Apple's Journey as a Luxury Brand

Apple has such a persistent presence in society that it can seem strange to think this is a relatively recent development. Sure, the company has been an information technology (IT) staple since the 1970s. But it certainly hasn’t had a prominent or consistent cache among the general public throughout its lifetime. Rather, the gear changes the company made in the early 2000s helped to secure its place of prominence for consumers the world over. 

This isn’t just a case of the business keying into the greater public demand for advanced handheld digital devices. Let’s face it, many of Apple’s products are certainly not financially accessible for the majority of people. Instead, they’ve created a brand considered by many to be a status symbol. It is technologically at the forefront and aesthetically aspirational.

We’re going to take a look at Apple’s journey to becoming a pre-eminent luxury brand.

Marketing Choices

In many ways, Apple’s marketing historically presents the company as an agent of change. Apple’s early marketing choices were very much geared toward democratizing personal computing. It wanted to set itself aside from the experts and coding hobbyists to offer a computer accessible to anybody. 

Indeed, its advertising in the early 1980s fed into the idea of its products prompting a revolution. The company seemed to establish an approach in which the product was less important than the idea it represented. You only have to look at its 1984-themed Superbowl commercial to find evidence of this. 

Directed by Ridley Scott, it featured a totalitarian landscape and citizens being preached to by a Big Brother-like face on a screen. The screen is shattered by a woman flinging a sledgehammer. There are no images of a product and no mention of one is made until text at the end informs viewers that the Macintosh will ensure the year 1984 is not like 1984.

Yet, this democratized and revolutionary attitude shifted with the new millennium, ending with its 1997 “Think Different” campaign. Its 2003 iPod silhouette campaign may have subtly featured the product, but it was more about the energy and sense of cool the company wanted the product to represent. Today we see MacBook, iPad, and iPhone marketing centered around futuristic sleekness, exclusivity, and luxury. 

Product Design

An important part of the journey toward Apple as a luxury brand is how the products themselves have evolved. Rather than selling components to build a computer, Apple offered the full package ready-built and usable out of the box. 

This approach continued throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but the company shifted its look to bridge personal and business computing. Many businesses choose to make their products appear more professional through packaging choices. This could include higher quality materials and evocative color combinations. Apple applied this protocol to both its containers and the products themselves. 

By the late ‘90s, the company had taken the effort to fit more with popular culture. Its iMac line had a smoother egg shape and featured translucent casing in distinctive colors like Bondi Blue. This shift, concurrent with Steve Jobs’s return to the company, could be seen as the first true step on the path to Apple as a luxury brand.  

In some ways, we can see these types of design leaps recurring throughout the early 21st century. The rather blocky original iPods gave way to sleek and colorful iPod Nanos. Even the Apple Watch developed from a fairly standard smartwatch to a highly customizable item. With each of these moves forward, Apple telegraphs a luxury lifestyle. Today, the company’s computers, phones, and wearables are representative of wealth and high taste.  

Influencer Adoption

One of the most important steps toward Apple's establishment as a luxury brand has been the application of influencers. Though, this has been a feature to some extent throughout the company’s history. Originally, this didn’t take the familiar forms of using celebrities or experts. Rather, it focused on images of the types of person its target demographic could relate to or wish to emulate. Perhaps the most impactful example of this was the “Mac vs PC” ads of 2006. These made a clear distinction about who a Mac user was to influence popular engagement. 

However, in recent years, the use of influencers has a more intentionally aspirational lifestyle-oriented approach. When building or adjusting any brand, some influencer marketing strategies tend to be more effective than others. Success can very much depend on the company’s relationship with consumers and its goals. Today, Apple has little use for hosted giveaways or referral codes. But product promotion and content collaborations have helped to change the image of the brand for contemporary audiences.  

In some ways, Apple has recognized the value of relinquishing a certain amount of control over its brand voice in exchange for advocacy. It encourages online influencers and users to tell their stories about how they live with Apple products. As the company’s products tend to skew on the more expensive side, this has often meant Apple’s public influencers are those living luxury lifestyles. 

While this hasn’t hurt the company’s cache in popular culture, it demonstrates a distinct move away from its previous “every person” audience. A move not exactly helped by its resistance to engage with right-to-repair campaigns and incompatibility with third-party accessories.


Apple has risen to become one of the most prominent luxury brands in contemporary society. Yet, this is something of a departure from its early years. While once the company sought to distinguish itself as a computing brand for everyone, there is now an image of expense and exclusivity. Through shifts in design and the contributions of influencers, Apple remains a ubiquitous presence, but its audience is certainly changing as a result. 

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