Aug 14

The Apple rainbow logo rides again

In case you missed it — a frame from the end of the “Stickers” ad


I have to say, I’m a bit surprised.

Given all the sites that regularly dissect Apple’s every move — major, minor, real or imagined — an earthquake in the Apple world has gone virtually unnoticed.

That ancient rainbow logo, last seen in mainstream advertising at least 13 years ago, has magically reappeared for yet another moment in the sun.

Well, maybe it’s more of a moment in the shade, as it does go by rather quickly. In fact, my informal unscientific poll shows that most ordinary viewers didn’t even notice it.

It comes at the end of the Stickers commercial, when the sign-off logo flickers between the contemporary black logo and the old rainbow logo.

Of course I am greatly exaggerating the importance of this unexpected-but-sweet little touch. But if you’re a student of Apple advertising, or just a casual fan, it’s a cool thing to note.

In the corporate world, logos are normally considered a precious asset that cannot be monkeyed with, no matter how good the intention.

Then again, this entire commercial violates the rules of logo treatment in the biggest possible way. Brand guidelines usually mandate that the logo be kept a safe distance from any other word or image. I have yet to meet a marketing person inside any company who was willing to buck the system in this regard.

Yet Apple, showing its playful side, has created a an entire commercial showing the various ways people mess with the logo.

Other advertisers might want to take heed — the end result is not a diminishing of the brand. It is the total opposite: a commercial that actually glorifies the logo.

It is curious that the familiar Apple-centric sites — MacNN, MacDailyNews, CultOfMac, MacRumours, Macworld, MacStories, AppleInsider, The Loop — ran articles describing the ad without any mention of the rainbow logo’s cameo appearance. Only a few commenters seemed to notice.

Surely there is a conspiracy theory hiding in here somewhere.

I found only one article that took note of the rainbow, and that was from John Gruber at Daring Fireball. Kudos, John.

If Apple was testing our powers of observation to see if we’re worthy of such hidden delights, I’m afraid we failed. I fear for the future of Easter eggs.

Once you get past the sheer fun of the rainbow logo’s return, it does make one wonder.

This spot was reportedly created by Media Arts Lab, which is said to be competing with in-house Apple teams at this time. Would Apple itself ever have thought of violating the logo rules? Or is this the type of thing that occurs more often to independent creative voices outside the company? Hard to say.

What I will say is that this type of commercial is distinctly different than what’s come from Apple’s internal efforts. Stickers is playful and wonderfully human, even though it doesn’t show a single human being.

Apple’s self-made ads — like the “Your Verse” campaign — are well-produced montages of people around the world doing great things with their i-devices.

Personally, I find an ad like Stickers to be simpler and more memorable. It gets talked about more. It has an emotion that a montage commercial does not.

The montage ads work well on the Apple website, adding depth to the product, but not as well as quick messages on broadcast TV.

But getting back to the rainbow logo…

I think it’s fun that the ad’s creators thought to include it, even though it doesn’t exactly make sense conceptually.

During the course of the spot, we do see the rainbow logo as a sticker over the modern logo, which is logically paired with the retro game graphics. The rainbow that appears at the end of the spot is different. It’s not a sticker, but instead is part of the corporate logo sign-off.

I’m not sure what that’s saying, but it makes my head hurt when I think too hard about deep meaning in advertising.

So I say just enjoy it.

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  • Any insight as to why the decision was made to switch from the rainbow logo in the first place, Ken?

  • Joe

    Did you notice that in the “Pride” video Apple posted to YouTube, they use the old Apple Garamond font in the logo on the box that is holding the t-shirts at 0:33?

  • ken segall

    @Joe: That Apple Garamond font is indeed mysterious. As is the comma in “Apple, Inc.” since Apple dropped the comma when they dropped the “Computer.” Weird…

  • The rainbow logo is too much 80s.
    Every 10 years or so, there are big changes in fashion and trends. And companies follow the trends closely.
    That’s why the rainbow Apple had to go.
    But who says it won’t be back?

  • Larry

    The rainbow logo was likely abandoned due to the costs of printing all those colors – all the time.

  • ken segall

    Steve ditched the rainbow logo for the reason @ilter says here: it was just getting too long in the tooth. Same reason he ditched Garamond years later.

    Funny how it’s so difficult to give these things up at the time, yet when we look back, it seems like a no-brainer. It takes some guts to change such an essential part of the brand.

    FYI, we “almost” moved beyond Garamond well before it actually happened. Some at the agency argued passionately that Garamond was the human face of Apple, and leaving it behind would be a mistake. That was enough to convince Steve at the time — but ultimately he decided it was time to modernize.

  • neutrino23

    I noticed that. Didn’t know what to make of it.

    Also, when was the last time we saw a Mac in an Apple ad? Seems like a really long time. The I’m a Mac ads ran for a long time but didn’t show product.

    Maybe that is part of the message, resurrection. Mac sales soared last quarter while PC sales are slumping. The agreement with IBM will make Macs even more attractive to enterprise customers. The Mac is Back.

  • Javier

    I definitely noticed the retro logo making a brief comeback and was quite pleased with it. After reading your post, my thinking is that the creator of the ad or “film” as it is labeled on Apple’s website, is a way to say “this is who we were, and this is who we are”. The ad is definitely one of my recent favorites by far. It is clever, fun, and catchy. I remember being mesmerized by the original iPhone ads in 2007, that were to set to the song “Perfect Timing (This Morning)”. I don’t get quite the same feeling, but it definitely excites me the way those ads did.

  • alcatholic

    I wonder if Media Arts Lab could be designated the Mac ad shop. They have the most tradition/institutional memory of the whole Mac vs PC Argument, and maybe the best understanding of the Mac/Apple brand pre-iPhone.

    As Schiller wrote in his email, the whole iPhone brand has yet to produce the kind of killer ads that the Mac/iPod/Apple brand was able to inspire.

  • Exactly: “this is who we were, and this is who we are”.

  • Tabularasa

    The Mac 30th anniversary graphics earlier this year also included a nod to the rainbow apple, although in modified form.

  • cowardnameless

    Perhaps the rainbow logo flash is in tune with all the recent gay pride gay parade flounting their colors.
    This isnt the first time. First appearance of Cook on stage after Steve passed, showed a all colours of the rainbow coloured Apple logo. Why?

    One can look at it from a marketing perspective but that is the wrong lens to see through. It clearly has nothing to do with us then and now. the subject of the ad is different and not about then and now. Theres more reasons.

  • Zork.

    Rainbow logo: Gay Pride month . . .

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