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Business tips from Apple ad man Ken Segall

"Overthinking is one of the world’s greatest causes of complexity."

Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

FACT: Did you know that Apple’s official name for the iPhone could have been:

  • Mobi
  • TriPod
  • TelePod
  • iPad

Ken Segall, who worked closely with Steve Jobs for 12 years spanning NeXT and Apple, opens Deakin’s most recent MBA Alumni professional development evening by scanning the room, saying: ‘I get nervous talking to people who I think are smarter than me and can see through me.’

A very humble remark from the person who started the i-frenzy, by naming the iMac, and who helped develop Apple’s illustrious Think Different campaign as their creative director.

Segall is also the author of the New York Times Best Seller Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success, which examines how the power of simplicity helped turn Apple into what it is today. He has also served as global creative director for other iconic brands, including IBM, BMW, Intel and Dell.

Currently, he does creative work, branding and product naming for major brands; he blogs about technology and marketing at kensegall.com; and he has fun with it all at the Apple satire site Scoopertino.com.

Segall is here to speak to our Alumni about his time at Apple, his experience working with Steve Jobs and to get to the bottom of Apple’s unparalleled global success – which he attributes to Jobs’ philosophy about keeping things simple.

‘At Apple everything was about what communicates the fastest, what communicates the important points and about reaching people and conveying something they could understand very quickly – it was about simplicity.’

One of Apple’s products clearly encapsulating the spirit of simplicity is the remote control, he explains. ‘Few buttons, no numbers, no confusion.’

‘As a matter of fact, I don’t know of many people who walk away from Apple feeling a lack of choice, I think rather they feel a lack of confusion.’

Offering further insights into the world of business and simplicity, Segall points out five key points:

  1. Simplicity generates love: ‘Steve Jobs always said it was his job to get people to love Apple. If you have an emotional connection to Apple you will keep buying Apple products, you will recommend it to friends and family and you will stick with it if something goes wrong,’ Segall says.
  2. Do fewer things better: In comparison to its competitors, Apple has three models of laptops (Dell has 26 and hp has 41).
  3. Common sense: Overthinking is one of the world’s greatest causes of complexity.
  4. Words matter: Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication and the Apple seems to symbolise that. ‘Simplicity speaks in humanese’. Simple words and phrases are often those ones that captivate and motivate.
  5. Minimize: Use common words to explain uncommon things, minimize your words to explain a big thing. Apple used the phrase ‘a thousand songs in your pocket’, to sell the iPod.

Segall ends the evening by explaining that being simple isn’t necessarily a simple task in itself. As Steve Jobs said: ‘Simple can be harder than complex, you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple , but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there you can move mountains.’

Ken Segall is an Industry Professor in Marketing on the Deakin MBA program. He is sponsored by the Bank of Melbourne. 

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