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How Steve Jobs made Apple the one brand to rule them all.


It is every marketeer’s dream to have a success story as astounding as Steve Jobs’. From being ousted from his own company to making a comeback and catapulting his brand to be a global leader in the industry, Steve Jobs has redefined the rules of the game of marketing.

In 1977, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak co-founded Apple. Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985 due to a power struggle with the company’s board and then-CEO, John Sculley. Jobs started his own company called NeXT with a handful of ex-Apply employees, which was eventually bought out for USD 400 million by Apple in 1997. This was Jobs’ re-entry into Apple, which was desperately in need of restructuring. Without Jobs, Apple had been suffering financial losses for 12 years. When Jobs returned to Apple, this marked the beginning of the company’s resurrection.

Since Jobs’ comeback, Apple has amassed a remarkably devoted consumer base. This is due to a variety of factors, including Jobs’ passion for his products, dedication to consumer experience, pushing the boundaries of innovation in consumer technology, guaranteed high quality of all of their products, and making Apple products more about a lifestyle choice than owning a mere tech gadget. This is the foundation on which Apple stands today. It got Apple out of bankruptcy to become the most valuable corporation in the world.

Steve Jobs passed away on 5 October 2011 but has left behind a legacy that, as of April 2023, has a market capitalisation of USD 2.6 trillion. His Apple-exclusive tried-and-tested marketing strategy is still used today and is the reason why each year more than 2 million viewers tune in to watch the Apple Event live to be the first to know about the company’s latest products. A deeper examination reveals the true genius of Steve Jobs that makes being a part of the Apple experience ‘magical.’


Catching the Hype-Train

If we look at Apple’s internal strategy documents from a few decades ago, we’ll find that their main marketing objective was to “Establish Macintosh as the third industry standard product in the marketplace.” In the run-up to the much-anticipated debut of the Apple Macintosh in 1984, the business bought time in one of the most sought-after ad spots, the Super Bowl. Insiders at the time saw the Macintosh as an essential product to Apple’s long-term success. Apple hired Ridley Scott, a well-known Hollywood filmmaker known for classics such as ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner,’ to helm their commercial and create a masterpiece. This move paid massive dividends for Apple because it became the most well-known and hailed Super Bowl ads of all time. The tagline, “Why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’,” which parodied George Orwell’s dystopian novel to illustrate how Apple’s goods, specifically the Macintosh, would be utilised for freedom rather than control, was very inventive and forward-thinking for the time.



Denoise and Declutter

When he returned to Apple, Steve Jobs concluded that having too many items and too many options just confuses consumers. Jobs’ insistence on simplifying target markets and restricting the quantity and diversity of product lines Apple offers may have contributed to Apple’s success as it is today. Apple made it simple with the iMac – all you have to do is choose a colour. Complicated marketing is required for complex product lines, yet complex marketing is rarely effective. A company’s ability to disseminate clearer, more targeted marketing that increases the reach of a product – which now has more capabilities because there is no need to ration features – is increased by streamlining its product lines.


Building a Community

In addition to creating a devoted consumer base, Apple has been very successful in building a fan community of tech enthusiasts, content creators,  media personalities and journalists.

Apple fans are so devoted to the brand, that they passively promote its products without even realising it. This has made Apple’s word-of-mouth marketing strategy phenomenally effective as it has helped present its products as essential lifestyle commodities and not mere pieces of gadgets. The secret to this success has been Apple’s closed environment perspective, where they often do not even acknowledge the existence of competing brands. For example, every year during product launches, Apple proudly states the improvements of the latest iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches from previous generations of those products, and compares it to the ‘latest PC’ without mentioning any competitor brand name. Apple has been using this strategy effectively to excite the press and devoted fans about their latest releases to establish real marketing connections with these groups.


