The Rebel Brand Archetype and Apple


What did a piece of fruit have to do with the Rebellious Revolution?


According to Adam and Eve's story in the Garden of Eden, mankind fell from grace because they ate an apple from the tree of knowledge. When humanity left the garden, they no longer lived in paradise. This meant, however, that they would now have free will. In part because of this, theologians refer to this event as "the fortunate fall.". 


Those associations are evoked by the Apple logo, which depicts an apple with a missing bite. Therefore, the company inspires its customers to Think Different, and its ads run pictures of iconic and creative geniuses in many fields, from Einstein to Rosa Parks. Apple is perhaps best known for technological innovation and its revolutionary software that makes its computers so user-friendly that even a child can figure it out. 


Apple founder Steve Jobs says in so many words: 

Apple's "Think Different" campaign celebrates the concept that creative and passionate people can change the world for the better. The Super Bowl ad that put Apple on the map opened with the famous 1984 dystopian society, conveyed by new-age icon IBM as Big Brother. Zombielike, gray-uniformed people shuffle into a huge assembly hall, dominated by a giant screen. To summarize the words spoken: We are one people. We have one will. One determination. One goal. Our enemies will talk themselves to death, and they will be buried in their own confusion. We will succeed! Then, a young, athletic woman swings a sledgehammer and smashes the screen. Apple Computer introduced Macintosh with a tagline saying, "And now you see why 1984 will not be like 1984". 


 As far as the public is concerned, Apple is widely associated with computer hackers and, generally, business-as-usual innovators, giving people more power by making computers easy to use. The company is focused on computers rather than a love of innovation with pure profit mongering. Furthermore, it refers to the revolutionary potential of computer technology to return power to the people. Apple's early decision to focus on home and education more than business applications contributed to its progressive, populist image. Apple customers identify themselves with a vision of independent thinking and intellectual, trend-setting pioneers. 


 The loyalty of Apple customers is almost fanatical, which made having an image of the "noncorporate corporation" essential. When the board of directors replaced founder Steve Jobs with a more conventional manager, employee morale dissipated, and sales decreased. The company survived only because Jobs returned. When he returned, he decided to hire Chiat/Day, brilliant move on his part. 


Using bright colors and cartoonish shapes, the Apple catalogs seem cramped. Contrast that with other advertisements with a more dignified look with white space and sophisticated print, which looks like they might be from a discount house. Apple first broke  the unwritten rule that computers must always be gray with the success of the iMac. Even more shocking, they came in colors with transparent cases. Look how far they have come with the iphones. 


 In the Age of Revolution


During rapid transitions, the status quo ceases to be privileged. We cannot predict which social experiments will become the new standard. The future is always lurking on the edges. Twenty years ago, as the millennium was drawing to a close, this is when we saw real Rebel business strategies.  Nothing was off-limits. Zero-based budgeting, reengineering, and all other methods removed everything that was not working, appealing to the Rebel revolutionary spirit while striking terror into those who prefer a stable, secure world. Many people were confident that the Y2K computer bug would wipe out civilization as we know it. Although it didn't happen, the business sphere did undergo a radically different dynamic because of the pruning of the economic garden. Businesses that were not viable soon folded. Death of winter has resulted in a flowering of prosperity, as it is a prerequisite for spring.

 Harvard Rebel or Unabomber? 

 The curriculum of major universities has emphasized a deconstructionist critique of society, encouraging a whole generation to see the establishment as the enemy and identify with outsiders. The Atlantic Monthly's Alston Chase speculates that the Unabomber might have become a madman because of his Harvard education. In his opinion, he claims:


"It was at Harvard that [Ted] Kaczynski first encountered the ideas about the evils of society that would provide a justification for and a focus to an anger he had felt since junior high school. It was at Harvard that he began to develop these ideas into his anti-technology ideology of the Revolution. It was at Harvard that Kaczynski began to have fantasies of revenge, began to dream of escaping into the wilderness. And it was at Harvard, as far as can be determined, that he fixed on dualistic ideas of good and evil and on a mathematical cognitive style that led him to think he could find absolute truth through the application of his own reason."


In other words, the curriculum that allegedly created a killer also fueled a time when the elite are alienated and inclined to deconstruct their own culture and are skilled at tearing it down intellectually. Is there any possibility that a Renaissance will result from this demolition of traditional culture? That remains to be seen. 



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