Posts Tagged ‘steve jobs



A Macaron is about vision believe it or not. It is about strategy. It is about branding. And victory tastes so sweet.


I met Khaled and Nour a couple of times and tasted their masterpieces. Le Gustav is not a pastry shop, it is not a cake factory, and it surely is not your average pâtisserie.

Le Gustav is about perfectly mixing the two most essential ingredients of a heavenly pastry, passion and art.

It is not a coincidence that I keep mentioning passion in all my writings. I will never stop.

My momentum is driven by folks like Khaled and Nour. They do to pastry what I do in branding, top everything with passion… The cherry on the cake.

A brand is not about big and flashy. It is mostly about passion and passion. Yes, twice the passion.

There’s the passion you inject in your brand, a breath of your soul. Then there’s the passion your market acquires for your brand. When the two passions collide, the explosion of emotions and feelings triggers the Big Bang of the brand’s universe.

Khaled and Nour did just that.

A brand is undeniably about innovation. The most sophisticated type of innovation is the variation on a theme. Take an existing industry or concept, add a dash of creativity, explore the possibilities, inject courage and vision. What do you get? A discovery with every bite.

A brand is also about sustainability and best practice, the power to replicate success over time. This is the key to magnify the brand’s power. If you start right, look at it as a Damocles dagger over your head. The challenge is to keep doing it right, and then, do it better.

Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniak did just that with Apple. And even in its darkest moments, Apple earned more support from its loyal adept users than from its board members. Apple is not a computer. Apple is an innovation factory.

Le Gustav is not pastry either…

When you look at the right idea as the springboard to innovation, and when you grasp how the power of innovation can become the podium of your brand, you never fail.


Le Gustav is not a name or logo or location or sales… It’s not about a dozen pastries in a box. Le Gustav is the smile of Nour, the eloquence of Khaled, the passion they display when describing what they do. That, is what you taste with every Le Gustav Macaron.

That’s what you feel when you use a Mac.

Apple says “Think Different”… Khaled and Nour heard well, and did it right

Rarely a local brand tasted so good.

©Ibrahim Lahoud – 2011


From Advertising to Branding, the Few Feet Journey

My good friend Danielle Baiz (@meinlebanon) commented on my last post about the advertising industry in Lebanon (Read On Sale, An Advertising Industry) and asked me to tell the tale of my “shift” from advertising to branding. With a smile like hers, I had to indulge!

The story of my life.

I graduated (if I may say so) in 1978 with a Baccalaureate in Commercial Sciences, after being fired from one school and joining a smaller one. I never had the right stuff for numbers. I never will. The few times I wrote numbers were to “draw” them. I always had a sweet inclination for design and art. I later found out about the canyon that separates both, but that’s another story.

How I managed to graduate is still considered a miracle. It was that close of being accepted as a genuine miracle by the Vatican! I remember the principal of the Commercial Sciences department, right before being fired from that school, congratulating me. It seems he had been teaching that department for forty years and it was the first time he lands on a student (yours truly) who manages to score zero over eighty in Accounting, zero over eighty in Financial Mathematics and 2 over eighty in Maths (I guess that was for writing my name right 🙂 )! So I guess, we all agree that my graduation was indeed a miracle… with a little help of tiny sheets of paper with microscopic hand writing…

Right after graduating (if I may say so 😉 ) I got hired as a paste-up artist in a small obscure advertising agency right next to home. How this happened is now vague, but I guess someone nice enough introduced me to someone even nicer who agreed to hire an accountant as a paste-up artist!

There were no Macs, no scanners, no digital stuff. It was me, tracing paper, Letraset and rubber cement.

My career in advertising had just started. Long story short, I left advertising in 1987. I was a creative director. Amazingly, most of the marks I left behind were logos… What can I say about those 11 years? Ummmmmm… Nothing!

Did I learn? Yes. Did anyone teach me? No. Did I carry baggage with me? Yes. Do I still have it? No.

That year, 1987, Apple Computer, who was our client with offices on the ground floor of the same building in Dubai, made me an offer… as a Marketing Executive. Uhuuh, Marketing Executive. Cut. During my last year of advertising in Dubai, I used to stay in the office during lunch breaks which stretched between 13:00 and 16:00… Yeah, seems they inherited this from the Mexican siesta concept, backed by a Japanese study that confirms the benefits of a power-nap… So, instead of going home, I use to sit in the office and fiddle with the only Apple Macintosh Plus offered to us by Apple. In one year, I got so into Apple and the Mac that advertising that brand became a passion rather than a job. They noticed that.

