Legendary ad man Lee Clow talks about Steve Jobs' love of branding and more


While speaking at the PTTOW! summit last May, legendary ad executive and TBWA Global Director and Chairman Lee Clow reminisced fondly about his 30-year journey "looking into the future" with Steve Jobs.

He was 25 years old, when I met Steve. And he was already this passionate, intense. He and Wozniak invented this thing called the personal computer. Wozniak was just kind of into it for the hobby kind deal. Steve looked at it and said, "This is going to change everything."

Clow touched on a number of topics, but his story regarding Jobs' love of branding is particularly interesting.

Clow said that Jobs loved brands, having grown up admiring both Sony and Polaroid not only for furnishing cool products, but also because they represented the type of branding he admired.

Clow explains that in calling the company "Apple", Jobs may have been influenced by Sony which in 1958 changed the company name from Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo to Sony because it was a "charming, kind of fun, sunny, nice name." Another theory, not mentioned by Clow, is that Sony was chosen because it was easy to pronounce in any language.

Drawing a parallel between that and Jobs' decision to name his company Apple, Clow explained:

I think, even though I'm sure he didn't think it through, that his intuition told him that he'd introduce the world to technology that was going to change everyone's life and do special things, but at the same time, it was going to be new, it was going to be scary, and people weren't going to know what to do with a computer, or if they even needed one.

So he thought - Apple.

Maybe if it's named something non-threatening, something likeable, something you could trust, I think he intuitively understood that that was gonna be a more graceful way for people to come to this technology that he believed would be so amazing and change our lives.

Also interesting, and clearly a principle that seeps into every aspect of Apple's products, was Jobs' belief that everything a brand does is a de facto advertisement.

"Steve figured out," Clow said, "that every way a brand touches you is a message, and it's either a positive message or it's a message that kind of contradicts what you thought about the brand."

That said, Clow relayed how Jobs and Apple from the very beginning left no detail to chance. Clow explained that his company even helped write the manuals for the original Mac because Jobs wanted it to be accessible to the masses, not written in technical jargon that would inevitably alienate and confuse consumers.

That attention to detail, Clow continued, is also evident in Apple's unique approach to packaging, and of course, Apple's retail stores which Clow once told Jobs were the best ads Apple ever did.

There are a lot more interesting nuggets in the full video below. It's well worth watching.