I was curious to read a recent Forbes article that claimed to reveal the secrets to Apple’s marketing success—secrets that can be boiled down to a single word: Simplicity.
The evidence for Apple’s embrace of simplicity is ample. There are the Mac vs. PC ads, which the article notes featured just two guys with a plain white backdrop; each ad focused on one basic way in which Macs differ from PCs, plain and simple. The billboards and print ads are similarly bare-bones, usually just featuring a picture of the product and the product’s name.
It’s not just Apple’s marketing that’s simplified, Forbes tells us: “It’s worth noting that Apple’s products adhere to this rule, too. The popularity of Apple’s products is largely due to their simplicity and intuitiveness, making them accessible not only to tech-savvy consumers, but also to kids and seniors.”
As I read all of this, I couldn’t help but think of an old Mark Twain quotation: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Or, as that quote is popularly translated: If I had more time, I would have written less.
Simplicity is not something that comes about easily. It takes time and effort to get there—to whittle away the excess and to find ways to work unneeded steps out of a process.
To keep with the Twain quote, Apple is a company that has generally taken the time to write less. Apple is not above making mistakes—but when mistakes are made, it’s not because a product has been rushed. And when Apple did rush, it was on the brink of going out of business—but let’s not get into that.
What the Forbes article gets wrong, in my view, is that it sells Apple a bit short. It fails to recognize the effort and the true behind-the-scenes complexity that goes into developing and refining the simple. Do you imagine Think Different was conceived overnight? Nope: It was whittled down from countless other marketing phrases and ideas.
Forbes is at least right that Apple’s marketing simplicity is related to its product simplicity. Apple’s products are designed to be quickly and easily utilized as soon as the box is open—and again, that’s no accident. Apple’s team is willing to take two steps to make sure the customer only has to take one—and that is the secret to its success, or at least one of them.
All of this is outlined more in my upcoming book, by the way, where I go into greater detail about my own experience in sales at Apple. Look for it soon—but until then, make no mistake: Apple may be simple, but it’s not simplistic.