Relationships are a funny thing really. At the start we laugh at each other’s jokes, listen intently and everything the person says to us is just the MOST interesting, thought-provoking thing we’ve ever heard.
Then slowly but surely, if we’re not careful we begin to start taking each other for granted. If you’re not too careful it can reach a stage where you even resent the sound of them eating.
It’s much the same with Apple.
As a niche player, their eccentricities were quite endearing. Buying one was a badge. You weren’t one of the masses. You were different. You didn’t necessarily have to be a globally recognized designer or creative individual to own one. But having one puts you in the same club.
Great branding. Great advertising. It broke the norm.
And the best bit was all the kit fulfilled on its promises. The stuff didn’t just look better, it worked better. They didn’t need to focus on how it worked they stuck the product in your face and showed you why it was better. And dammit, it was. And we loved it.
But then, simply because it was so damn good, Apple became mass market. Then, their idiosyncrasies became irritating. Now it wasn’t cute or leftfield, it was control freakery. Yet people were happy to endure this, because alongside the cache, Apple always gave you something noticeably better and cooler.
Things seem to be changing. Or rather the perception seems to be changing. Take the launch of the iPhone 5, and it appears to me that that the issue isn’t about the phone. It’s actually about the brand.
Let’s consider the launch movie.
Remember how they used to just show you how great their kit was? Well this time the movie opens with Jonathan Ive staring earnestly at me, softly spoken, telling me:
“We didn’t just want to make a new phone. We wanted to make it a better phone.” And that unsurprisingly “We take changing it REALLY seriously”. That has to be up there with announcing that bears do indeed defecate in the woods.
Then a sudden upping of the pace. Us Brits might have the vision, but goddammit if we’re going to make things happen we need a large American on the scene. Cue brash music and large American.
Then the assault of facts begins.
It is 18% thinner, 20% lighter. Not the man, the phone. It has two chips blended into one. TWO INTO ONE GODDAMMIT. AN A6 CHIP too. I could almost feel his spit on my face as he thrust fact after fact into me.
Anyway that bit I said about Apple not always focussing on how stuff works? Ignore that. I never said that.
FINALLY after a few but seemingly very long minutes I got to the bit that people like me and most consumers are really interested in, what does it do better?
Faster downloads, faster processing, amazing new map views, better display, low light photography, better Siri. AND a wonderful post rationalization for changing the charger connector. It’s reversible and better suited for digital. That’s handy as my iPhone 4 was powered by coal.
Then back into the materials, always a great talking point amongst friends. New manufacturing processes yaddah yaddah yaddah….
They should have just listened to my colleague who said “Raz, it’s a great phone, you just have to improve it. You can’t really revolutionise it. Just make it better in places”.
They seemed nervous. And their nervousness translated into arrogance. Apple always did arrogance but it used to seem more bearable. And fun.
So forget the phone.
I think Apple needs to take a long hard look at its brand and its direction. It needs to go back into its roots and start bringing back what made it pure – a slightly liberal eccentric approach.
Some of their recent advertising has been woefully off the mark to say the least. They appear do be doing things the way they used to avoid.
Their brand isn’t quite pinging like it used to.
And their products might be in danger of, dare I say it, turning beige. Even when they’re not necessarily. They’re just telling us it all in the wrong way.
I guess once the hullaballoo dies down, the phone will be the biggest seller they ever had. Too many of us are still too much in love with Apple to let that go.
We’re quite forgiving really.
So this time Apple, I forgive you, I can see there is something there. But may be we need to get back to why we fell in love with one another in the first place. You know this time it might not be me, but you.