For the longest time, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been driven by an intense focus on simplicity. That was a big part of Steve Jobs' legacy, and he embedded simplicity deep within Apple's corporate values. But things have taken a turn in recent years toward increasing levels of complexity, much of which is needless.
Don't just take my word for it -- Apple's former longtime ad man Ken Segall thinks so.
That's what he said
Writing at The Guardian, Segall highlights a handful of ways that Apple is becoming decidedly less simple, in everything from the company's marketing strategy to its product naming conventions. Segall also wrote a book, Insanely Simple, in 2012 all about Apple's "obsession" with simplicity, and how it has harnessed simplicity in remarkable ways. I highly recommend that all Apple investors read it.
For instance, Apple used to only make one iPhone and one iPad per year, but these days it offers a wider range of iPhones and iPads, as well as an array of display sizes and form factors. But this is a necessary byproduct of a growing business that benefits from addressing different market segments. In this case, increasing the complexity of the product portfolio is certainly a good thing. Compared to rivals that offer dozens upon dozens of negligibly different products, Apple's lineup still is pretty straightforward.
As far as marketing and product naming go, those topics probably hit home particularly hard for Segall, since he was literally the guy that came up with "iMac" and helped compose the iconic "Think Different" campaign. I've long agreed that iPhone naming is getting out of hand, with new model names becoming arbitrarily more complex. The company didn't even initially specify what SE stood for in the new iPhone SE, but marketing chief Phil Schiller confirmed shortly after introduction that it indeed stood for "special edition." Segall also takes issue with the S models, while acknowledging that Jobs started the convention.
The marketing strategy is also getting more complex. It used to just be a small talented group at a single longtime ad agency, but Apple has been building its own in-house marketing team for a couple of years now. It's been quite a while since Apple had a really memorable or hugely successful marketing campaign, and we've all tried our best to purge the horrendous "Genius" campaign from our collective memories.
Still simple, but more complex
Overall, Apple still very much values simplicity, but the company has been forced to compromise on the core value as a result of its sprawling global business. Some of these areas of growing complexity make sense and aren't necessarily negative, but other areas seem gratuitous.
Can we please get rid of iPhone numbers now?