Apple Steps Up
Since 1983, Apple has been securing support from their developers with a special event called the World Wide Developers Conference. The WWDC event, or “dub-dub” is an Apple conference where new and upcoming technologies and products are showcased by the brand. These events were originally private and all attendees had to sign a non-disclosure agreement covering the sessions and materials handed out. However, Apple famously opened up the WWDC Keynote via webcast, allowing the world to see the way that Apple uses the event to celebrate their story.
One of the most memorable and impactful WWDC events happened in 2013. The event happened at a critical time. There was a large buzz about other companies who were seemingly “out-innovating” Apple over the past year. The competition was making a splash with larger phones, exclusive features, more affordable tablet options and all new operating systems. The technology conversation that had seemingly always been dominated by Apple had opened up and competing brands were gaining support and popularity.
That noise was amplified by the grumblings about Apple had lost focus since the 2011 death of Steve Jobs. People were beginning to wonder whether the once invincible brand was beginning to show signs of weakness. Apple needed to make a statement.
So, when the event began in early June of 2013, Apple was ready. The crowd was ready too. The webcast opened with a black screen and a quick flash of the broadcast rights. As the words disappeared, the screen and room shifted to pitch black. You knew the presentation was still live because you could hear the packed house of Apple developers in attendance anxiously waiting.
They began to clap and cheer, as they were ready to erupt when Apple’s first speaker took the stage. However, they got a surprise instead. A simple piano began to play in complete darkness. It completely silenced the crowd, and then, a film began.
It was a simple and elegant animated film. There with no spoken words. The music set the tone for the narrative as each idea came to life through black text and imagery on a bright white background. It began …
If everyone is busy making everything. How can anyone perfect anything?
We start to confuse convenience — with Joy.
Abundance – with choice.
Designing something requires focus.
The first thing we ask is – what do we want people to feel?
Delight – Surprise – Love – Connection
Then we begin to craft around our intention
It takes time.
There are a thousand no’s – for every yes.
We simplify — We perfect – We start over.
Until everything we touch – enhances each life – it touches.
Only then do we sign our work …
Designed by Apple in California.
Immediately after the video played, Tim Cook took the stage to roaring applause and said, “I’m really glad you liked that, those words mean a great deal to us – and you’ll see that reflected throughout the show today.” It was powerful.
In just two minutes, Apple told the story of their design process and punctuated it with a brand story title, that just happened to be the signature that is put on every Apple product. It was simple, it was clear, and it was meaningful.
For the next 75 minutes, Tim Cook did just as he promised by illustrating have they lived this story by unveiling ideas that contributed to its message; a new desktop operating system, a new Mac Pro design, an all-new operating system for mobile/tablet and other innovations.
They were all impressive. However, it wasn’t the products that made the most impact. It was the way Apple clearly shared their story in order to gain confidence and solidify connection with their Brand Celebrators.
Apple seized the opportunity, they went all in and took control of the rumors and negativity to clearly define who they were with confidence, and the message connected. The opening film was designed to make a lasting and memorable impact through the presentation of the title “Designed by Apple in California.” It was positioned a signature to the vision, values and attributes that have set Apple apart from their competitors since April 1, 1976. It served as a notice that the brand was proudly refreshed and focused.
Apple is a master at activating the brand story process from the inside out and that is why they are so successful at building brand participators. They know their story and they understand the best way to celebrate it.
Apple may have lost Steve Jobs and had critics and competitors attacking them, but they didn’t allow any of that to define them. They stepped up and celebrated their story in a way that illustrated pride and inspiration. The next step was to extend the message beyond the WWDC event so that everyone else could join in the celebration.
So, almost immediately after the WWDC presentation, Apple released an “Our Signature” version of the “Designed by Apple in California” brand story on television via a sixty second commercial version. It was for the masses and the setting was different, so this time they used a voice over in combination with lifestyle shots of people enhancing their life using their Apple products.
This is it. This is what matters.
The experience of a product.
How will it make someone feel? Will it make life better? Does it deserve to exist?
We spend a lot of time, on a few great things
until every idea we touch … enhances each life it touches.
You may rarely look at it … but you’ll always feel it.
This is our signature … and it means everything.
The film fades to black and closes dramatically with no spoken words, just the white text “Designed by Apple in California.”
It’s a fantastic story that is punctuated by a powerful title. It is extremely well-shot and the message is clear. But is it a comprehensive story that utilizes the 3-P Principle?
Let’s examine it more closely to reveal the answer.
- Does it convey their positive attitude? It certainly positions them as passionate and personal artists who craft their work.
- Does it reveal what powerfully drives their company? It clearly illustrates the time, energy, dedication and commitment that it takes to stylishly and meticulously craft something that enhances each life it touches.
- Does it illustrate the purposeful direction they are working towards with their products? They no doubt clarify their goal to create a joyful, life enhancing experience with each one of their finished products. They also demonstrate the pride they take in putting their name on their design. It’s relatable in that we all have seen products promoting the fact that they were “Made in Japan” or “Made in Taiwan” or even “Made in the United States.” Apple products are “designed” in California. Setting apart the artistry of what they craft while differentiating their style as creators focused on delivering life-enhancing innovation. Genius.
The answers to these questions are yes, yes and yes. Apple ADDed up a perfect story that defined their positive attitude, powerful drive and purposeful direction clearly. However, the message did not connect with everyone.
Advertising monitoring agencies, bloggers, and journalists lit up the internet exclaiming how Apple had missed the mark with their branding on the new campaign. But the truth is that Apple didn’t miss the mark at all; those reporters were missing the point. The new message wasn’t a strategy meant for everyone, it was meant to reaffirm the connection Apple had with its most passionate supporters, the ones who fuel their success, their Brand Celebrators.
The message solidified confidence and reaffirmed connection to Apple’s powerful “Think Different” message. That mentality was being challenged and they defended it in a way that clearly distinguished the Apple experience. The Designed by Apple in California signature became a reaffirming agent that does exactly what it needs to do. The best part is that the signature wasn’t a new concept, or a freshly developed rebuttal campaign.
Apple had been using the Designed by Apple in California on packaging for nearly a decade before promoting this storyline at the 2013 WWDC. It had already been there, but it had never been a focus. It was just one of the many story defining assets that Apple had ready, waiting to be celebrated.
The 2013 WWDC was the right time in the company history to utilize this title for brand story development. They weren’t altering who they were because of competition. They weren’t reacting due to pressure from bloggers, or cowering to comments from review publications. They were stepping up and taking a leadership role in celebrating their story.
Here are the films discussed
Apple WWDC 2013 Keynote Opening Animation