Time For Entirely New Myths At Apple

Steve Jobs is dead.

There’s no bigger, richer company on the planet than Apple.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly stated this most American of companies will soon garner more of its sales from China than anywhere else.

The company hasn’t really been a ‘pirate’ since the early days of the iPod — a decade ago.

The biggest hires at Apple these past few years have come from the world of high margin fashion.

Apple’s primary innovations the past five years, in my view, stem from technologies the company acquired, not developed: Siri and Touch ID, specifically.

One more thing: the great Woz says that whole “Apple started in a garage” myth? Yeah, not exactly true.

This is a new world. Mobile computing devastates all before it and Apple rules the landscape. The old myths, the myths of the garage, the visionary, the pirates, the small, merry ‘cult’ of users, these no longer apply.

What now?

Can you fly a pirate flag when you have more money than anyone else? And a partnership with IBM?


When you are bigger than even Google or Microsoft or Exxon, can you usher in a new order? Against the established order?


Time for new myths at Apple. Myths help support the brand. Apple’s brand is the most valued in the world.

For the second year in row, Apple has topped Google as the world’s most valuable brand. The two are the only brands to be valued at more than $100 billion, according to the annual Best Global Brands report. 

Valued at $118.9 billion, Apple increased its (brand) value by 21% year-on-year, while Google’s brand value of $107.43 billion jumped 15% compared to last year.

The Insanely Great New Myths

New myths are now necessary. These must resonate on a deeply personal level, on a universal level, and must seem borderline eternal.

That is not easy to do.

I suspect this is why Apple has been spending so much lately to develop in-house advertising expertise — to craft the message no one else can legitimately mimic. Apple’s current ads reflect the company’s transition from destroyer of Big Old Order to guidepost for Universal Individual Empowerment. But they do not soar. They are not “only Apple.”

Apple’s current ads focus on thinness, a product feature, or generic personal empowerment, an emotional tug. These are fine as marketing efforts go, but are easily replicable by competitors.



What is or can be an “only Apple” myth?

Let’s consider recent Tim Cook quotes as Apple’s attempts to uncover the new myths, the new rallying cries that drive staff and customers for at least a generation.

We’re very simple people at Apple. We focus on making the world’s best products and enriching people’s lives.

A great statement, though I suspect it’s too expansive. The “best products” that “enrich” our lives could be a mobile computer, a watch — or a car, dishwasher or robot butler. Apple can’t do all such products.

Strike 1.

Companies that get confused, that think their goal is revenue or stock price or something. You have to focus on the things that lead to those.

This is an awesome sentiment, in large part because it’s believable. However, as $AAPL nears a literal $1 trillion in value, shuttling billions around from country to country, state to state, such a view opens itself up to way too much snark.

Strike 2.

Our whole role in life is to give you something you didn’t know you wanted. And then once you get it, you can’t imagine your life without it. And you can count on Apple doing that.

Stand up double.

This last sentiment of Cook’s works. It sets Apple apart, puts the pressure on Apple for achieving a level of greatness others can’t match — and suggests its products are rightly coveted.


Remember, it’s never only about the product. Just ask Coke or Coach.

Myths matter, even in business. From a Salon essay on the subject:

Even stripped of their original religious significance, even when we don’t know their source, myths still strike us as being filled with meaning. 

In the 20th century, the psychiatrist Carl Jung formed his theory of archetypes, motifs recurring throughout most cultures. The archetypes, he believed, arise from the collective unconscious, an inherited body of symbols shared by all humanity. 

Apple products, logistics, manufacturing acumen, design skill and vision enabled it to rise from near death and become the world’s richest company. These qualities remain. It’s the myths that must now change. The old Apple mythos no longer applies in our new world.

Published by

Brian S Hall

Brian S Hall writes about mobile devices, crowdsourced entertainment, and the integration of cars and computers. His work has been published with Macworld, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, ReadWrite and numerous others. Multiple columns have been cited as "must reads" by AllThingsD and Re/Code and he has been blacklisted by some of the top editors in the industry. Brian has been a guest on several radio programs and podcasts.

29 thoughts on “Time For Entirely New Myths At Apple”

  1. It’s about significance. It isn’t that Siri and TouchID were merely acquired by Apple. It is that Apple catapulted their significance. What makes anything significant isn’t always that it is new, but that it is done in new way or put in a new context, sometimes obvious, sometimes so subtly the material difference is imperceptible, enigmatic. Their was nothing new about portraits, yet few are as significant as the Mona Lisa. Without Cezanne there we would be no Picasso as we know him. Picasso didn’t spend his time in Paris with Braque trying to figure out how to paint like Cezanne. He was trying to figure out the direction Cezanne was pointing and create a new significance. It is the Modern dilemma to create significance and a new movement, to defeat the old and status quo. And the thrill (and vexation) we all feel when it is accomplished.

