Magazine article Marketing

How Can Apple Keep Up Its Colourful Thinking?

Magazine article Marketing

How Can Apple Keep Up Its Colourful Thinking?

Article excerpt

Apple's remarkable success with the iMac is beginning to reach the end of its natural life. How can the IT company maintain popular interest in its colourful computer?

Three years ago, Apple staged a stunning comeback. After a long period of playing second fiddle to Microsoft and its PC hardware cousins, Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs came up with a product and a marketing formula that was to change the shape of the IT universe.

By introducing the iMac in its five fruity flavours, Apple underwent a genetic modification all of its own. The company not only brightened up dull offices, but brought a new dimension to home computing. People stopped hiding their beige monitors in studies and bedrooms, and proudly displayed their trendy new iMacs in their living rooms. Thanks to Apple, computers became fashion accessories. The award-winning 'Think Different' campaign from TBWA/Chiat/Day in New York added to its success.

But resurgence on such a scale was always going to be hard to maintain. The firm lost its UK chief executive John Molyneuxto Scoot in 1999, and six months later the company axed its UK marketing department as part of a fundamental European restructuring.

It was compounded by the departure late last year of top European marketer Bruno Didier (Marketing, February 15), and recent results revealed a [pound]134m loss in the final quarter of 2000. But Apple is not suffering alone -- its hardship is symptomatic of trends across the whole IT sector.

We asked PeterTravis, chief executive of Travis Sully Harari, which has held the Dell account in the UK for six years, how he would 'think different' for the brand. We also asked Mark Rapley, vice chairman at Claydon Heeley Jones Mason, who was the board director on the Compaq account while at BMP DDB, what he would do to achieve organic growth for Apple.

                                VITAL SIGNS
                     1995   1996   1997    1998  1999  2000
Sales ([pound])      7.6bn  6.7bn  4.8bn   4.0bn 4.2bn 5.5bn
Profit/loss          292m   -562m  -720.5m 213m  414m  541m
Employees            17,615 10,896 10,176  9,663 9,736 8,568
Income as % of sales 3.8    -8.3   -14.8   5.2   9.8   9.8
Source: Hoovers

DIAGNOSIS

Ever since its famous 1984 commercial, Apple has sought to be positioned as a smart innovator. But it's one of those brands that has never quite punched its weight.

Established in 1976, Apple built an early bridgehead into the corporates. But it was the Microsoft-based manufacturers that captured the business world with Apple reduced to a niche player. …

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