June 21, 2013
As much as Steve Jobs always said he never needed to listen to customers to understand what they wanted, Apple’s communication was always perfectly attuned to the customer. From “1984” to “Think Different” to the latest iPhone and iPad ads, the focus was always on the user. Ads would inspire them, delight them, engage them. The message was always about the kind of people who purchased Apple products and the things you could do with them.
It was never about Apple…until now.
Apple’s latest campaign talks about “we” instead of “you.” It says “We’re engineers and artists…we sign our work…This is our signature. And it means everything.” It’s a beautiful ad and carries the same Apple aesthetic, but a very different voice. It is inward-looking not outward-facing. It is defensive not inspirational. It is backward, not forward looking. This is an Apple that feels like it has been slighted. This is an Apple that wants credit. This is an Apple that is trying to hold on, not one that continues to lead.
Of all the talk about how Apple has changed since Steve Jobs died, this speaks the loudest to me. It suggests that the mentality inside Apple has gone from offense to defense. From communicating with actions to trying to convince people that Apple is the same company they have come to respect.
Apple’s success has always been based on its ability to inspire others. Today it faces louder critics and stronger competition than ever before. Let’s hope that this ad was just a rest stop on the way to the next great innovation and not a sign that Apple’s best days are behind it.