10 juin 2012

Insanely Simple

Il y a quelques jours, j’ai terminé la lecture d’Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success de Ken Segall. Disponible en version papier et numérique sur Kindle ou iBooks, je ne peux que vous recommander chaudement l’investissement. C’est en anglais mais très accessible, il n’y a pas à ma connaissance d’édition en français à ce jour.

Pour la petite histoire, Ken Segall bosse pour Chiat, l’agence de pub attitrée d’Apple et a travaillé aux côtés de Steve Jobs à de maintes reprises lors de l’élaboration de campagnes, dont l’une des plus célèbres: Think different. Il est également à l’origine du “i” dans le nom des produits Apple, après avoir tenu tête à Jobs qui préférait Macman à iMac. On ne l’en remerciera jamais assez.

Profitant de cette proximité, Segall a essayé d’extraire l’essence du succès phénoménal d’Apple. Et l’une des clés de celui-ci réside clairement dans cette obsession de la Simplicité. A ce sujet, Steve Jobs avait d’ailleurs déclaré: “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.”, et c’est bien ce que démontre Segall au fil des pages, bourrées d’anecdotes, de conseils, de réflexions, d’expériences diverses et de comparaisons avec d’autres boites comme Dell, Intel ou IBM pour lesquelles il a également travaillé sur des campagnes. C’est la mise en pratique de cette Simplicité dans toutes les strates d’Apple, comme une religion, qui lui a permis de survivre alors qu’elle était au bord du gouffre en 1997 et de devenir l’une des boites les plus profitables au monde aujourd’hui.

Au delà du thème du bouquin qui me touche particulierement (simplicité, donc minimalisme), j’ai beaucoup aimé le regard de Segall, celui de quelqu’un qui a bossé pour Apple (et Steve Jobs) et non pas chez Apple. L’angle est ainsi totalement différent du biographe officiel de Jobs, Walter Isaacson, et même si certains passages se recoupent, le sujet ici reste toujours centré sur cette culture du simple qui coule dans les veines d’Apple.

Je n’ai pas résisté à l’envie de relever quelques passages particulièrement emblématiques et croustillants pour vous les faire partager ci-dessous. Enjoy! (et précipitez vous sur le bouquin, vous ne le regretterez pas)

Lorsqu’il s’agit de faire simple, on ne peut pas dire que Microsoft soit un exemple à suivre. Son Zune Store manquait ainsi cruellement de bon sens:

For example, Common Sense would suggest that when Microsoft created the Zune Store to compete with the iTunes Store, it would have charged a fixed price per song, much as Apple did. Instead, it offered “Microsoft Points,” wich required customers to purchase points by the undred, then use a conversion rate of eigthy points to the dollar to buy a ninety-nine-cent song. The architect of that scheme seems to be missing the Common Sense gene — and those who approved it were a bit light in the Brains department.

Certainement l’un des passages les plus emblématiques du caractère de Steve Jobs, qui se débarasse ici avec une facilité déconcertante d’une personne inutile à ses yeux:

One particular day, there appeared in our midst a woman from Apple with whom I was unfamiliar. I don’t recall her name, as she never appeared in our world again, so for the purposes of this tale, I’ll call her Lorrie. She took her seat with the rest of us as Steve breezed into the boardroom, right on time.

Steve was in a sociable mood, so we chatted it up for a few minutes, and then the meeting began. “Before we start, let me just update you on a few things,” said Steve, his eyes surveying the room. “First off, let’s talk about iMac—”

He stopped cold. His eyes locked on to the one thing in the room that didn’t look right. Pointing to Lorrie, he said, “Who are you?”

Lorrie was a bit stunned to be called out like that, but she calmly explained that she’d been ask to attend because she was involved with some of the marketing projects we’d be discussing. Steve heard it. Processed it. Then he hit her with the Simple Stick.

“I don’t think we need you in this meeting, Lorrie. Thanks,” he said. Then, as if that diversion has never occured—and as if Lorrie never existed—he continued with his update.

