Q: How do you know if someone’s got an iPhone?
A: They tell you.
It’s a decent joke, and often true. With Apple getting set to announce its fourth-quarter results tonight and some analysts predicting the company will become the most valuable in the world by market capitalisation, surpassing both Exxon and Microsoft, the Apple brand is highly unlikely to go away any time in the near future.
This caps a remarkable transformation under Steve Jobs who has taken the company, since re-joining as chief executive in May 1997, from a total value of $2bn to $274bn.
Obviously there are a huge number of fascinating aspects to the Apple brand and the Apple story, but one I find particularly interesting is how the company has managed to become such a regular topic of conversation in workplaces and homes around the globe.
This ‘chat factor’ is a central goal of the majority of PR strategies unless, of course, you’re trying to keep your client out of the Limelight.
And whilst the idea of some shadowy PR director hypnotising the world into talking about the Apple brand is imaginatively appealing, I think the real reasons are somewhat simpler.
Apparently Steve Jobs told a team of coders at the start of his second tenure, “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology – not the other way around.” And it seems that this approach is at the heart of the brand’s success.
Apple does make excellent products, whether they are actually worth the money or as innovative as they are visually attractive however, is up for debate. But there is no doubt that they are aesthetically unparalleled and a joy to use.
The topic of conversation, when you get down to it, is not usually about the company, but about the product in someone’s hand – whether that’s the iPhone 4 or the iPad.
This is compounded by the general snowball effect of consumer fashion and the increased prevalence of digital media and technology in our lives and there you have it: a juggernaut that just attracts debate and analysis, just like I’m doing here.
But I can’t shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, there’s something else going on…