Apple Rejects Simon Sinek’s Teachings. Steve Jobs Turns In His Grave.

I was just sitting there, watching it in disbelief. The new Apple commercial, there was something odd about it. It created this odd psychic friction in my mind. Something was different about this one. But what was it?

Apple’s noise canceling technology, “so when the world gets noisy, calls sound better,” the voiceover proclaims. Link to video.

I wrote it off as a fluke and went about my day, but then I saw another brand new Apple ad. This one was gushing about the thin-ness of the new iPhone. Link to video.

And then another ad showing the panoramic picture taking. Link to video.

And then another showing how to send bunch of pictures using Apple’s PhotoStream feature. Link to video.

Rotting Apple

The shift became clear, Apple was rotting at its core.

On surface, these commercials “feel” a lot like the old ones. Simple, elegant, understated.

But there is a subtle yet monumental shift in the direction that reflects the change in leadership, and it’s exactly the kind of shift Simon Sinek warns against in his book, Start With Why.

Since Apple’s inception, Steve Jobs was very careful to imbue his organization with something deeper than features, and the old commercial spots reflected this intent.

We all (should) remember 1984 commercial showing a young woman running into an auditorium with a sledgehammer and busting the metaphorical status quo.

“Hello, I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC” ads didn’t list a single feature. Instead, they focused on how cool Mac is, and how stodgy PCs are. And those ads were unbelievable successful. Link to video.

But my favorite Apple commercial from the Steve Jobs era was the one showing Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon, and other “crazy ones, misfits, rebels, troublemakers, round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently” Think Different ad spot. Link to video.

Steve Jobs has worked his entire life to imbue Apple products with meaning beyond mere features, and it’s the reason –according to Sinek- why Apple has been such an enduring and transformative brand.

Changing Minds

Apple is in the business of changing the status quo. Case in point, iPod.

iPod portable music player made sense for a company like Apple because it aimed to disrupt the old music distribution model.

Apple’s unprecedented success in this regard stands in stark contrast to Dell’s complete failure. Dell entered the portable music player market, but no one knew Why? And that included Dell.

Organizations which are able to clearly define their Why, the core purpose, the driving force behind their existence, are the organizations which benefit from insane loyalty bestowed upon them by their supporters.

On the other hand, organizations who’s core purpose is to make money, end up competing on price, features, and marketing gimmicks, in order to drive sales.

Apple is being reshaped from an organization with a clearly defined sense of Why, into an organization that is competing on price, features, and marketing gimmicks.

  • We all know that Apple will lose the price point contest.
  • The features are often below the industry standard,
  • and marketing gimmicks are a crapshoot.

It’s all about girls, man…

When the cute girl at Starbucks who tosses me a glance as I pull my MacBook Pro from its bag, will think that I’m the crazy one, the misfits, the rebel, the troublemaker, the round peg in a square hole…the one who thinks differently; then I am willing to pay the premium, and even wait for Apple to catch up with its technology.

But if Apple forces me to compare them with other device makers, then they just might lose me as a customer.

In this last scenario, Apple losses a customer, and I lose a glance from the cute girl at Starbucks. And nobody wants that to happen, isn’t that right, Apple?

My recommendation to Apple leadership is to pick up Simon Sinek’s book, study it, and make Steve proud. Because the way things are going, you’re doing it wrong.

Dino Dogan

Global Force for Badassery | Founder of Triberr | Refugee from Bosnia | Writer for Technorati | Speaker | Lousy Martial Artist | Pretty good singer/songwriter | Hi 🙂

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  • Paul Biedermann

    I’m going to take a somewhat contrarian view (“think different,” right? 🙂

    I think what you may be reacting to is what a company does once they solidify their “why” in the eyes of the consumer and move to a next phase where certain groundbreaking features need to be explained. Everyone now knows how cool Apple is. Next, they likely feel the need to capture that segment of the market that is still skeptical and bring them on board — to them, they need to explain specifically what makes their phones better than the competition.

    I would bet this is a campaign that won’t last very long, and then they will get back to reinforcing, once again, the feeling we all get when we hear “Apple.”

    • Dino Dogan

      Without Steve, they may never get back to their Why again. Just an opinion, of course….but the timing is suspect.

