Business planning, Growth

Apple’s rise to the top offers insight for start-ups

Michelle Hammond /

Tech giant Apple temporarily became the world’s most valuable company today, with a market value of $US341.5 billion, suggesting start-ups can gain insight from its rise to the top.

 

Earlier today, Apple edged past long-time leader Exxon Mobil to become the most valuable company in the world before Exxon quickly regained the top spot.

 

Apple’s ascension caps a 14-year transformation from a PC retailer into a global market leader of everything from smartphones to digital music. StartupSmart pinpoints five key lessons start-ups can learn from Apple.

 

Culture

 

Founded in the 1970s, Apple was one of several highly successful companies that bucked the traditional notions of what a corporate culture should look like.

 

Apple rejected the suit-and-tie dress code in favour of more casual attire. Co-founder Steve Jobs often walked around the office barefoot, even after Apple became a Fortune 500 company.

 

By the 1980s, this trait had become a key way for the company to differentiate itself from its more stuffy competitors. Its casual approach has continued to resonate with consumers.

 

Branding

 

Apple’s first logo depicted Sir Isacc Newton sitting under an apple tree. However, this was quickly replaced by a rainbow-coloured apple silhouette with a bite taken out of it.

 

Jobs insisted the logo be in color to humanise the company. It was designed with a bite so that it wouldn’t be mistaken as another fruit.

 

The colored stripes were conceived to make the logo more accessible, and to represent the fact the monitor could reproduce images in color.

 

Apple’s first slogan was “Byte into an Apple” – a clever pun in reference to the logo.

 

From 1997-2002, Apple used the slogan “Think Different”, which featured historic icons like Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison.

 

This slogan had a lasting impact on the company’s image and revived its popularity with the media and customers.

 

Innovation

 

Apple has been able to introduce multiple versions of the same product by making incremental improvements to earlier models.

 

The Mac was introduced in the 1980s. Rather than release a single model and move on to something else, Macs now come in a wide array of sizes, processors and software features.

 

A more recent example of Apple’s ability to recreate a product is the iPhone, which is about to be reintroduced yet again in the form of the iPhone 5.

 

While the basic features have remained largely unchanged, each successive version is more popular than the last – each product builds on the sales of the previous one.

 

Human face

 

Steve Jobs has become a cult figure among Apple’s customers and investors. He is currently one of the most recognised CEOs – if not one of the most recognised people – in the world.

 

Jobs is viewed as the person who invents each Apple product, designs it and plans its marketing. The fact that he cannot possibly do all those things seems to be beside the point. No other company can claim to have a spokesman nearly as valuable as Jobs.

 

Jobs has also made a point of maintaining the casual culture the company became famous for, attending industry events in his trademark blue jeans, black skivvy and white sneakers.

 

Apple is everywhere


Many analysts who follow Apple believe the wide array of apps for its products, particularly the iPhone and iPad, create an unprecedented level of loyalty in the smartphone and PC markets.

 

People who own these apps can completely customise the hardware to their liking. The world’s most powerful companies promote Apple apps as a critical way to get customers or to keep current ones.

 

Not a single game company, major website, social medium or provider of major PC software is without one or more apps to be used on Apple products.

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