For many years, Apple has been one of the most fashionable tech companies on the planet, with people seeking their devices for their style and image as much as their functionality. But why is Apple such a fashionable tech company in the first place? And will it retain this title indefinitely?
Design over functionality
Steve Jobs helped build and, in many ways, singularly represented Apple. And when he was in charge of Apple, he held a handful of important design principles that he used to sculpt not only the products he created but also the brand itself. These principles essentially established the idea that Apple products should prioritize design over functionality. That doesn’t mean these products shouldn’t be functional; on the contrary, most Apple products are highly reliable and useful for a wide range of applications. It just means that they need to be designed with simplicity, minimalism, accessibility, and aesthetics in mind.
As a result of this philosophy, Apple begin releasing products that were not just technologically advanced, but also interesting, beautiful, and different from everything else on the market. This helped to competitively differentiate the brand, attract a cult following, and solidify the idea of the company. Because each new product is seen as a work of art, it’s only natural that it became watched and appreciated as a kind of fashion.
Willingness to break norms
Fashion is only moved forward when a “first mover” is willing to break the norms and try something new – even if that “something new” violated previous standards. We see this in the fashion and jewelry industry directly; for example, lab-created diamonds are now widely available and almost indistinguishable from typical diamonds. For a time, lab-grown diamonds held an “unnatural” stigma, but because pioneers continued refining them, they’ve earned a permanent spot in the fashion world.
Apple was never afraid to violate norms and reject old standards. Moves that we take for granted now, like rejecting a slide-out keyboard on a phone in favor of a touchscreen keyboard, were seen as revolutionary and risky at the time.
Apple’s image was built and solidified by ongoing rounds of aggressive, innovative marketing campaigns. These ads deviated from the norm and helped solidify Apple as a “different” kind of tech company.
- 1984: Apple’s “1984” commercial is still being discussed and analyzed almost 40 years later;
- Dancing silhouettes: A fun mood and minimalistic design helped sell people on a new way to listen to music;
- There’s an app for that: More than offering a new catchphrase, this ad warmed people up to the idea of a smartphone;
- “Get a Mac:” These ads exemplified Apple’s target demographics and made Apple seem “cool” by comparison; you wouldn’t want to be some lame nerd who owns a PC, right?
It doesn’t hurt that Apple products have typically been more expensive than the products of their rivals. People are happy to pay a premium for excellently designed and concept devices – and paying more makes them feel like what they’re buying is more valuable.
Scarcity & exclusivity
Apple also did an excellent job of creating a sense of scarcity and exclusivity. While there are enough iPhones and other Apple devices to meet demand, there’s a limited number of Apple stores where people can shop in person, and in most cases, you can only use Apple parts to repair or enhance your Apple device. In other words, there’s a kind of “forced” brand loyalty – and a lingering sense that buying an Apple product makes you part of a secret club or exclusive group.
The fashionability of Apple is also highlighted by its annual or near-annual releases. Every year, or nearly so, the company releases a new model of iPhone and other new devices and accessories for their customers. Unveiling these new developments is akin to a fashion show, providing people with a preview of what’s coming next. Only some people upgrade their phone every year, but all fans of the brand can appreciate these sneak previews and eventual rollouts.
Can Apple be fashionable forever?
There are some timeless fashion brands, but fashion is a fickle world – and there are already some signs that Apple is losing its “fashion crown.” Top tech competitors have borrowed from Apple’s playbook, creating their own revolutionary designs, making their brand more fashionable, and deviating from older, traditional norms. And despite continuing to produce and distribute reliable technology, Apple hasn’t come up with any industry-changing ideas on par with the iPhone in many years.
That said, the Apple brand still has a powerful cult following – and their devices are still brilliantly designed while remaining perfectly functional. It’s hard to say whether the brand is going to be fashionable and “cool” forever, but it’s likely to hold its own for at least the foreseeable future.