Ken Segall, the Chiat\Day marketing guru who dreamed up Think Different with Apple CEO Steve Jobs and named the iMac, has written a book about his time at the heart of Apple’s advertising.
Ken Segall on the letter "i"
See also: Apple A-Z
Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success is a fascinating glimpse behind Apple’s famously closed doors, taking the reader inside the inner sanctum and sneaking a peek at the marketing meetings presided over by Jobs.
We caught up with Segall during his UK tour of Insanely Simple, and cjatted with him about the Apple marketing phenomenon.
To what extent does a product name define the product? Without the "i" would the iPhone, iPod, iMac be any different?
With a company like Apple, it's often hard to separate the marketing from the product, says Segall.
Steve Jobs had a passion for marketing, and that included a passion for product naming. The right name can either be a boost for marketing or it can be a liability.
Steve pushed to get every detail right. The products themselves wouldn't have been any different if Apple had chosen different names, but the marketing of them would have been more of a challenge.
Steve insisted on the name iPhone, for example, because (a) the "i" instantly identified it as an Apple product, and (b) the "phone" word instantly identified the category Apple intended to revolutionize.
That name brought instant clarity to this landmark product.
Overall, the "i" came to stand for "consumer product from Apple" – which made it easier to market every successive product and build on the buzz.
Is "thinking different" just thinking simply, or is it something more complex wrapped up in simplicity?
In my book, I say that if you embrace simplicity, you are by definition "thinking different." The world is a complicated place and embracing simplicity clearly puts you in the minority.
But I do think simplicity is a subset of thinking different. The way Apple searches for new ideas, refuses to behave like traditional companies, operates on a distinct set of values – valuing simplicity is not the only way that Apple thinks different.
Has any other company got close to Apple's way of thinking different?
I don't believe that any other big company has come close to Apple's way of thinking. There are plenty of startups and small companies who possess similar values.
What made Apple unique (and succeed so dramatically) is that it became big by holding onto the values of a startup.
Steve Jobs loved to keep things in-house, and even then in a small room in that house. It seems odd that he trusted an outside firm to have such a say in the company's marketing. How did he square this outside involvement with his code of secrecy?
Steve had a close working and personal relationship with Chiat\Day agency head Lee Clow, and treated his ad agency like part of the Apple family. We worked under a strict secrecy agreement, since we had to prepare the marketing materials for new products far in advance of their launch.
Remember also that Steve had a major passion for marketing. He was looking for true partners in marketing, people who would live and breathe Apple's challenges – not just some outsiders who would float in and out.
Today Apple is largely a consumer rather than business company. Do you think Apple's simplicity stick could shake up enterprise computing as it has the consumer side?
I think that's already happening.
Though the IT people had long resisted Apple technology, the use of iPhones and iPads in the enterprise is now surging – largely because of the groundswell from within.
It's awfully hard for an IT guy to argue against Apple products when the CEO and/or others in the C-suite are requesting these products for themselves.
Certainly Apple's simplicity is part of the lure.
Remember, Steve Jobs once said that Apple had lost "the desktop wars." With iPhones, iPads and MacBook Airs, Apple is succeeding in ways it could never imagine back then.
Some of the main Crazy Ones from Think Different appear quite complex. Is there a common link of simplicity between these legends, or is genius innately complex?
I wouldn't go searching for links to simplicity in the individuals we featured in the "crazy ones" commercial.
The concept of the commercial itself was simple: express Apple's character by celebrating the lives of people that Apple admires.
There was no link between the people we featured other than the fact that each had "pushed the human race forward."
(And, of course, we created the commercial and subsequent posters to communicate simply.)
Not all Steve Jobs products have been successful (G4 Cube, NeXT hardware). Were these too complex or was the public too simple to switch on to them? [Or are cube-shaped products always bound to fail?]
Ah, the curse of the cube! An interesting theory, but the problems with both of those cubes is easier to identify.
The G4 Cube failed because Apple was unable to make it affordable enough for mainstream consumers. It was stuck in a shadowland between consumer and pro machines.
The NeXT Computer had a very different set of issues. NeXT was trying to sell an entirely new technology platform at the enterprise level, to customers who were already locked into large systems from other computer makers.
Steve ultimately stopped making NeXT hardware and concentrated on the real jewel: the NeXT OS. Which, as we all know, finally became a hit when it became the basis for OS X.
Ken Segall’s new book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success (Penguin, 2012) goes on sale on June 7.