    But let’s be honest. Cook’s statement describes Apple from the beginning. From the mouse and GUI, to desktop publishing, to today. That is what Apple has always done.


      1. Woz’s comments is him getting into the news to provide significance to his upcoming reality TV show. What better way than to rein in a myth about him? And exactly what myth is he reining? I didn’t see the movie, but I’ve never heard the myth in such a way that his counter makes sense. Granted, I didn’t watch the Ashton Kutcher movie.


  2. Myths are fun. Myths can be a source of aspirational identity. But, fact is, myths are a story, a false story, at best a factually discredited story. Why would they need myths? More importantly, as customers, why do we want myths? That’s what the movies are for.

    1. That’s not totally true, while most often is true. The point of the myth is to communicate a truth even if the story itself is made up. But the myth itself does not have to be false.


      1. I’ll be polite. The tortoise did not really beat the Hare, that’s understood even by children, but your right, there’s a message in there. Perpetuating a falsehood, like, “it started in a garage” carries no message because it was proven to be false. It’s misleading.

        A movie, a poem, a song, a novel, all other works of art do carry the valuable messages you describe. They are understood to be a fiction. If they are represented as fact, without this understanding, they are just wrong.

        1. I find it striking that someone so caught up with facts not only is willing to disregard facts, but also deny them. Yes, a fable can communicate a myth, but it is not the singular definition of a myth. Neither is art, never mind what would you do with photographic art.

          I would wish that someone who has espoused how one fact can destroy a good theory would at least be willing to re-examine his own in the face of a fact that doesn’t fit his narrative.


          1. To me, a layperson, all forms of art communicate an idea which elicits an emotion. Science concerns itself only with observables of the natural world. Observables as in facts, data, and the making testable predictions based on the resulting hypotheses and theories.

            While starting in the garage is a romantic notion, the work was actually done at HP by Woz, where he worked. (See I did read background material). That’s why he had to seek permission from HP to pursue the “home computer”, which is permission they granted.

            Anyway, where the work was done adds no further value to the work that was done. Who needs myths? That’s what marketing departments are for. (And the movies).

          2. Since you can’t even admit to being wrong about what myth is and means your critique of any myth is pretty much meritless.


          3. myth
            noun: myth; plural noun: myths
            a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.
            synonyms:folk tale, folk story, legend, tale, story, fable, saga, mythos, lore, folklore, mythology
            “ancient Greek myths”
            traditional stories or legends collectively.
            “the heroes of Greek myth”
            a widely held but false belief or idea.
            “he wants to dispel the myth that sea kayaking is too risky or too strenuous”

            Looks a lot like #2…

          4. And if that were the ONLY definition you would be correct. but you aren’t.


            a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.
            stories or matter of this kind:
            realm of myth.
            any invented story, idea, or concept:
            His account of the event is pure myth.
            an imaginary or fictitious thing or person.
            an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.


          5. Just further demonstrates (as does your own definition) your capacity to ignore facts that don’t fit your narrative.


          6. I’ve changed no facts, the only facts that have changed is the story as we thought we knew it.

        2. And you should at least read the references article before you declare “falsehood”:

          “He said: “The garage is a bit of a myth. It’s overblown. The garage represents us better than anything else, but we did no designs there. We would drive the finished products to the garage, make them work and then we’d drive them down to the store that paid us cash.”

          Woz explained that the fledgling Apple “outgrew that garage very quickly.””


          1. We did no designs there…
            We would drive the FINISHED products to the garage…
            Pretty much falsifies the traditional story for me….

    2. Not all myths are false. I’ve been using Apple since 1992 and I know some myths about Apple and many more about Steve Jobs, but the myth that most interests me is this: to 1995-97, arriving the worst days in Apple’s history after losing the legal battle against Microsoft, its only achievement was the unquestioned loyalty of Mac buyers, which generated the REAL MYTH proclaiming that Apple had no users, but fans; and I say it was real because when I went to buy software or peripherals and said they were for a Mac, sellers always saw me and treated me peculiar, almost bizarre, because a very high percentage of what was produced for computing that time, was exclusive to Windows.

      So, being seen as the only company to reach your customers see themselves not as users but as fans of the brand, and they were perceived by others in this way, not only generated a myth about Apple, but this was its only achievement before the return of Steve Jobs as head of the company.

  3. Here’s a new Apple myth for the naysayers:

    Apple is only implementing the roadmap laid out by Steve Jobs just before his death. What will Apple do when that roadmap is fully implemented? Perhaps the Apple of 2030 is doomed?

  4. “Our whole role in life is to give you something you didn’t know you wanted. And then once you get it, you can’t imagine your life without it. And you can count on Apple doing that.”

    This is a fantastic corporate mission statement that never needs changing. It is all about change. It is totally customer-centric, Apple is only the facilitator.

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