Without Steve Jobs, Apple is losing its personality.
That's according to the former Apple creative director who helped Jobs build a cult following for the Apple brand. In an interview with the Telegraph, Chiat/Day director Ken Segall reveals how Steve Jobs was obsessed with creating an aura that made people "lust" for his products.
This is something Apple is now missing, despite being one of the world's most valuable technology companies, claims Segall. A failure to cash in on customer loyalty through emotional marketing campaigns might prove problematic for Apple as it prepares to weather a market that shows signs of cooling.
"These days, Apple does a different campaign for a different phone which I always thought was a lost opportunity. They should be building a personality for the phone, a thing that people might want to be part of because it rises above the features of the moment.
"That is the challenge, when you are in a more mature category and the feature differences are significantly less, how do you advertise something like that? That is where the skill of the marketer comes into play," says Segall.
Investors will be asking executives tough questions about what they have up their sleeves for the next iPhone on Tuesday evening, when it reports earnings for its financial third quarter.
There are concerns that if there are no big features coming, its loyal following may begin to think twice about purchasing the next model. In recent years, Apple has focused its marketing campaigns on single features, such as "shot on the iPhone", which can be spotted on bus stops and train posters up and down the country.
"There are all kinds of internal things going on at Apple," says Segall, who put together some of Apple's most iconic campaigns including the "think different" slogan which was credited with turning Apple's dry, corporate image around in the 90s.
"The passing of Steve Jobs created a completely different approach to marketing which we can see the results of," he adds. "They had some great moments and some not so great moments. As a marketer I look at that and can see the difference between Steve being there - and not being there - very clearly."
The majority of Apple's revenues come from smartphone sales. However the market is becoming what industry insiders refer to as "mature" and the frenzy may have hit its peak. In 2017, Gartner reported that worldwide sales for smartphones had declined for the first time. Although this could be written off as a blip, consumer demand in the west is angling toward investing in longer lasting, higher quality devices. The only places where double digit growth remains is emerging markets looking for cheaper devices. Apple has not chased after these in the same way rivals Samsung and Huawei have, although it has made some inroads in China.
Without major innovations on the cards, Apple's best friend is advertising. The dark art of social media recently became more transparent, as designers tasked with making websites and apps admitted that they had been encouraged to make products as "addictive" as possible. But Apple was one of the first to cotton on to the power of forming emotional attachments with its customers, Segall says.
In the late 80s, Segall took a job as Creative Director at BBDO, the ad agency handling Apple in Los Angeles, while John Sculley was chief executive officer. Segall then moved to work with Steve Jobs on his failed venture, NeXT, where he remained for three years. He was later installed again at Apple when Jobs took the reins again in 1997.
Segall recalls how Jobs needed society to be emotionally involved with the brand, and talked often about the "brand bank" which he said would buffer the company in the event of a product failure or scandal.
"Steve had in his head that if people had a deep, emotional connection to Apple, customers would not give it up even if it was shown to make a poor judgement in some part of the world or was found to be in violation of the law, like European taxes, for example," Segall says.
"He had this notion of the brand bank and said that every company has a balance. Everything a business does that is good adds to the brand bank, and you need a high balance because something is going to happen at some point that you cannot predict.
"You will probably have to make a withdrawal at some point. But, if the balance is high it is not going to matter."
Traditional companies have long counted on data, not gut instincts to make decisions and Segall feels that Apple, once a trailblazer, is no longer any different.
"Tim Cook goes by recommendation of the people around him," he says. And those people are "a little vanilla".
"In a big company environment people tend to get safer...in the old days, Apple used to do things that get a lot of attention."
Being bold has not always served Apple. Segall - who insists Cook is a great businessman - admits there's a balance to strike. The company suffered a PR crisis when, during the Super Bowl in 1985, Apple pushed out a "lemmings" advert which appeared to suggest that PC customers should jump off a cliff. "It was a horrible dud that really damaged Apple," Segall says.
Despite his concerns, it is likely that Mr Cook will leave investors with a smile on his face as he is expected to report bumper profits even if iPhone sales drop.
"Apple is having success moving buyers up the iPhone price curve - 26pc of customers paid over $900 up from 24pc in March and only 5pc a year ago," according to UBS.
UBS warns that hardware products will be a main concern for investors, looking toward the next product cycle. Rival Samsung, the Korean giant that outsells Apple around the world will also reveal its earnings this week.
But Ben Wood, analyst at CCS Insight, says that the "irrational love of Apple" remains.
Samsung has transformed from borrowing Apple's designs to paying homage to its advertising, adopting a much more recognisable brand in recent years after hiring a former Loreal marketing guru who turned Samsung from a utilitarian brand to one "you could fall in love with".
As far as Wood is concerned, rivals "should be watching over their shoulder".
"I call Apple the Hotel California of smartphones," he adds.
- The Telegraph