THE BIG APPLE

THE BIG APPLE

SAMIR SINGH

If you think everything about April Fool’s day is a joke then allow me to dispel that notion and take you back in history. To 1st April 1976, to be exact.

This is the day when in Cupertino, California - two people, who quite coincidentally had the same first names, started a company and named it something which to some people at the time felt was lacking in imagination and maybe had no future. These two people were Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (no marks for guessing the name of the company).

Forty-two years and a few months later, which was just a couple of weeks back, Apple’s market valuation crossed $1 trillion, making it the first ever company to reach this landmark. Apples valuation today surpasses the GDP of many big countries making it into what I call... The Big Apple!

Now, there’s at least one less thing to laugh about 1st April.
So now the trillion-dollar question is what made Apple, The Big Apple.

The answer, as I think, is Steve Jobs and his three key ideologies, which are very similar, I think, to the thought and philosophy behind the United States. But this isnt just about praising the US; I am also going to talk about one stellar Indian brand that is doing well in all of those categories and overall as I talk about these three ideologies.

1. BE DIFFERENT, BE THE BEST.

Simply by being different, Apple and the US are both world leaders. In the case of Apple, that was very well vocalised in their 1997 campaign, which celebrated, among other luminaries, Mahatma Gandhi (video below).

At a time when all the computers that were being designed and manufactured were rather bland and dronish, Steve revolutionised the industry by making them beautiful and inspiring - while still keeping them simple with a great, user interface. On the other hand, America gave its own twist to everything English... from language, pronunciation, terminologies to driving on the opposite side etc. Basically, the founders of America were daring to think different even if it meant turning everything on its head.

While everyone was offering old or rehashed products, Steve forged ahead using innovation. He drove the development of the iPod, the iPhone, and the iMac, provided data security to consumers, focused on creators/designers and worked on accessibility features which would help the hearing and sight impaired use Apple products. America on the other hand created massive infrastructure which became the benchmark for world class infrastructure, thought out very well to the last detail and designed to last keeping future growth and expansion needs in mind.

Everyone who was making personal computers were going with Microsofts Windows platform. But Steve chose to develop his own operating system and created an entire ecosystem around the product so the user would not (or could not) go elsewhere. America, similarly, worked hard and made the dollar the international currency for world trade (and I concede, the world has changed since as the world must). Not only that, almost every card swipe is routed through US (firms) giving it a share of the transaction thus adding value to its economy.

The point I want to make here is that by being different, thinking ahead of the competition, one creates products, services and technologies for which there is an almost universal need. Then, one does not need to compete and play catch-up but you can create your own playground, play your own game with your own set of rules and let the others chase and compete (or copy for that matter).

To summarise, whatever you do... be different, set new benchmarks, keep competing with yourself and improving what you made in the past before someone else does.

Apple - Think Different - 1997 Campaign

Now, for the Indian example.

Burger Singh: This company has the tastiest burgers I have ever had. They have an Indian flavour but international taste. Brand imagery, packaging, product names, placement is all marvellous. No wonder they've quickly expanded to the UK now. Kudos!

2. MARKETING.

Are Apple products the best and is America the greatest country in the world? My answer is a clear NO.

There are brands that make products that are far more technologically advanced at less than half the price. Yet, almost everyone wants an Apple. I have myself seen the bad state of infrastructure which resulted in flooded Metro stations in New York, the police not bothering to respond to complaints in cities like Portland and big, industrial cities going bankrupt. Yet, many people will give an arm and a leg to live in the US. So, what is it that keeps Apple and the United States surging ahead and remain number one in public perception?

Besides making great products, Steve and the founders of America knew the importance of Marketing. Steve sold Apple products using great branding, placements and mega launch events for which the world waited with bated breath. The smile and satisfaction on consumers' faces on getting their hands on an Apple product even after standing in mile-long queues overnight is a clear sign of this. Meanwhile, America sold the American Dream to millions around the world. The joy on the faces of people upon reaching American soil, some after months of hardship entering illegally through the harsh terrain of Mexico, after suffering in Mexico’s prisons, says it all. Not only did they both know what the consumer would want better than the consumer, they mastered the art of selling a product or an idea to them better than anyone else!

Here, I am reminded of a conversation I had with someone in Spain who took me sightseeing. Standing in front of a beautiful building, this person said to me, “We have beautiful buildings and architecture, even better than Italy. We also make great shoes, at par with the Italians. But what Italians know far better than us is how to market their country and products with panache.”

So marketing is all about creating aspiration. Create aspiration and just like De Beers you can sell stones found in abundance on earth as diamonds.

Now the Desi example:

Royal Enfield: This company has reinvented itself and how! From a dying brand, it has transformed itself into a hip, cool, young marque. It has done this primarily through the transformation of its showrooms and communication. Today, there is waiting period for some of their bikes and they are expanding outside India.

3. DREAM BIG.

There's a saying: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”

Steve and America aimed big... really big. You will achieve the same once you remove the shackles of thinking small injected into you by your environment. Demolish all the mental blocks and boundaries. But dreaming big is not enough. One must have faith, a strong belief in the dream and the courage like a lion, as well. Believe that you are the best, that the goal is achievable, that you will settle for nothing less and then go after your dream. Don't ever let anyone else's lack of imagination, courage or faith obstruct you from making your dream a reality.

Today, Apple's reality is that if you type Apple in Google Search, 14 out of the top 16 image results are the Apple logo and not photographs of the apple which they say helps keep the doctor away. On the other hand, even if you type just us' in Google, the images aren't of people holding hands but of the map of United States. In short: aim to transform and dominate a space.

We live in very exciting times where the whole world is connected thanks to Apple, Google, Facebook and the like. Dreaming big and making it a reality is very easy with the whole world as your marketing and sales territory. So dream big actually means - Think Big, Think Global. And why stop there? Aim to sell to friends in far off galaxies and get inspired from Elon Musk to make your own space vehicle to reach those galaxies if that is what it will take.

TATA Group: Under Mr Ratan Tata's leadership, everything the Tata Group does and is involved in is world class. But by buying a troubled brand like JLR and reviving it Mr Ratan Tata did what no other Indian company/individual had the vision or the courage to do. Hats off to Mr Tata!

To conclude, if you do all the above you will create a legacy which no one can erase and you will become immortal, just like Steve.

I am also not sure if there is a coincidence that America’s most buzzing city, New York is called The Big Apple. The US has 2 Big Apple's now. One which spans a few hundred miles and attracts the whole world to itself and the other which has done much more and actually spread itself across the world.

The question to you now is... Should 1st April now be called The Big Apple Day or Steve Jobs day? And should the date for April Fool’s Day be changed? I leave that for you to decide and share in the comments section. Right now, it's time for me to do something to keep the doctor away today. I think I will have a... Kiwi and Watermelon

P.S: - While this article celebrates both Apple and America, there are numerous things that both have not done right which will be the subject of a Part 2 of this article. Coming soon!