled too-cool child. But I’ve realized in the past year that none of the digital boys and girls play well with other children outside of their own digital clubs. And their customer service is up there with Zappos, GoDaddy, Paypal, and other “biggies” who get this end of customer engagement and delight.
- Apple can’t innovate anymore without its king. Since Steve Jobs’ death, Apple’s been the subject of ongoing scrutiny and speculation. And before their recent product launches, they had not released a new product in several months. Apple= innovation dead beat. Not a good frame for a brand solidly identified with innovation.
So, the questions I imagine Apple’s leaders and story-shapers have been living in and experimenting with are these:
- How do we change the Story of Apple?
- How do we do so with integrity? That is, in a way that is consistent to who we are as a brand and accurate in reflecting what we do?
And you might ask yourself
- How do I change or improve the Story of who I am and what I do and why it matters? (Substitute “I” with “my brand” or “my business” or “the NPO I’m part of.”)
- How do I do so with integrity and in a way that still captivates and elevates my patch of the planet?
Captivate & Elevate?
To captivate your audience is a key Tracking Wonder tenet. Tracking Wonder helps you apply the art & science of creativity so you can engage your audience. The elevate piece means that what you create or what your business is about actually improves people’s lives, widens their hearts, brings out the best in them, inspires them to help others, ignites their imaginations.
3 Ways Apple Still Captivates & Elevates
1. Create stellar products that elicit delightful experiences.
Apple still delivers. Last year, under Tim Cook’s guidance, they released an iPad Mini (I like), a new MacBook with Retina display (I like), and others. More recently, they released iTunes Radio and an improvement on their OS operating system.
You simply cannot escape this fundamental necessity for most art, most business.
Without a well-written book that engages readers’ desire to make meaning, surprises them, and feel moved and changed, all the marketing and platform-building in the world will not help an author.
Without a solid service that people actually need, are willing to pay for, and that astonishes them to boot, all the branding and story-telling in the world will not aid a service provider in the long run.
2. Tell a New Story.
Recently, Apple has taken out 2-page fold-out ads in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and elsewhere. (It was my coming across these ads in WSJ and NYT that triggered this piece.) They’ve launched their Signature video and their Intention video that premiered at movie theatres during preview time.
These are not ads to sell a new product. They’re ads to tell a New Story of Apple.
The gist of the New Story?
What matters most is starting with the right intention and the right questions.
The copy begins with this:
This is it.
This is what matters.
The experience of a product.
How it makes someone feel.
When you start by imagining
What that might be like,
You step back.
Who will this help?
Will it make life better?
Does this deserve to exist?
If you are busy making everything,
How can you perfect anything?
Start with the right intention and live in the right questions. This is the heart of Tracking Wonder.
On one hand, Apple shrewdly is trying to change the Old Story of Apple=Spoiled Too-Cool Child to Apple=Thoughtful, Caring Child. The images of people in the ads, after all, are not hipster geeks. They are of people using them with varying forms of delight and surprise in their daily lives.
I can think of few more important, non-self-centered questions for creatives and small businesses to ask than those. What’s it for? What are you creating for? How will what you are creating make someone feel? How will it make their lives better?
Sounds simple but corporations as well as small businesses and solo-preneurs and creatives often forget the obvious.
Then you have to execute and pursue mastery.
The copy continues:
We spend a lot of time
On a few great things.
Until every idea what we touch
Enhances each life it touches.
We’re engineers and artists.
Craftsmen and inventors.
We sign our work.
In one sense, Apple is also trying to change the Old Story of Apple=Innovation dead beat. The message is that they take their time. They focus on quality not just quantity.
“We start to confuse convenience with joy.”
This also is the heart of Tracking Wonder. It’s not enough to have a good idea. It’s not enough to have a great idea. It’s not enough to have an astonishing idea. You still have to break down the skills necessary and the resources to make it happen in a way that is masterful.
And you must do so in a signature way. A way that only you or only you and your team can do.
Sound like high expectations? It is. We should hold Apple or anyone we’re giving our time and money to to high expectations. Not of perfection, per se, but at least of fulfilling great human potential.
Wonder leads to compassion and curiosity. And if it remains your ally, it also helps you get through the inevitable challenges of stretching yourself or your business and brand beyond your comfort zone.
- Be local.
The signature of the ads is “Designed by Apple in California.”
Clearly, this message serves to counter the Old Story of Apple=China. They might still Manufacture in China, but they hope to remind you that most of the creative work and execution is performed in the Sunshine State.
Artists and small businesses forget their advantage over corporations. They’re personable. Too often, solo-preneurs, creatives, and small biz owners aim to efface themselves and “go corporate” and professional. Whereas you don’t have to wear your freak flag on your website, it’s useful to remember you possess what corporations aspire to evoke: a personable touch. A local touch.
“Local” no longer has to equal “provincial.” It can equal personable, unique, human.
Connect with your locale. Your place. Make that part of your Story as a creative or brand.
3. Tell a New Story with Integrity.
Of course, there’s much more to this New Story of Apple that you could critique. Critiquing is easy. Understanding is hard work.
Apple’s chief modes of captivating and elevating its core fans has to do with Craftsmanship + Edginess.
Craftsmanship is the quality of caring about skill and detail. It’s about making things right for the user’s experience. Not every creative, business, or brand is about Craftsmanship. But Apple is.
Edginess as it sounds is about being on the cutting edge, innovative, and at times a little polarizing. Possibly under Tim Cook, Apple is softening its edginess in all areas. But they still aspire to position themselves as thoughtful innovators who don’t crank out things just to appease the media and masses. Again, not every creative, business, or brand thrives on Edginess. But Apple has and does.
When you tell your New Story, check in that you’re telling your New Story. Not someone else’s with someone else’s voice or persona.
Learn your core native strengths to captivate and elevate your patch of the planet, and play upon those.
If you believe in what you produce, how your produce, and how you serve, and if you know your integral strengths to engage your audience, then you’re ready to shape and tell Your Brave New Story.
By the way, I’ll show you soon a video we made that – in tone, music, message, and even time – sounds and looks strikingly like Apple’s Signature video. I’d love to fantasize that Apple is emulating Tracking Wonder, but, alas, I think we’re living in a time when certain tenets are in the air:
Evoking wonder and delight matter.
Create something – even an ad or video – that surprises and delights.
Tell your story with integrity and skill.
Where are your points of tension in captivating and elevating your audiences as a creative, author, solo-preneur, brand leader, thought leader, or small business owner/team player? What have been your victories or challenges in crafting your, your brand’s, or your business’s New Story? Share your experiences and observations and critiques in the comments below.
Thanks for running with me,