For six years, Ken Segall worked with Apple and Steve Jobs, first as a creative director at TBWA/Chiat/Day, Apple’s longtime ad agency, and then as a consultant to Apple until 2008.
In that role, he advised Jobs on how to name Apple’s brands.
He’s also the author of “Insanely Simple,” a book about why Apple is so successful (and other companies aren’t).
So it’s worth listening to him when he criticizes his best, most-beloved client.
In a blog post on April 4, Segall confirmed what many have long suspected about Apple’s confusing system for naming new products: It doesn’t make sense.
And it hurts Apple’s brands.
There is no good, reason Segall writes, for the iPad line to be named the way it is:
iPad – iPad 2 – New iPad.
Why not iPad 3? There’s no good reason for “New iPad,” it turns out.
It’s the same with iPhone.
If you scratched your head over why the iPhone 4 was succeeded by iPhone 4S and not iPhone 5 — even though Apple claimed the new model was the result of “completely rethinking” the phone — it turns out you were right, Segall says:
Most experts see a narrative in which Apple only produces a major upgrade every other year, and in between we get the “S” model. This is the model that delivers only incremental improvements.
Whether that’s Apple’s intended message is unknown. But personally, I wish Apple never created a “4S.”
First of all, it’s an awkward moniker whether you speak it or read it. The Apple designers tried their best with the product graphics, but there is an inescapable reality: 4S will never be as simple as 4.
More important, tacking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message. It says that this is our “off-year” product, with only modest improvements.
“Weak” and “awkward” are words that are almost never applied to Apple’s marketing and branding.
It’s more evidence, as we noted last year, that Apple’s marketing — which used to seem fresh and new but now seems old and boring — may have lost its way.
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