    • Trev Harmon

      From my point of view, Steve Job’s Apple was never been about including everyone–that’s Microsoft’s approach. In the Steve Jobs era, Apple basically said, “We are going to be disruptive. If you like being disruptive, come along with us.” One could argue the focus on simplicity and ease-of-use were trying to be inclusive, but I think it was really about trying to human with non-human technology (a disruption in itself). Simon Sinek’s point was that those of us who agreed with Steve Jobs and Apple’s “statement” have gone along for the ride.

      So, I think the concern is that Apple is teetering on a knife’s edge philosophically. The lure of doing it like everyone else is easier and there are far more people who can lead a company down that path. Maintaining a “why” for a company that is not “make as much money as possible” or “continually grow market share” is difficult. There has been a slight shift in Apple. They aren’t communicating in exactly the same way. As pointed out by others, some of these commercials are reminiscent of the iPhone launch commercials, but the messaging feels ever so slightly different.

      I guess we will see if Apple can truly maintain their core identity or if it was lost with Steve Jobs’ passing. For my vote, I certainly hope they can.

  • Robert Rose

    Dino….. Great post – and fun discussion… But have to humbly disagree. Apple has a long history of mixing up their advertising creative with high level storytelling and brand. The ’84 Ad you cite and of course the Think Different ad are great examples… But they’ve always thrown in a good bit of “feature ads” to supplement the big creative tentpoles. From print, to TV to online and on – they’ve always featured a good bit of the “how our product is different”.

    For example – here’s an iPod Nano ad from a few years ago… Not it’s all about how it’s Small…

    Now – you may object to the creative for this series that you’re pointing out… Certainly having the primary message be a celebrity VO isn’t new… Remember the old Jeff Goldblum Ads… Another example of them talking about “what” instead of “why” (this time it’s color):

    What’s really different about the Apple approach is that they START with Why – and then develop the story onward once they have you hooked…. Remember the original iPhone ad:

    They had us at (forgive me) at Hello….

    The mistake I see Samsung and Microsoft making is that they’re *assuming* we’re already hooked into their story and aren’t disrupting the space with WHY…. They’re trying to duplicate by copying Apple where they are – instead of starting new…

    As I always say in my workshops… Differentiating is telling a different story… Not the same one incrementally better…

    Thanks for making me think on a Tuesday morning!!


    • Dino Dogan

      You think this time they’ll swing back?

      • Robert Rose

        Maybe… i think you’re right to point out that there’s a real danger of them losing their creative way… I think the real test will come when (and I do think it’s a question of when) they actually flop at a product. The maps fiasco is just one example of how big the expectations are for that brand…. In the spirit of superhero movies – i’ll quote two… The first from Spiderman – “with great power comes great responsibility”,,, and then from Batman – “you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain”… I think Apple is balancing a bit of both right now….

        • Dino Dogan

          Thats a really interesting take, Rob. Thnx for sharing that.

  • Paul Blok

    Nice read and nice observation! But… The new commercials are (to me) quite like the 2007 commercials to introduce the iPhone. Check a couple of those commercials here: So it’s not completely new to talk about the product and the services. Jobs did that too…

  • Carolyn Nicander Mohr

    Perhaps this is Apple’s response to the Genius ads that were pulled this past summer…

    …or a defensive response to the Samsung Galaxy S III ads attacking Apple fans.

  • Nick Kellet


    Well said!

    I hope somebody winced over reading this at Apple

    We need someone to make ad worth watching. I used to crave seeing the next Mac/PC ad

  • Ken Marchant

    Great post. I enjoyed the book that Simon Sinek had wrote and believe that little by little Apple is losing the WHY. With the mishap with the Maps and the Limit Ad Tracking functions – they seem to be losing the momentum that Steve Jobs left behind (these are my grievances). I for one do not believe Steve is the key to everything but he did know WHY he created Apple but I think the vision got lost in translation somewhere.

    I hope they manage to get back on the horse because when the next big thing comes along I may get distracted and jump ship.

  • Oliver Nielsen

    While I find Simon Sinek’s book incredibly BORING beyond belief, I do agree in its core message and the points made in this article. There is a shift going on at Apple, and it seems to me they’re headed the wrong way.

    Firing Scott Forstall was a huge mistake. Big big big mistake. Yes he may have had a difficult personality, but it was exactly that maverick “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude, that made Scott somewhat a mini-Steve.

    • Dino Dogan

      Is this Scott posing as “Oliver”?


  • Pierre Poutine

    You’re an idiot