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Former Apple creative director: Apple needs to think different to get better at marketing

Apple getting worse

Quick, what’s the last Apple ad or commercial you remember that was really great? That really spoke to you, inspired you, gave you that urge to go out and buy whatever was on the screen? Conveying that classic Apple aura that compelled the fans to go out and buy every single thing, often on the day of its release.

If your answer isn’t anything recent and in fact you have to reach back years to find something, former Apple creative director Ken Segall certainly knows the feeling. He’s just given an interview to The Telegraph in which he blasts the iPhone maker for playing it too safe when it comes to its messaging and advertising strategy these days. Indeed, adding that he can look at the company today as a marketer and “can see the difference between Steve being there — and not being there — very clearly.”

Segall definitely knows what he’s talking about. During his time with Apple, he came up among other things with the name iMac and also worked on legendary marketing campaigns such as the “Think Different” messaging.

The other side to Ken’s argument that Apple’s getting too soft and not daring enough anymore in its messaging – well, you could argue that’s almost an unavoidable product of reality. This is not the same company anymore, in other words, certainly not the same as it was in Ken’s day. It’s like with people. Something like the pudgy years of middle age set in and replace lust with loyalty. You were in college yesterday, it feels like, now you’re in your 40s with a mortgage.

You can test Ken’s argument yourself by asking whether the last Apple product you bought — whether you did it because you could barely contain your excitement or because you’re like the loyal middle aged family man who has a routine and who loves his wife, just in a different way than when he was a younger man.

“Tim Cook goes by the recommendation of the people around him,” Ken continues in the interview, referring to the approach of Jobs’ handpicked successor as CEO. Ken also describes those people around Cook as “a little vanilla.”

“In a big company environment,” he says, “people tend to get safer … In the old days, Apple used to do things that get a lot of attention.”

Speaking of getting attention. Maybe part of the problem is us. Apple doesn’t need to ask for as much attention anymore, because it has an army of loyalists who give it, unbidden. In a never-ending stream of love from iFans the world over.

But then again, about that. Let’s also remember — fans are great, and Apple has more than most. But it’s easy to forget where that word comes from. Fan is just a word that’s short for, well, fanatic.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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