Set in stone ?
From their logo alone, the general public can get a pretty strong sense of what the brand represents and what Apple products tend to look and feel like.
Far from a forgone conclusion, the current success Apple enjoys is the result of decades of hard work and incredibly savvy public relations efforts.
What we’d like to do today is zoom in on the question of, ‘How does Apple use public relations?’ and look at a few of the past marketing moves that helped them to be seen as one of the most forward-thinking and innovative tech companies in the world today.
Apple’s current brand image
Rather than trying to guess what Apple’s PR team considers to be the brand’s current image, we can instead take a look at Apple’s recent marketing efforts and ask ourselves how those materials make us feel, and what impression they give us of the company as a whole.
You may have noticed that with each new iPhone, the focus now tends not to be about the device’s range of features.
Instead, advertising, especially print advertising for new iPhone models, focuses on just one feature: the built-in camera(s).
Moving towards subtlety…
For years now, Apple has released a large line of print ads that show an impressive photo and mention with a short line of text that the photo was shot on an iPhone.
This represents an interesting shift for the brand’s marketing efforts because previously, Apple products and their advertisements implied a strange sense of elitism.
The iPod was simply a cool device to own, and so it also served as a kind of status symbol.
But while Apple products have not significantly reduced in price, their marketing now stresses a sense of inclusion and accessibility.
This trend was visible as early as 2016 with the introduction of the competitively priced iPhone SE.
Considering that nearly 20% of all iPhones sold as of 2020 are of the SE variety, it starts to look a deliberate brand image transition that paid off.
In fact, if you can recall, the Apple logo as portrayed on Macbooks and other Apple computers changed from an illuminated logo (an attention-grabbing beacon to brand status) to a relatively lower-key mirrored logo on their Macbook line. And this was in the same year as the iPhone SE release (2016).
Now, every user gets to see their own face reflected in the logo.
In a way, YOU are Apple when you use these products.
…but not quite there entirely (likely by design)
Most interesting is the fact that Apple still gets to maintain the slightest elitist branding of years gone by.
But rather than making potential customers envious, it now seems to entice new customers, inspiring people to dive into the Apple ecosystem for themselves.
So we can easily say that Apple’s current brand image is the culmination of many years of marketing and PR efforts.
Now let’s talk about other messages and ideas that Apple has continued to communicate to the public for many years.
Aligning with the creative market
For quite a long time now, Apple has aligned their brand with the creative market, and this works in a convenient cycle.
Since the early 2000s, Apple products have been very popular with creatives, thanks in part to the fact that Apple’s operating systems and UI around that time emphasized ease of use and overall quality.
Whereas many Windows computers tout customizability and don’t bother hiding options and problems from the user, Apple has taken a different approach.
The stylizing of their products is another important element, though we’ll talk about that soon.
But in terms of functionality, Apple computers, especially iMacs, are a pleasure to use and sport just enough technological capability to make creative work easy and convenient.
Returning to the idea of how this connection to artists feeds into a cycle, the ubiquity of Apple products in the creative space is a great way for new customers who are also creatives to feel attracted to the idea of buying Apple products.
Not only that, but for certain creative studios and even film production companies, Apple computers are just the standard, and anyone working with them needs to know how to use them.
But Apple has been fighting to keep their lion’s share of the creative market, with recent video ads showing professional musicians using Apple computers.
This is a great example of a specific PR concept: not all PR materials have the goal of winning over new customers. Once a brand has established dominance in a specific area, campaign materials often aim to maintain that dominance.
An image of simplicity and elegance
Apple’s brand aesthetic has been all about simplicity and elegance since Steve Jobs’ early days with the company.
Especially in the late 90s heading into the early 2000s, Apple drastically simplified their product line, and with the introduction of the iPod, design became one of the most important aspects of their marketing and their brand image.
For the most part, Apple products even today place a large emphasis on visual simplicity and an identity that screams luxury.
This also translates to the build quality of many Apple products. Metal is used often, and each product needs to feel durable, even if it actually isn’t.
In terms of portable tech like phones and watches, the goal is often to have as few physical buttons and switches as possible.
Even if physical switches are more practical for a certain function, they are heavily associated with outdated tech, since switches themselves are very old analog technology.
The design of Apple products also makes them very easy to market. Sometimes ads for a new Mac are simply a photo of the computer itself and its impeccable design.
This adds to desirability and communicates some important ideas about their goals as a brand.
Creating a hero
Lastly, we’d like to talk briefly about Steve Jobs’ influence on Apple’s marketing. To put it simply, Jobs was an expert-level PR professional.
Part of what he contributed to the brand’s identity was positioning himself as a visionary leader.
Steve Jobs was the one to introduce the iPhone. Jobs had his signature look that fell in line with the hero image he tried to project.
The overwhelmingly compassionate response to his death proves that he effectively marketed himself as Apple, and Apple as himself.
Despite the fact that many talented professionals made his ideas a reality, Jobs himself communicated Apple’s dedication to new and useful ideas and products that would ultimately improve the lives of their customers.
Without a doubt, this is a brand image that remains pervasive today.