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Ken Segall, who was creative director at Chiat/Day and worked on "Think Different" and other notable Apple campaigns, questions the company's branding and advertising, and is accusing the present creative team of giving Tim Cook "vanilla" advice.
Speaking in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, as cited by Business Insider, Segall argues that Apple today is missing that aura that Steve Jobs created, which made customers "lust" for the company's products.
"The passing of Steve Jobs created a completely different approach to marketing which we can see the results of," Segall said. "As a marketer, I look at that and can see the difference between Steve being there — and not being there — very clearly."
"These days, Apple does a different campaign for a different phone, which I always thought was a lost opportunity," Segall told the newspaper. "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." He went on to argue that Tim Cook is operating with the advice of those around him, who are "a little vanilla."
Segall is now an author and speaker, one whose past work with Apple on a hugely successful series of campaigns is clearly a huge part of his public-facing identity. His Twitter bio describes him as "former Apple ad guy. Speaker, blogger, creative consultant."
It's not surprising that someone who was present for and a part of Steve Jobs' return and rise in the late 1990s would idealize and celebrate that particular time in the company's history, and all of the success that it brought.
But the truth is, whatever Tim Cook is doing, marketing-wise, it's working. Apple is more profitable, sells more iPhones on a quarterly basis, and is valued much more highly under him than it ever was when Steve Jobs was alive and in charge of the company.
In 2002, the year the Think Different campaign wrapped up, Apple posted a first quarter profit of $38 million on $1.38 billion of revenue and shipped 746,000 Macs. In the first quarter of 2018, Apple posted a profit of just over $20 billion, on revenue of $88.3 billion and sold 5.1 million Macs.
Yes, the company's marketing and advertising strategy today is certainly different than it was back in the late 1990s. But why would Apple keep using a 1990s strategy forever? Tim Cook and his team have marketed the company's products the way products are marketed in this decade- and they've had phenomenal success in doing so. You could almost say they thought different.
"Brilliant people are there"
Ironically, Segall had positive things to say about Apple's present direction just a couple of weeks ago.
Speaking to the Korea Chamber of Commerce on July 18 in Seogwipo, South Korea, Segall talked about his work with Jobs and the late CEO's legacy within Apple today.
"Steve was quite unique and will never ever be replaced, so it is impossible for Apple to be the same," Segall told the Chamber. "But I think his value is there, and brilliant people are there, so things move forward. I think the innovation is happening in a same pace, really."
Two CEOs, two strategies
Tim Cook and Steve Jobs are two very different men with two very different strategic and leadership styles and two very different ideas of how to best run Apple, and that includes the company's advertising and marketing efforts.
History will likely show that each of them was the best man to have run the company at the particular time that they did. And while Steve Jobs' legacy will likely always be a part of what Apple is, Tim Cook clearly begun to chart a path of his own.
Doing things differently from the way Jobs doesn't necessarily mean doing them wrong.