Apple’s Brand Fraying? Laughable, man.

laughableI was wondering who would write the easy article today on the iPad announcement. And I’m not talking about the highlight reel either. I’m talking about the “Apple is screwed without Steve” article. You knew it was coming, and without fail, we got it. Jolie O’Dell at VentureBeat is your winner, for anyone who had a pool going. In her post, Apple’s Press Conference Showed a Brand Unraveling is a poorly considered piece that uses a few specious pieces of evidence to construct her argument that Apple is already falling apart without Steve Jobs.

Her big, unanswerable question, is “Would Steve do it this way?” She concludes no. I get it. It’s link bait. It will whip everyone up into a frenzy and will drive tons of traffic to her article; but there’s just no reasonable way to substantiate her argument. She’s wrong, and she wrote a lazy article to boot.

To save you the read, here is the gist of it:

I think today’s Apple event shows that perfectionism fraying a bit around the edges. The bad pun, the goofy logo, the weird product name — all of it pointed to a leadership that either didn’t understand or didn’t care about consistency in iconography.

Let’s take a quick look at some of her “signs” that the Apple brand is fraying and see if they stand up at all.

The ambiguous naming of the “new iPad”

O’Dell opines that the lack of a modifier at the end of the name iPad shows an ambiguity that wouldn’t exist under Steve. In her opinion, there’s no way Steve would’ve NOT put a modifier on the product to clearly delineate it in the product line.

But, Steve Jobs is the one who took a complicated Apple product line and simplified it — remember? His famous product matrix? The one he drew on the whiteboard after a dizzying set of arguments with product people who couldn’t explain what was different from one product to the next?

From a guy who built the company around simplicity, the idea of dropping a silly modifier of an iconic product seems about right. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this idea was one that Steve actually championed. I can almost hear him saying “Let Microsoft have the ME’s and XP’s and 8’s, we have the iPad.”

apple product matrix

Steve Jobs' simplified product matrix to help Apple refocus after his return as CEO.


Tim Cook’s Untucked Shirt

I really have no idea why I’m addressing it, because it’s ludicrous, but I’m bored, so here are just a few shots of the executives who have been on-stage at Apple keynotes with untucked shirts with Steve there! I’m thinking that Steve has no problem green-lighting untucked shirts.

Steve Forstall, WWDC 2008

Steve Forstall


Phil Schiller, WWDC 2009

Phil Schiller


And Phil again — untucked (with short sleeves!) — at the original iPad announcement

phil schiller


Tim Cook, in gasp, a polo (with Steve Jobs)

Steve Jobs and Tim Cook


Verdict? The shirt is fine.

The Apple Logo

O’Dell argues again that the tie-dyed logo is a symbol of the brand coming apart at the seams. Steve Jobs would never allow the Apple logo to be altered in such a way. But the fact is that Apple has made color a huge part of its iconography — especially for the iPad.

Here’s the original iPad launch branding in 2010:

ipad launch


Here’s today’s announcement exterior:

apple ipad

Looks pretty on-brand for iPad events, don’t you think? I’m guessing Steve would be ok with this one, too.



O’Dell takes offense with the iPad headline “Resolutionary”. Steve Jobs would never approve something so punny. But the reality is that Apple is known for their bordering-on-hokey turns of phrase. I hastily dug up a few examples from their email newsletters. Each one of them has a play on words or turn of phrase — it’s fundamental to how they write copy. Resolutionary falls right in line with this tradition. Therefore Steve Jobs gives it a thumbs up. Heck — it could be jotted down in one of his notebooks somewhere.


A very rushed sample of email headlines from Apple newsletters:

In short, there is no brand fraying here. Will Apple change under Tim Cook? No question. It already has. But Apple’s brand is part of their DNA. They have internal case studies on what is and isn’t the Apple brand. They have die-hard brand loyalists up and down the org chart. There may come a time when Apple loses focus, strays a bit, or does something truly “off” for their brand. That will be the time to write the “Apple is screwed without Steve” article. Now is not that time, nor will it be for the foreseeable future. And while I’m sure the pageviews are nice for Jolie today, their lingering impact on her future opinion pieces might not be as welcome.

Laughable image.

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