Much like any forbidden fruit, Apple has managed to consume the public consciousness when it comes to tech; while this company has certainly seen lean seasons, it’s never been more ripe for the picking than it is today.
A Weathered Eye on The Future
From scrappy start-up, to waining one-hit wonder, to revitalized tech giant, Apple has worn many hats in the 43 years it has existed. Today, the Apple brand has become synonymous with technical innovation, professing 5 core values: accessibility, education, environment, inclusion/diversity, and privacy.
In practice, these values inspire efforts like:
- A function called VoiceOver which allows the vision impaired to draft emails and take selfies without seeing the screen
- Pledging money to underserved schools every year
- Releasing yearly progress reports with demonstrated efforts toward sustainability
- Hiring underrepresented groups
- Making security precautions like TouchID and FaceID standard
Many of these values align closely with Apple’s demonstrated commitment to innovation. Indeed, without employing each of the values, it would be difficult for Apple to genuinely progress and remain a force of originality in the modern landscape.
Having started as a computer company, Apple has continually expanded to encompass virtually every type of modern tech imaginable. Computers, laptops, tablets, phones, watches, televisions—you name it, Apple probably makes it. Apple has a reputation for coming out with the next big thing before the masses even have a chance to imagine it.
Humble Beginnings to Global Phenom
Most people have heard that Apple was founded in a garage, and that’s no exaggeration. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) being brilliant, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak dropped out of college in the mid-70s and began working to assemble a user-friendly computer in the garage of Jobs’ childhood home in California. Their goal was simply to bring computers within reach of average individuals, something which had never been done. The first Apple computers did not have monitors or keyboards, a far cry from the wholly integrated systems that the company produces today.
By 1980 (just 4 years after the company’s conception), Apple’s sales had climbed to $117 million. Just 5 years later, though, both of the original founders of Apple had left the company following turmoil with upper level executives and the direction of the brand. By 1996, it appeared that Apple’s meteoric rise had burnt out, and that the company was destined for certain failure.
However, just as it seemed that this sinking ship had no hope of recovering, Steve Jobs returned as CEO. It was during this period that Jobs asserted himself as a true visionary in the electronics space. He instituted a series of revelatory advancements, starting with a Mac-compatible version of Microsoft Office (a shocking cease-fire between two rival tech companies).
From there, Jobs unveiled such products as the iBook, iPod, and iPhone, in addition to the music software iTunes. These products quickly became the trendiest personal electronics every consumer was dying to get their hands on.
The spirit of innovation which Jobs instilled in Apple continued after his death in 2011. With a seemingly limitless lineup of new products and improved iterations of previous products, Apple continues to dominate personal electronics. In fact, they have even moved into offering workshops in select locations, asserting themselves as the same company that sought to make technology accessible all those years ago in a California garage.
Much Ado About Microsoft
If you spent any time watching television in the mid-2000s, you likely saw one of Apple’s famous “Mac vs. PC” commercials.
They featured a young Justin Long as a Mac and an older, apparently out-of-touch man as a PC.
This spoke to the pervasive idea that Apple was younger, more innovative, and constantly creating, whereas Microsoft was less fluid and more stuck in an inaccessible pattern of development. While these ads certainly personified the way that Apple hoped consumers would view their computers as compared to Microsoft’s, it was hardly the beginning of the rivalry between these two companies.
In fact, the competition between these two brands began all the way back in the 1980s. Even during the decade that Steve Jobs was not working at Apple, he continued to ridicule Microsoft (and by proxy, its founder Bill Gates) as having little imagination or sense of originality.
Of course, Microsoft and Apple eventually joined forces on a number of occasions to create compatible products . After all, this practice could only serve to benefit each of the companies since they would receive a small profit from software even when customers didn’t choose their hardware products.
Even today, Microsoft remains one of Apple’s largest competitors in the space of computers and software. However, a number of other competitors have burst onto the scene, most significantly in the last decade or so. Of these additional competitors, Samsung deserves specific attention.
Although the iPhone is still a hugely popular cell phone (with close to 20 improved models having been released in the last 12 years), Samsung’s phones are viewed as a viable alternative to the iPhone by a significant portion of the market. In fact, the choice between iPhone and Android is often made more specific and boiled down to a fight between iPhone and Samsung.
Staying on Top
Once a brand reaches the level of super stardom that Apple has, visibility almost takes care of itself. Think about how many iPhones you see as you walk down the street, or how many MacBooks are open in your nearest coffee shop. The simple fact is that Apple doesn’t have to rely on celebrity endorsements or influencer partnerships when everyday consumers (in addition to unpaid celebrities and influencers) are taking care of top-of-mind awareness for them.
