Every brand begins with vision

To build a successful brand, you need to start with a vision. You can build a successful business without it, but not a brand. Today Apple announced the new Apple Watch, and it was a reminder of the power of vision in creating a financially profitable, lasting brand.

In the late 1970’s, when many computers were still the size of your average modern-day apartment, Apple founder Steve Jobs spoke to a group of high school students and told them that some day, computers would be the size of a book. He repeated that mantra in a video interview in 1981 and again in a speech in 1985.

In the late 1970’s, Apple founder Steve Jobs told a group of high school students that some day, computers would be the size of a book

It wasn’t the only vision he had for the future of computers, but it was an important one. And it was an especially meaningful lesson for the power of branding, because that vision drove Apple forward in a number of powerful ways, establishing the company as the world’s top brand.

In 1987, Apple envisioned something called the “Knowledge Navigator” which never saw the light of day. Not long after that we saw the Newton. It didn’t last (maybe because Steve wasn’t involved), but the company didn’t give up. We eventually saw the iPhone and iPad which were products suited to their time. The world was ready. And now, the Apple Watch.

Today, more than 2 years after the world lost that all-too-young visionary leader, Apple is still living out that early vision Jobs had focused on. The Apple Watch, with a custom-designed processor and an incredible amount of technology under the surface, is a tour de force of computing power in a tiny package. While critics will argue that it must be paired to an iPhone for much of its functionality, the progress being made in shrinking the size of computers is stunning.

Apple’s vision was not to make computers smaller. It was about integrating computers into our lives so that they were not objects we had to “use” but an extension of how we live and communicate with one another. Apple wants your technology to become invisible in the sense that it becomes something that just happens without you having to think about how to make it happen. I still have a brochure from the early days of Apple, that says “If computers are so smart, why don’t we teach them how people work instead of teaching people how to use computers?” That vision is integral to everything Apple announces. The Apple Watch is a brilliant continuation of that vision.

Today, more than 2 years after the world lost that all-too-young visionary leader, Apple is still living out that early vision Jobs had focused on

I can’t wait to get my Apple Watch. Consider that the screen not only senses touch, but also pressure. The back of the watch has infrared and other sensors that can read your heart beat. No more need for those annoying chest straps. All of this integrated with many other features and technologies like Bluetooth to create a complete information processing environment that would put any computer from the 1980’s to shame.

Brands must have a vision to achieve long-term success. And that vision must be clearly articulated and consistently applied over a long time to be effective. In today’s noisy, over-communicated world it’s absolutely essential in order to rise above the noise.

Do you have a vision for your brand?

When I help CEOs establish a brand identity, I ask them what their vision was when they first started their business. In most cases, they were frustrated by some need that wasn’t being met in the marketplace, or annoyed at the poor solutions that existed at the time. This is the start of your vision!

Other examples of corporate vision

FedEx started with a vision. So did Starbucks. Subway and Quizno’s both sell sandwiches but each has a clearly defined vision that sets them apart from each other, creating their own audiences and fans.

Consider Silvercar. Here’s another company with vision. Silvercar set out to “Reimagine car rentals.” The three things people find most frustrating about renting cars are the long lineups at the counter, the car you reserved not being available, and the need to find a gas station just before returning your vehicle to avoid the exorbitant gasoline fees. So Silvercar dealt with all three of those issues. All their cars are silver Audi A4’s. You never have to worry about the car you reserved not being available. There are no lineups. You get your key code from the Silvercar app and just walk to your car. And you don’t have to search for a gas station before returning your vehicle, because they charge you market rates to fill the tank. No worries about getting hit with those outrageous $10 per gallon fees (at least until US gas prices actually do hit $10 per gallon). Do people get the vision? You bet! No wonder Silvercar is cutting through the clutter and taking off across the country.

There are countless other companies that stayed with their vision to build a successful brand. None of them as effectively as Apple, but all of them driven by a consistent commitment to a vision.

Avoiding distraction

Far too often, the pressures of daily issues like cash flow, managing employees, meeting inventory and more get in the way and before too long that vision is lost in the mist of time. Has this happened to you? Are you still on track or have you lost sight of the vision you had?

Steve Jobs said that focus is not looking at where you’re going as much as it is saying “no” to anything that could be a distraction. Are you distracted?

Vision is essential to establish a brand. And it has to be consistent. If you want help re-engaging with the vision you had, contact me. I can help make that happen.

George Pytlik

George Pytlik has been involved in the advertising industry for over 30 years and designed his first website when the Internet was one year old. He was an internationally recognized speaker on advertising and branding and served on a number of communication committees at various times throughout his career, as well as writing a regular column for Marketing magazine.

1 Comment
  • Lam
    September 10, 2014

    I really appreciate you taking the high road with Apple. They’re so big that they’re naturally attracting a lot of naysaying from other marketing pros. While I’m not 100% sure about the new Watch (not 100% about anything really) it feels like an appropriate game for this big company to play, with the potential to (re)define a whole product line like they did with phones with iPhone and tablets with iPad. And I sense the Watch category could use this kind of game change. So should I expect to see you in the lineup at our local Apple Store on release day?…

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