UPDATE: this post originally came out in May 2011, when Apple became the world’s most valuable brand. I updated it this week as Apple stock closed at new record heights and anticipation grew for the iPhone 5 release.
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This week Apple was named the most valuable brand in the world, overtaking Google for the honor.
Is Apple the new Grateful Dead? While the Dead never became nearly as mainstream and financially valuable as Apple is today, the tech brand and jam band share some common traits. Consider these five pieces of evidence:
Apple broke the rules repeatedly. They did unorthodox things that other companies were afraid to do, essentially inventing the tablet computer and singlehandedly revolutionized the smart phone.
The Grateful Dead broke all the rules too. They did very unorthodox things, like advocating the taping and sharing their concerts – essentially file sharing a generation before Napster - and creating the concept of the jam-band, free from the constraints of a set list.
Apple has a long history of building passionate advocates for it’s products, and letting those passionate fans sell their friends and family on Apple products. New Apple devotees are created every day.
Many of us were introduced to The Grateful Dead through an older brother or a high school friend. The Dead were a club, and once you became a member you saw it as your duty to share the tribe with the right type of people.
Apple created visual cues to let others know you are “in” the tribe. The iconic glowing Apple logo on the back of the Mac is a perfect example. The sleek and distinct look of the iPad is one. The crazy iMac colors of the late 90s were another. When you see one of those visual cues, you know you are among your tribe.
The Grateful Dead did the same. The “Steal your face” logo first appeared in 1969. Other famous Dead visuals include the dancing bears, terrapins, skull and roses, and the jester. When you see “a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac”, you know you are among friends.
With each product release, Apple raises the bar. Each new iPhone and iPad innovates and sets a new standard. Product releases are highly anticipated events that get tremendous pre-release hype.
The Grateful Dead did the same. The band was never satisfied with their sound system, always improving it and building their legendary “wall of sound”. They worked with Alembic Inc. to research acoustics and create the best sound systems to deliver a superior product to their fans.
Beyond Steve Jobs, Apple was always a great company full of creative people, but there is no doubt that Jobs provided leadership like no other. Their decade without him in the late 80s and early 90s is considered Apple’s darkest days. Upon his return in 1997, the company embarked on an incredible period of creativity that gave us the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. People often wonder what the Apple of the future will look like without him.
While The Grateful Dead was always a band that extended far beyond the leadership of Jerry Garcia, the band did not even attempt to continue after Garcia’s death. Garcia never saw himself as the band’s leader. They always tried to be a group of equals. But when Garcia died, the band was finished. Various members have continued as The Other Ones, The Dead, Further, Phil Lesh and Friends, Bob Weir and Rat Dog, and the Rhythm Devils.
The book Brand Like A Rock Star is on sale now.
And don’t forget to download the “Musical Compaion” to the book for just 99cents in the Amazon Kindle store. It is a media guide to help you navigate the careers of the various bands discussed in the book.