Never Making It About the Specs

Most tech companies love to boast about product specifications. But even though Apple products consistently perform better and lead benchmark tests across virtually all the metrics – speed, performance, display, audio, camera, and network, the company rarely brings these up in their advertisements. This is because Jobs understood very early on that consumers care about answering one question only, “Is this product the right choice for me?” So, his approach was to drive home a single takeaway to consumers – “It just works!” The phrase expresses what Apple is all about – selling technology that solves problems with a minimum of fuss and effort on the part of the owner.

It’s not like Apple completely avoids mentioning product specifications and other technical information. They are simply the last part of the conversation in any Apple interaction. For example, the iPhone 14 Pro Overview webpage talks only about ‘Dynamic Island,’ picture quality, the A16 bionic chipset, battery life, ‘Cinematic mode,’ ‘Ceramic Shield,’ crash detection and sustainability. Tech Specs are two tabs to the right of the Overview webpage, and site visitors will get more than enough information to compare the iPhone 14 Pro with other products in the market. The way Jobs structured his narrative, he made sure people first agreed that Apple products ‘just work’ and then they could go to the specs page to see why they ‘just work.’


Apple Park, the corporate headquarters of Apple Inc., in Cupertino, California


Always Making It About the Experience

Consider the enormous handicap Jobs set for himself when he launched the first iPhone in 2007 with no video capture or selfie cameras but still managed to sell 270,000 units in just the first 30 hours. Why? People wanted to be part of the experience. Apple first changed consumers’ musical experiences after it launched the iPod in 2001, and people expected similar improvements in quality of life with the iPhone. And Jobs delivered. From its physical build quality to seamless user experience, the iPhone fulfilled consumer expectations despite its shortcomings. But perhaps the best experience comes from Apple’s customer service delivery.

Apple has even branded its customer service and called it AppleCare. Users can have their devices replaced as long as it is covered under the AppleCare warranty. This is how Apple hooks users further into the Apple experience. Users are invited (not asked) to go down to an Apple Store, set up an appointment at the Genius Bar, and have all their problems sorted out while they browse products, and interact with employees and other enthusiastic customers. Apple Stores are meticulously designed to encourage visitors to test out other Apple products which drastically increases conversion rates. The more Apple devices a consumer has, the higher the likelihood for them to become a part of the Apple ecosystem.


Never Taking an ‘L’

Steve Jobs received considerable criticism from tech elitists for making devices that were not on par with the best in the industry but still claiming they were somehow better. The first iPhone (2007) had no copy and paste, no GPS, no video recording, no MMS, and no Bluetooth for music. The 2009 Macbook was nowhere near as modular as other laptops, yet, Apple ran the ‘Mac vs PC’ campaign which showed Mac users as ‘cool’ and ‘peppy’ and PC users as out-of-touch and boring. Jobs still convinced the world that the iPhone and Macbook are perfectly capable machines, and completely ignored the sentiments of tech-savvy crowds who took pride in their in-depth knowledge of technology and understood why Apple products were fundamentally inferior. But their reservations made virtually no impact on Apple’s sales as the target group were consumers willing to pay a premium for high-quality products that did everything they promised to do (albeit only a handful of features) perfectly.

Jobs set the precedence that Apple will only add a feature if it can be good enough for Apple consumers – if it is not done the Apple way, then it should not be done at all. Tim Cook, the current CEO of Apple, explained that this is exactly why the 2023 iPad still does not have a calculator app. They are still figuring out the best calculator app for the iPad.

Virtually every year since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, Apple has been criticised for being overrated and overpriced but this has had little to no impact on its fans and admirers. The value proposition of Apple products is simply too high because of Jobs’ obsession with quality and design. The prime example of this is when Apple removed the headphone jack and the industry laughed at it for branding it as a move that stems from ‘courage,’ but then other companies followed suit.

The bottom line is, Apple has its branding and marketing game ‘down to a T’ thanks to the strict strategies laid out by Steve Jobs ever since his comeback. From a public relations standpoint, the company is both criticised and admired, which means they are always the talk of the town whenever they unveil a new product. As long as it stays true to the legacy that Steve Jobs left behind, it will continue to be ‘the one brand to rule them all.’


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