So, just as the meeting started, in front of eight or so people whom Steve did want to see at the table, poor Lorrie had to pack up her belongings, rise from her chair, and take the long walk across the room toward the door.

Her crime: She wasn’t necessary.

Dans certaines boites, on colle des affiches sur les murs indiquant la meilleure facon de tenir une réunion. Pas chez Apple:

If you have any thought of working at Apple, I’m sorry to say there will be no signs on the wall telling you how to run a meeting. Likewise, there will be no signs telling you how to tie your shoes or fill a glass of water. The assumption made at your hiring is that you are well equiped with Brains and Common Sense and that you’re a fully functioning adult.

Même si ce n’est pas la firme ciblée par cet extrait dans le livre, je pense que Samsung pourrait prendre quelques notes:

Every product on Apple’s grid has a distinct reason for being that is easily understood by its customers. And every product Apple sells is first quality. No fillers.

Trop de choix tue le choix:

Visit Apple’s site and you can choose between two models: MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Within each of those models, you can choose the size screen you want and make your choices for speed, memory, and disk size. Pretty simple.

Now take a look at the sites for HP and Dell. Their lineups change frequently, but in November 2011, HP was showing more than twenty-three different models of laptops, while Dell was offering eighteen. These computers have a range of overlapping features, and many are spread across different pages. I’ve yet to meet a human being who can explain why so many different models are necessary.

La différence entre une bonne pub et une mauvaise pub:

At one agency meeting with Steve Jobs, we were reviewing the content of a proposed iMac commercial when a debate arose about how much we should say in the commercial. The creative team was arguing that it would work best if the entire spot was devoted to describing the one key feature of this particular iMac. Steve, however, had it in his head that there were four or five really important things to say. It seemed to him that all of those copy points would fit comfortably in a thirty-second spot.

After debating the issue for a few minutes, it didn’t look like Steve was going to budge. That’s when a little voice started to make itself heard inside the head of Lee Clow, leader of the Chiat team. He decided this would be a good time to give Steve a live demonstration.

Lee tore five sheets of paper off of his notepad (yes, notepad—Lee was laptop resistant at the time) and crumpled them into five balls. Once the crumpling was complete, he started his performance.

“Here, Steve, catch,” said Lee, as he tossed a single ball of paper across the table. Steve caught it, no problem, and tossed it back.

“That’s a good ad,” said Lee.

“Now catch this,” he said, as he threw all five paper balls in Steve’s direction. Steve didn’t catch a single one, and they bounced onto the table and floor.

“That’s a bad ad,” said Lee.

Le prix des produits Apple, souvent jugé trop élevé par ses détracteurs, n’empêche pourtant pas ses clients de faire la queue pour les obtenir:

Most important, a strong brand is like cash in the bank. When people trust a brand and see real value in it, they’re willing to pay more for it. If you have a strong brand, as Apple does today, you can charge a premium price and people will line up to pay it. Profit margins are high. If you have a mediocre brand, the only way to attract customers is by lowering prices. Profit margins are low.

Où l’on apprend que 3 c’est plus que 1:

But there are three functions that people use most on their iPhones: Internet, phone, and iPod. Three is a pretty small numer. When they were designing iPhone, why didn’t they just put three beautiful buttons at the bottom of iPhone instead of one? Arguably, that would have provided even quicker access to each of the main functions, and it still would have been an improvement over previous smartphones.

There’s only one reason I can offer: Three is more than one.

Au moment du passage à l’an 2000, alors que le plus grand bug de tous les temps menace l’univers PC parce que l’année a toujours été codée sur deux chiffres seulement, les machines Apple, elles, sont à l’abri jusqu’en l’an 29940:

Douglas Adams, author of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and an Apple fan, wrote a beautiful self-deprecating headline and sent it directly to Steve Jobs for Apple’s use. It read: We might not get everything right, but at least we knew the century was going to end.