Talking about 180 degrees shifts?! Boy! I accepted.

Apple was my first serious encounter with branding. Not that I practiced it at first. Apple was to me what every brand should be, “loved”. My passion was so intense, that a year later, I became the Regional Marketing Manager, and everyone used to call me Mr. “R”. I was so keen on never featuring the Apple logo without the ® next to it. Someone actually made especially for me a T-shirt with a huge black ® on the front. There, I learned what brands are, how they behave, how they strive to sustain visibility, memorability and recognizability. There, I learned that a brand earns both love and respect, just like human beings. I learned that, just like people, a brand should not brag, should not lie, should always keep its promises, and most importantly, just like people, a brand should be exactly what it looks to be, what it says it is.

Seven years at Apple. That’s how long I stayed. Seven amazing years where I saw the prototypes of Macs you’re using today, where I witnessed the launch of future strategies. I saw Steve Jobs deliver a keynote, and I understood  how a man can shape a company and how a company can shape people. The synergy between Steve and Apple was simply amazing.

During my last couple of years at Apple, I attained a level where ideas were boiling in my head. I had to do something that crowns my years of experience between advertising and Apple. My best friend was also in advertising. Just like me, he loved creating logos, but far better than me. He still is today my best friend and, in my opinion, the most talented corporate identity designer there is in the region.

One day, we sat at my place and started reflecting on the next move in our careers. And after a couple of hours, it struck both of us. The region was undergoing a major transformation. It was being invaded by foreign brands, by far more powerful and visible than local ones. This spelled danger for local brands… and heavens for us. Corporate Identity, that was the answer.

In September 1994, we started the first corporate identity and Strategic Design firm in the Middle East. We called it “IDentity”, yes, with a Capital “I” and “D”. This was the twist in the brand; “ID” was your physique, “entity” was your character, and the whole “IDentity” was your behavior.

I was so into branding now.

This time, passion was flowing, and the results were clear… Still are. We created some of the most recognized brands today.

There, I discovered that even accountants can be branders…

All it took was to be a “child of the street”. You look at people around you, and you see what no one ever teaches you, what they refuse to teach you. You see that brands make us who we are, but mostly that it’s actually good.

Once you understand the symbiosis between people and brands, and you grasp the breadth of how they feed each other, you develop this kind of passion that brings you closer to people.

So for the “No logo” gents and dames, there’s a continuation to the statement, “No logo, no people”. What makes our individualism is the way we deal with everyday brands. What we wear, eat, drive, carry… all tell everyone else who we are. When we speak, we top it all with our own brand. We are not the brands we carry; we are “which” ones we carry and how we display our choice of brand styles and mix. That, coupled with our own behavior, is what makes us easier to figure out.

Branding is by excellence about people, and hey! I’m a people person.

So, here’s your answer Danielle, I went into advertising looking for a job. But I moved to branding looking for a passion.

© 2010 Ibrahim Lahoud




Here is a the stock chart Apple Inc (aapl). and Adobe Systems (adbe) for the last six month. What’s wrong with that picture?

AAPL – ADBE (last 6 months) – Source Google® Finance

Apple has recently been on an unstoppable fame streak with its mobile products (iPhone and iPad) and laptops line, not to mention the most stable operating system ever made and that runs a “sweet” software library.

Adobe has been also doing great with it Creative Suite line. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, are by far the industry standards. Some of its software titles became generic words. You “photoshop” an over exposed photo, you “Pdf” a contract to your client, or you “Flash” your website. Having myself been an Adobe user since the first versions, I can’t help but notice the amazing stability and reliability of the programs, not to mention the incredible creativity boost they provide.

Adobe has been widely distributed and available across both leading computing platforms. When Apple had trouble selling to non-graphic business, Adobe turned its Acrobat line into an indispensable tool. When some narrow-minded enlightened still believed that Apple computers are toys for graphic designers, Adobe had it’s Illustrator, Photoshop, and other software selling to PC users like candies. They even decided to totally port their audio-visual editing software exclusively to the Windows platform. Adobe has managed to reach users across hardware and operating systems.

