Apple “just another company?”

In Stop Talking About Apple, And 7 Other Brand Resolutions Adam Hanft has suggestions for marketers. Number one is: “Stop bringing up Apple in every meeting” in which he says:

Let’s vow to make 2013 the year that we stop benchmarking every decision against “What would Jesus…uh…I mean Steve Jobs do.” First of all, you can’t compare you or your brand to his, so framing decisions against a sui generis business culture has zero utility and is emotionally frustrating. It’s like saying “What would the Jetsons do?” when you’re stuck in traffic.

With this, I couldn’t agree more. I think a lot of us are so over of the whole “what would Steve Jobs do” nonsense.

He goes on to say:

What’s more, Apple is rapidly becoming just another company. Their last real innovation was the iPhone in 2007–its touch screen and app structure were legitimately revolutionary. Since then, everything, including the iPad, has essentially been conventional line extensions.

Here, I agree to a point. But calling the iPad nothing more than a “conventional line extension” is a bit of a stretch. It may be sort of technically true, but it was a “line extension” that wiped out an entire product category almost overnight (netbooks) and is well into decimating the massive PC and laptop market. We take all this carnage for granted now, but it was by no means obvious in 2010 when the iPad was introduced. There were a lot of skeptics at the time, including myself. The iPad may technically have been a “line extension” but it was an incredibly bold one that nobody else was prepared to try.

On the other point, that Apple is becoming “just another company” I get the point being made in the context of marketing meetings, but discounting the company that holds such significant market share across multiple segments as “just another company” is not exactly a winning strategy either. Apple is certainly not “just another company” to Foxconn or OEM suppliers, for example. If you are marketing to users in any of these segments in which Apple plays, considering Apple “just another company” would be denying reality, a high-risk bet, at best.

The better questions at such times instead of “what would Steve Jobs do” would be more along the lines of: how can we win in a given Apple segment? Can we reach, convert, and profit from the users in that Apple segment? Is Apple our enemy or our ally? How likely is it that Apple will steal our idea and lock us out?