Please enjoy Guest Editor Barbara Jackson’s piece on Apple’s choice of logo for their undeniably excellent technical help desk they tagged as “Genius Bar”. Let it be said that if Microsoft tried this, the “bar” would close unexpectedly, reopen then close again while you wait, and gradually begin to overtake the Applebee’s, Victoria’s Secret and the other mall shops next door.
Barb and I have been close friends, political fellow travelers and confidants for (really?) forty-five years.
We and other contemporaries grew up in the desert of southeastern Washington, in the shadow of Oppenheimer, Hiroshima, and the live human testing resulting from our experimentation with “clean” nuclear power. We all have relatives dead or dying from that high school chemistry adventure. All our fathers and some of our mothers worked in secret and beyond the fence, and many played a role in what happened in 1945.
In 1969 ’70 and ’71, Barb and I and a small cadre of colleagues undertook do-it-yourself journalism, writing, editing and publishing “The Wasp”, which was our attempt to be real adult reporters and commentators, if not revolutionaries. We got it right once in awhile. What we lacked in reportorial skills, we made up for with chutzpah. We dared ask the questions nobody in a “company town” of 100,000 did. We toured the nuclear plants and suggested that the Atomic Energy Commission, its various corporate contractors, the “elected” local public representatives and our civic and business leaders not only had it wrong, but were serving the public a toxic lie.
Years later we all still have the same bit in our teeth.
Barbara pokes Apple gently but firmly:
Imagine my surprise
the first time I walked into an Apple Store
and saw the Genius Bar logo.
I immediately thought the Genius Bar logo was
way too similar to the Atomic Energy Commission logo.
It’s true that when our computer problem is solved
we truly think the person is a genius—
but I think there needs to be another way to deliver the message.
I figured Apple was trying
to link the genius of Einstein
and the genius of the Apple product line.
But I wanted to ask if the people in marketing knew anything about
the Atomic Age that began in 1945
in the desert of the United States?
Were they aware of Oppenheimer’s quote
“ I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”
from the Bhagavad Gita?
I need to go back in the store and
ask those sitting at the Genius Bar
“Do you remember what happened at
Fukushima in 2011 as the result of an
earthquake and tsunami and how it is effecting
the ocean today?”
Was it genius
or ignorance to use a symbol
that is more about war than goodness,
more about destruction than peace?
There are many ways to deliver the positive message you had in mind—
it may be time to step back and think
differently about that not so genius Genius Bar logo…
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent.
It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of
courage — to move in the opposite direction.”
“Where ignorance is our master,
there is no possibility of real peace.”
“A man is but the product of his thoughts.
What he thinks, he becomes.”
I know people with relatives who experienced the Holocaust—
now there are certain brands they will not buy
in memory of those relatives.
It would be unfortunate to have people
make associations with the Genius Bar logo
that cause a boycott because
they have a bad experience with that logo.
In our world, people get offended
by words or actions that others see as
“no problem”. Ultimately, the wise course
is to listen to what is being said
—because there is a truth there.
It’s always good to run an idea
through a larger lens to make sure the best decision is what will result.
Looking at the Genius Bar logo through
different eyes —I asked someone what they thought
—They said “It reminds me of Lithium –
the three dots suggest it’s place in the periodic table
—and lithium suggests madness or mental health –
which is difficult to have in your world.”
Is there another way to make sure
your customers feel good about
their association with Apple?
Is there another way to deliver the message?
To avoid fallout from a possible misunderstanding?
Hey Apple Marketing Geniuses—which you are truly are—please go back to the
drawing board and figure out some other way to tell us about the genius of
Apple—to connect all the dots…..
Beautiful insight and work, Barbara. Thank you Geoff, for working with Barbara, enabling me to read and see it in this venue. I, for one, will forward links to friends, whether allies or jousting partners, as we look forward to a thoughtful response from Apple.