Why does the world’s biggest brand care so much about 3 little letters?

In 2010, at Apple’s keynote conference, Steve Jobs introduced “the iPad”.

A year later, on the same stage, he said: “we’re going to introduce iPad 2.”

Spot the difference?

iPad 2 didn’t need a definite article.

Why?

iPad 2 was now part of the family.

At 2012’s keynote, Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior VP of marketing, announced a new product: “this is iPad mini”. This was echoed in their press release: “Apple today introduced iPad mini.”

At the same event, Tim Cook got up and told us, “we have some very exciting news to tell you about iPhone.”

What’s the big deal about 3 little letters?

Well, first, this was a deliberate move made by the world’s most successful brand on retail’s biggest stage, so it merits consideration.

Second, omitting the definite article doesn’t come naturally to people. It jars. Most people still refer to ‘the iPad’, so isn’t it odd that Apple stuck with their strategy in official communications?

Third, Tesla have just started to do it as well, so this could be the start of a trend at the world’s smartest brands.

So why don’t Apple do definite articles? And what does it mean?

There are threads trying to unravel this mystery from a grammatical perspective.

But I think the truth is more human:

People’s names don’t need a definite article; Apple treats their products like people.

By omitting those three little letters, Apple shows us the relationship that they have with their products.

It doesn’t matter whether consumers or partners say “the iPad”, because to us, Apple, it’s “iPad”.

We created it. We care about it. We gave it a name.

Our products aren’t just inanimate objects. We give them a soul.

So the next time you’re naming a new product, or shaping your brand’s verbal strategy, just remember how much the world’s most successful brand cared about those 3 seemingly innocuous letters. Then email Chris.

 

(Post Script: Fast forward to 2015, and we have “Apple Pencil” and “iPad Pro”. But Tim Cook’s struggling to maintain this naming strategy consistently. You can hear him flip-flop in this segment, and it’s particularly problematic when the screen behind him points out his error. (I hear the sound of Apple’s communications department smacking their collective heads against their pristine white walls.)