How Apple Turns Art Into Profit

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get some marketing advice from Apple?
The spectacular success of Apple is nothing short of magical.

While no single factor can explain Apple’s success, there is one common thread that runs through it all.
And that’s simplicity.
But that’s not me talking. That’s Ken Segall talking in his remarkable book Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success.

But wait, how would Ken know this for a fact?
It’s simple: Ken is an advertising executive who worked closely with Steve Jobs for over 12 years spanning NeXT and Apple. Among other things, he started the i-frenzy by naming iMac and helped develop Apple’s famous Think different campaign.

There’s a ton of useful ideas in Insanely Simple, so don’t lend it to a friend—you’re unlikely to get it back.
After I finished reading Insanely Simple, I had the pleasure of exchanging a few words with Ken and he graciously agreed to conduct a quick interview for Since I believe that honing and demonstrating Younique expertise is one of the best ways to achieve long-term success, I decided to not follow some “traditional” formula for this interview. Instead, I simply decided to ask Ken just one open-ended question:

Ken, in your book you’ve articulated a great case for the principle that minimizing is the key for making a point/idea/product stick. What are the top three causes which make it the most ignored principle in marketing?

I’m not so sure it’s an ignored principle as much as it is an unprotected principle. I’ve worked in a lot of places where the original ideas have been beautifully minimized — but they are fairly quickly sabotages. Given the great beginnings, the results are disappointing. Apple is unusual in its ability to minimize in products and marketing, and keep its ideas pure from start to finish.

Why is it so difficult for most companies? One is a blind devotion to processes. Processes are born as a way for an organization to duplicate a previous success. “If it worked before, let’s just do that again.” The problem is, as organizations grow and become more complicated, new arrivals are trained in processes. They are evaluated by how well they protect those processes. Results suffer when processes become more important than the ideas they were designed to support.

Another force working against simplicity is “bigness” syndrome. One great difference between Apple and other companies is that Steve Jobs refused to act like a big company, even as Apple became a big company. He bragged that there were no committees inside Apple. He kept workgroups small. For many organizations, the bigger or more important a project, the more bodies are thrown at it. When too many people are involved, development takes longer and costs more, and great ideas are easily compromised.

Another reason why few companies excel in minimizing is that they lack a champion. The fact is, simplicity doesn’t just happen by itself. It requires someone willing to stand up when the principle is threatened. That can be the CEO or a manager, but it has to be someone. Those who become champions of simplicity not only improve the performance of their organizations, they raise their own value.

Thank you Ken and all the best until next time!
July 16, 2012