Innovate or die: How Apple transformed the old fashioned mp3 player into the ‘KING OF COOL’

When Alexandra Graham Bell uttered the  very first words into a telephone, the basic function of his telephone was simply to transmit  conversations across  distances in real


time; that was in 1876.
Fast forward to 2016, and what you have is a terrifically tremendous transformation.

Starting with the use of the candlestick phone between the 1890s and the 1930s; then the rotary phone in the 1940s when dialling a number was tedious; then the push button phone which died in the 1970s, then to the answering machine which utilized a cassette tape to record voicemail, then the portable phones in the 1980s before the mobile phones finally became the order of the day .

The key-factor in the transformation sequence above is INNOVATION.

Rather than make a device which can only transmit conversations, why not add a “wow factor” to the device e.g a high quality camera, internet browsing ability, email functionality, mobile messenger, sms etc —> that’s the concept behind innovation.

Innovation has been one of the key branding strategies that has enabled apple to thrive above her competitors. Take the Apple iPod as a case study:


The iPod was not the first mp3 player in market but has sold over 400 million units since December 2001 till date, This is simply because Apple was the company who created  the world’s first transformational customer experience  with portable music.

“One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to sell it…And as we have tried to come up with a strategy and a vision for Apple, it started with ‘What incredible benefits can we give to the customer…Where can we take the customer?’ Not starting with ‘Let’s sit down with the engineers and figure out what awesome technology we have and how we’re going to market that.’” – Steve Jobs


You will never go beyond selling a product to your customers if you do not understand how they feel and what they experience.
Apple goes beyond selling you a product, they sell to you a dream.

Steve Job’s point of view is this: Do not be caught in the trap of a “technology centric approach” but rather, “a customer centric approach”.

Apple solved the limitations inherent in the previous mp3 players  by incorporating a 1.8″ Hard disk, Firewire and lithium battery. All of a sudden, you could store countless songs in your pocket! The device could stay on for donkey hours and it was a beauty to behold. What’s more: in the sea of black ear phones, Apple stood out with white.

Apple has shown over and over again that It is not about being the first to market a technology, but being the first to market a new customer experience.
Steve agreed with Pablo Picasso’s quote (Good artists copy, great artists steal) when he said “WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SHAMELESS ABOUT STEALING GREAT IDEAS”

Asides focusing on the customer experience and making the competition irrelevant, another INNOVATIVE BRANDING STRATEGY used by apple is “connecting the dots”


In the making of the iPod device, Apple needed a hard drive that could hold 1000+ songs but without an extra weight attached to the then standard laptop hard drive; unknown to them that the Toshiba company in China was already in the process of making a more portable  5GB  storage HDD  which could definitely hold over 1000 songs. But Toshiba was not sure what to do with it.

Apple simply connected the dots after the awareness of this new technology. So Jon Rubenstein who was the Direct Responsible Individual (DRI) for the product got a $10 million dollar check with which he obtained an exclusive right to every one of the 5GB, 1.8″ Toshiba disk made then.

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.” – Steve Jobs


Outside the four walls of your comfort zone is the inspiration that you need to create a new innovation. And in today’s brutally competitive, shark infested waters, frankly, it’s ‘Innovate or die’.

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Published by Ogunbowale Olugbenga

Ogunbowale Olugbenga is a multiple award winning social entrepreneur & digital skills expert. An alumnus of the Leadership in Business Institute of Kellogg School of Management (USA), He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria). Inspired by the plight of millions of unemployed youths, Olugbenga founded, a digital agency passionately growing businesses & accelerating the application of digital skills for economic prosperity across Africa. To help institutions prevent scandals & promote performance, Gbenga founded Polivoice.Work, an anonymous employee feedback tool that captures & analyses feedback anonymously in real time to detect, predict & improve work place conditions. A Mandela Washington Fellow, Tony Elumelu Fellow, Royal Common wealth society fellow, YALI star of business & YALI network influencer, Olugbenga is the founder of Africa’s biggest orphanage outreach, The Orphan Empowerment Society, with a 5,000 strong volunteer force and a presence in 19 African countries empowering thousands of orphans with free vocational skills, medical care, & food. He is also the co-founder of the communication & leadership organization, Pacesetters Leadership Club.

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