Book Review: The Apple Way

Source: Google ImagesThis past year has been a tremendously successful one for Apple. In terms of market capitalization, it is now considered the most valuable tech company in the world. I wanted to learn a little bit more about the history of Apple and how it actually became such a successful company, so I decided to read this book. This was written in 2005, before the launch if the iPhone and iPad; however, it still contains some valuable insights into how Apple got to where it is today.

Although the author specifically states that this is not a book about the history of Apple, I consider it to be very much a book about the history of Apple. Perhaps it doesn’t go into as much detail as other books but it certainly covers a lot. There are some very interesting things that I learned from this book about the Apple that reigned twenty years ago. This book does a fantastic job of not only highlighting Apple’s great strengths but also its shortcomings. It briefly talks about all the different leaders Apple had but primarily focuses on the main man, Steve Jobs.

The aspect of this book that I most enjoyed was how every chapter and sub-chapter was titled with a small adage, which eventually becomes a fully-fledged management lesson through an example from Apple’s past. The only shortcoming of this book was the way in which the author jumps around in time, going from past to present then back to past. This can sometimes get confusing but all of Apple’s history seemed interesting and certainly contained valuable lessons for any manager.

Here are three learnings from the book that I found to be particularly interesting and relevant to all marketers today:

  1. Sell a feeling, not a product - For a long time and even to this day, Apple represents ‘cool.’ There was a good portion of the book that was devoted to how Apple marketed itself as ‘cool,’ and this helped justify its relatively higher price points. People will pay a lot more for product that has a genuinely makes them feel ‘cool,’ unique or better yet... part of a tribe. Nike is another company that has been very good at marketing a feeling. 
  2. Competitive advantages go away over time - Back in school I remember learning about a principle known as the law of nemesis, which essentially states that any good thing will be copied over time. This is especially true for tech companies, for instance, I once remember reading that there are over 200 companies that are very similar in nature to Groupon... that’s pretty wild considering it only launched two years ago. The book talks about how Apple managed to deal with this problem: Innovate.
  3. Innovation is critical - Here is a quote from John Sculley (CEO of Apple from 1983 - 1993), “The best way to predict the future ... is to invent it.” Over its long history and even to this day, Apple is a company known for innovation. However, it was not innovation alone that brought Apple to where it is today. It was a combination of great innovation and brilliant marketing (point 1).

Final thoughts: Apple’s history is filled with plenty of lessons for managers. This book does a fantastic job of summing up the key lessons, whilst recounting the history of this very successful organization. Just over the past ten years, Apple transformed itself into one of the most successful tech companies in the world and has brought us some legendary products that are now truly ubiquitous ... imagine what the next twenty years holds.