There are, however, a number of steps Apple has taken to achieve this level of success. One of these steps is having instituted dedicated physical storefronts in a number of retail shopping locations, making their products feel more accessible to consumers—like buying a laptop is as easy as buying a blouse. Apple Stores give consumers a dedicated space in which to test out Apple products or troubleshoot their own devices, unlike many brands which rely on larger tech stores to house their products.
What’s more, Apple has stuck to a somewhat consistent schedule when releasing new products. While it might seem that this regimented method would grow tiresome to consumers, it actually generates buzz around the time that savvy tech-lovers anticipate a new product will be dropped. In effect, one of Apple’s most powerful tools for staying visible is doing nothing—until the time is right. It has become something like a game for interested parties to wager guesses as to when a new product will be unveiled.
In its resurgence during the early-2000s, Steve Jobs certainly sunk a great deal of resources into robust and stylized marketing. For proof that it paid off, you need look no further than the fact that this is no longer necessary. This is not to say that Apple doesn’t utilize ads to maintain their status, but they’re no longer clawing their way into market share. Instead, Apple is able to use ads today to highlight new product features, or express their company character.
Ethical Gray Areas, Arguments Over Rights
When you’re on top, there’s a lot further to fall. For this reason, Apple controversy dominates the news semi-frequently. Anytime the slightest possibility of scandal enters the public domain, it’s snatched up by dozens of news outlets.
Every year it seems, reports of poor working conditions in Apple’s manufacturing facilities in China surface. When these reports first began entering the news, Apple responded by exerting efforts to remedy these conditions. Despite this, nothing substantial seems to have been achieved on that front.
For better or worse, Apple’s response was apparently enough to satisfy consumers (or perhaps consumers have simply become jaded to this sort of information), because the brand hasn’t faced significant losses in response to these reports.
In a more white collar realm, Apple has been no stranger to patent disagreements. One of the most famous and most recent was with major competitor Samsung. The subject of this particular fight was a series of design and utility functions. Though Apple had been ruled a winner in the battle multiple times, Samsung continued to appeal, until the two companies settled the matter in 2018 after 7 years of drawn out fighting.
More technical patent fights have also arisen over Apple’s use of Intel chips, but the public seems largely uninterested in who created which part of their phone’s hardware, making these battles of little significance to Apple.
Perhaps the most damaging of Apple’s ‘scandals’ was the revelation that they had been throttling battery life on older models of iPhones. Apple confirmed that they were, in fact, slowing performance in an attempt to prevent crashes.
In response to the outrage that ensued over what many dubbed Batterygate, Apple offered discounted battery replacements in 2018. Later that year, the company released an iOS update that offered a greater deal of transparency surrounding battery health.
Despite momentary outcry from portions of the public, Apple has managed to emerge from each of these situations largely unscathed. Without any of these events taking any noticeable chunk out of profits, it seems Apple has received the message that people will continue to buy their products, regardless of what unsavory information surfaces in the news.
The World’s Most Valuable Brand
When it comes to the most valuable global brand, there’s no contest: Apple still ranks billions (yes, billions) ahead of the companies most closely nipping at its heels. With a value of $205.5 billion, it’s hard to imagine a company more influential or profitable than Apple, mostly because there never has been a company more influential or profitable than Apple.
For some perspective, Google ranks second on this list with a value of $167.7 billion. While Apple growth was only at 12% compared to Google’s 23% there’s no reason to suspect that any other brand will catch up to Apple in the near future. The fact is that it would still take Google years to close the gap at these current growth rates, and Apple is only likely to increase its percentage from here on out.
2019 is the ninth year that Apple has topped Forbes’ most valuable brands list. Despite being undercut (in terms of price) by competitors in a number of sectors like smart phones and computers, Apple’s services division (which includes things like the App Store, Apple Music, and the Cloud) continues to grow steadily, more than making up for that loss. This segment of the company alone is expected to glean $100 billion in profits by 2023, indicating that Apple’s status as a global force isn’t changing anytime soon.
Plus, Apple products may be more expensive than those of some competitors, but the reality is that people are still willing to pay premium price for Apple. Part of this has to do with the fact that Apple has created an entire “ecosystem” in the sense that all of their products can communicate and function together. For example, your Apple Watch integrates seamlessly with your iPhone which coexists with your MacBook, and so on.
To further illustrate just how far-reaching Apple’s brand scope is, consider the fact that they recently achieved 50% of the global smartphone market. This comes after they saw a decline in smartphone sales at the end of 2018, speaking to the resilience of this brand, which has something of a stranglehold on the world’s tech industry.
It’s hard to thoroughly comprehend the sort of power Apple has today, both in the realm of tech and consumer habits; for better or worse, it’s clear that everyone is hungry for a taste of what this brand has to offer.