Let’s be honest: Apple creates excellent products. Without these products, there would be no magic and no brand. But there is more to Apple than the items it sells, and in this article we explore Apple as a cultural phenomena through a process of de:branding.
When Apple entered the computer market in the late 1970s, it entered a world structurally dominated by masculinity and logos. A technocratic, instrumental outlook set the tone for the field, with IBM being exemplary of this attitude. What Apple brought into this cold world of computer technology was eros, a more feminine and humanistic approach, together with a vision of democratizing computer technology by making it more accessible to individuals.
The eros that Apple embodied reflected the aesthetic, cultural, and spiritual values of Steve Jobs, who was driven by an extraverted intuitiveness and influenced by Zen Buddhism. The philosophy of Zen centers on the search for direct insight into the universe through the long, constant, patient practice of meditation. It emphasizes action over theory, and cultivates a sense of simplicity inspired by its Japanese heritage.
With its products, Apple introduced a more intuitive and direct way to engage with and relate to computers by breaking down the traditional borders between human and machine, between subject and object. The introduction of the “mouse” with the first Macintosh computer, for example, opened up a new, more immediate way to relate to the computer screen’s graphical interface. Apple’s products, then, in their sleekness and simplicity, evoked a Zen sensibility and a beauty that might be considered humanistic.
But this is not all. In order to connect on the deepest levels of brand identification, Apple has (unconsciously and partly consciously) become a symbol for the contemporary collective’s search for transcendence through technology. Historian David Franklin Noble writes in his book The Religion of Technology that in an attempt to regain a lost sense of divinity, we have come to identify technology with transcendence, approaching it as a gateway to salvation and redemption from the brokenness of the world and humanity’s limitations.[i]
To get a better understanding of how Apple built its brand mythology and the process of de:branding, order your copy of Brandpsycho - The hidden psychology of brands.
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[i] David F. Noble, The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1997).
Lusensky M. Jakob, Brandpsycho - The hidden psychology of brands (Black Books , 2018).