Here’s my humble opinion.

When Illustrator, Photoshop and Acrobat’s golden age was at its peak, Adobe was the household name of the computer age. Adobe, as a brand was recognized by even non-users and non-computer-literates. Then, Adobe, and its software lineup became a given and taken for granted. It became the Microsoft Office of graphic design. People simply forgot about Adobe.

Today, Adobe migrated to the Creative Suite line of products. On a branding level, this was a strategic mistake. For a short period of time, the brand visibility of Adobe rose again upon the launch of the CS family. After a short period of time, things went back to cruise speed. The strategic mistake – once more according to my humble opinion – was that by bringing the CS to the limelight, Adobe has contributed to the slaying of its heroes, Illustrator and Photoshop. Users now speak about using the CS3 or CS4, and not anymore about Illustrator or Photoshop.

After over 20 years of building the brand equity of its heroes as well as its own, Adobe simply trashed everything to the benefit of more sales. Now that’s a paradox.

AAPL – ADBE (last 5 years) – Source Google® Finance

Yes, everyone still buys and uses Adobe products. Yes, Adobe is still the number one graphic software company. Yes, Adobe is still the most respected software company in the world but… only when we remember it…

So, on one side, sales go up, while on the other, brand visibility and stock go down. That’s another interesting paradox.

It has been proven through research, that heavily branded companies are far better performing on the stock market than weakly or unbranded ones; actually up to 35% according to research by FutureBrand.

And that’s where Adobe went wrong.

Apple is not a computer company. It never was; well maybe for a short period of time during its dark ages of the early nineties, after Steve Jobs was ousted and a bunch of “salesmen” CEOs’ took turns at massacring it.

Steve Jobs had realized something very important; brands make products. He understood the importance of our perception of things, and how brushed aluminum on a minimalistic body could add to out own image as much as it adds to our computing experience.

When Adobe cared less about its user interface, Apple made it its holy grail. When Adobe worried about Béziers curves, Apple worried about pressing for an awesome slow-motion effect. Why would I need a slow-motion minimizing effect? One might ask. Why do you need a Mont Blanc pen? A Bic could suffice…

Apple sales are up. So is it’s image and stock.

Product placement was never an issue for Adobe. Virtually, every movie today has an Apple product cameo(s) appearance. Before those cameos were about displaying a futuristic image. Today they are about displaying an “image” full stop.

The iPhone success was never about technology. Come to think about it, it did not have half the needed technologies in a cell phone. Who seldom buys a phone without MMS,  or Bluetooth transfer capabilities? Who needs a phone the battery of which can’t be changed? Everyone does!

In less than a couple of years, the iPhone became the standard, surpassing all the giants who spent years establishing grounds. The iPhone managed to become an icon rather than a cellphone. Everyone complained about bugs, lack of features… on their way to buy one.
No other cellular phone made headlines on CNN. No other cellular phone created miles of waiting lines starting dawn. It never happened to Adobe, yet it really deserves it too.

When Apple launched the iMac back in the late nineties, it was about which color? Bondi or strawberry! This is so odd and funny. iMac became a furniture topped by a wonderfully performing personal computer. Since then, every Mac that comes out of an Apple factory is a piece of furniture topped by a wonderfully performing personal computer.

Yes, Apple is a hardware company and Adobe is a software company. Apple has more opportunity to “show off” whereby Adobe is confined to the guts of your hard drive and the real of your screen. But then again, years ago, Adobe was known, loved and respected for more than Apple.

What has changed today? Apple is still into hardware and Adobe into software. Right?

Wrong. Today it’s the opposite. While Apple worries about the software that goes inside your Mac, and how it matches the hardware excellence, Adobe is worrying about hardware platforms, software authentication, professional features, migration.. and forgetting about what really made the magic of Adobe. When it had the chance to build on “PhotoShopping” being a generic word like “Xeroxing”, it simply preferred to create a plethora of Creative Suite flavors and bury Photoshop – and other software – deep inside it. I am not debating Adobe’s business strategies here, but merely it’s brand vision.

Adobe and Apple are at the end very similar. Both are innovators, both became standards, and both are respected beyond debate.
The difference?

Adobe chose the mind.
Apple chose the heart.
And you know how the saying goes.

©2010 – Ibrahim Lahoud


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Reason To Believe by Ibrahim N. Lahoud is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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