Le nom donné par les différents constructeurs aux nombreux smartphones Android n’a souvent aucun sens, à la différence de l’iPhone qui porte un nom particulièrement emblématique. Rare exception, le bien nommé Droid. Manque de pot, ça ne profite pas à celui qu’on croit:

One exception here would be “Droid,” which really does resonate with people. It’s an excellent name—short, memorable, futuristic, and already familiar given its heritage in Star Wars movies. Unfortunately, the Droid name does not accrue benefits to a single phone maker, because the name is actually owned by Lucasfilm and rented out for use by both Motorola and HTC.

Rendre les choses plus simples pour ses clients plutôt que de se soucier de collecter des informations sur eux:

Of course, the only thing more important than creating a simple site is making it easy for people to get there. Even here, Steve Jobs made no pretense about his demand for Simplicity. He was even fussy about URLs. At one time, we were sharing a finished commercial with Steve when someone in the room suggested that we use a modified URL at the end of the ad to direct people to a specific Apple page, such as “www.apple.com/specialoffer.”

Steve looked stunned that anyone would even suggest such a thing. Thankfully, his turret did not begin to rotate, nor did any verbal beatings ensue. Nonetheless, he very quickly squelched the idea. He just didn’t believe that ordinary people would ever remember a specialized URL, and he wanted to make things as simple as possible for them. If an Apple commercial got someone interested in learning more, he felt that this person would instinctively go to apple.com. If we were investing enough money to run a commercial, obviously the Apple home page would prominently feature the relevant link.

With that in mind, look around at all the other commercials you see on TV, or even the ads you see in magazines and newspapers. Look at billboards too. You’re bound to see some fairly complicated URLs designed not only to take you yo a specific page but also to enable the company to track who’s coming from where. Steve didn’t believe in making people work harder just so he could collect data about their movements. His most important concern was making things easier for customers. Apple was there to serve them, not the other way around.

Apple n’a jamais eu peur de se lancer sur des marchés déjà très encombrés, pour finir par les dominer totalement. L’iPod (suivi de l’iPhone bien plus tard) en est un exemple indiscutable:

As Apple’s first handheld consumer device (let’s not count Newton), iPod was the product that helped Apple turn this corner.

It entered a category that already offered a number of choices in music players. Complexity reigned, with every device working by its own rules. There was no heavyweight player in this category, only a bunch of companies scrambling to carve out a niche. Never having seen Apple lacking for confidence, I imagine it surveyed this scene and felt much like Charlton Heston’s character did in the opening minutes of Planet of the Apes, when he looked out over a tribe of primitive humans and said, “If that’s the best there is around here, in six months we’ll be running this planet.”

Si une machine ne peut pas réaliser ton idée, ne modifie pas ton idée, modifie la machine:

With great pride, the package designer told me how Apple had refused to take no for an answer when a vendor reported back that a certain package feature was problematic and needed to be changed.

The designer had created a gorgeous box worthy of a new Apple device. Inside, the product sat in a recessed compartment supported by a tiny piece of Styrofoam. That piece was so delicaten it was causing a problem in the manufacturing process. It was melting from the heat of the molding machines. The vendor duly told Apple that it wasn’t a solvable problem—the box had to be redesigned to accomodate the laws of physics.

The package design team wasn’t pleased. They had a vision, and now outside forces were interfering with that vision. Plus, Steve Jobs had already approved this design, as he had approved every detail of the product itself. Someone would either have to tell Steve the package design needed to be altered or push back with the vendor.

True to the Apple way, the designers did not want to compromise. In a not-so-veiled threat, they told the vendor that Apple wasn’t going to redesign the package—instead he would have to redesign his machines. If the metal molds were getting too hot, why not make new molds from aluminum?

At great expense, that’s what the vendor did. Soon the Styrofoam pieces were being churned out without a hitch.

2 commentaires

Blythe dit :

Passionnant, j’adore le coup « good ad/bad ad », digne de Mad Men !

Fabien dit :

Hé hé, c’est vrai qu’on imagine bien la scène dans un épisode de Mad Men. Tout à fait dans le style.

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