Anice Hassim

Unashamedly iMad

Anice Hassim is the CEO, Founder and majority shareholder of the immedia ecosystem. He is a speaker and educator around digital trends, strategy and marketing, and helps brands better understand and negotiate the digital space. Contact Anice on tel +27 (0)31 566 8000, email him at and follow him on Twitter at @anicehassim.
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Apple’s brand “problems”

18 Nov 2010 11:47:00
Apple’s brand “problems”So the hysteria this week was Apple announcing that the Fab Four were coming to iTunes. The hype before was awesome as per usual... immediate speculation flowed into the ether and we each saw what we wanted to see. (I wanted Apple to reveal just what that Area 51 in North Carolina is all about). And, when it turned out to be nothing more than an audition from four Liverpool lads who hit the charts 50 years ago, it was clear that there was a generational divide in the reaction.

Many went "who cares?"; others were delighted; many were confused. But it turns out that it was the tomorrow that we will remember for the rest of our lives... it finally showed the world has moved to digital... (The Beatles digital holdout had been beginning to look like guys who were stuck on the islands in the Pacific during the Second World War and haven't heard it'd ended.)

Just pathetic really, and in the end, it was nothing about principle but because EMI needed the cash.

Generational divide

For me, however, was the interesting secondary reaction among Apple fans which also illustrates a generational divide.

A whole lotta people were going... "What? That's it?! Why the hell would Apple take over its entire home page for a music band?" And a whole lotta people were delighting in the loving 4min spin through the Fab Fours' career and being inspired by the beautiful photographs.

For first time in a long while, I got that feeling that you get when you realise that your little Eden is about to get gate-crashed. You know that feeling... like how you felt when the AOL newbies hit the Internet... that feeling!

Don't these newbies understand the culture? Apple taking over the home page for counter-culture icons such as the Beatles is exactly the kind of thing it does.

It did it for George when he passed away. It did it for Johnny Cash when he passed. Same for Rosa Parks. Most recently, it did it for one of its own, board member Jerry York and, before that, for Apple master Gregory Hines.

And Apple fans understand that. It's why they deal with the company.

Reflects our humanity within

It's because the company, like its products, reflects our humanity within. I don't believe that these tributes are merely whims on Steve's part either. They are clearly the product of some internal corporate consensus that operates at some internal level. Enough employees suggest a candidate at the time or maybe Steve just uses his instinct and calls it.

Either way, it's clear the company has a human centre and is not afraid to authentically express it.

And it did mark just another day that we'll never forget. It marked the day when our grandparents idols finally saw enough sense to acknowledge the world had moved on, changed and that there was no more holding out.

We have crossed over to the digital shore... and there can never be a going back. Nothing really changed, but everything did!

Hullo, Paul, nice of ya to join us.

It was an acknowledgement from the Apple team that a day they knew just had to come, a day that they had fought for, for years, had come.

So if you grew up with Apple, it was not unusual for Apple to express itself in this way. But clearly some sort of floodgate, some kind of critical mass has been reached... the flow of new users is now so quick, there is a whole generation of Apple users only a few years old who have no idea of this legacy. For them, it's just a consumer toy made by this trendy California company. Like the Internet was for AOL newbies.

How misunderstand the brand is

Turns out it marked the day I crossed over to being a greybeard, since I was clearly one of a very few who understood how and why Apple would do this. And that got me to thinking about this thing called a brand and what it means and what we understand by it. And how misunderstood the Apple brand is, particularly here in South Africa where we have zero exposure to it other than online. (No, Core does not count!)

Apple commentators use the following as examples of Apple's "brand" or "image" or ethical problems:

  • the iPad, because it doesn't have USB or a keyboard

  • its deprecation of Flash as a supported layer in its new generation OS

  • that Apple arrogantly ignored a technical fault of the iPhone 4,

  • and now that it is arrogantly over-hyping a mundane arrival of some 60's era rock group to the digital age.

The list goes on...

But all these detractors of Apple – who say the hits can't keep coming; that when Steve goes, Apple's magic will go with him; that Apple is already too arrogant – well, clearly, they don't get Apple. Because the numbers and the history sing a different tune.

Apple is one of the world's most successful companies right now. Its products are being bought by users pretty much as fast as they can make it - ask the millions of new users in China and Africa in three years if they care if the iPad doesn't have USB support.

Apple's core value is that people with passion can change the world for the better. That's Steve Job's words, not mine. Those people that went up on Apple's homepage were people with passion who changed our world.

When Apple sets out to design a product, it frees itself from legacy thinking. It doesn't ask how do we make this cheaper, but how can we do this better? Yes, how can we change the world with this product?

Changing the world takes courage

Changing the world takes courage - the courage to leave the familiar behind and strike out a new way.

To build better devices, often the best way is to start afresh. That's why iOS is such a delight for users and developers. It's why the iPad is a success when the 10 years of tablet PCs on Windows was a dud.

And you can't change anything, if you don't control everything... and Apple is one of the few companies in the world today that can make the whole widget, as Steve is fond of saying... device, eco-system, platform.

Today, you can use an Apple product without knowing any of all that. It just resonates with you at a human level. That's why you can be a fan and love its products, but never know why it will go and put four lads from Liverpool on its homepage.

That doesn't sound like a company with a brand problem.

Listen, can you keep a secret? Do you promise not to tell?

I'll tell you when Apple has a brand problem... it's when you hear consistent tales of an iPhone user switching to something else, or an iPad owner switching to a Galaxy Tab...

So far the Apple magical mystery tour seems to be a one-way invitation. I don't see too many people exiting Steve's Big Top... but I do see a whole lotta Chinese and Africans peeking over the fence. And, boy, do we like what we see.

[18 Nov 2010 11:47]

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