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A brand attribute becomes history

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Image: Steven Miller: Apple blossoms | (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Ever seen a billion dollar brand asset vanish into the blue? I saw it happen after I joined Apple as a packaging writer. Never mind when this was. OK, it was 1993. This was back when software came in cardboard boxes.

I’d been a copywriter at J. Walter Thompson, Foote Cone & Belding and Bowes Dentsu (Young & Rubicam). I was freelancing on the Nissan account at Chiat/Day when I drove up to Cupertino to interview at Apple. It was April, a beautiful time of year.

Apple was my first corporate gig. Cupertino was not like Southern California. I missed living and working in places like West LA, Brentwood, Santa Monica and Old Pasadena. I missed driving up the PCH to Malibu and beyond. I missed wandering around the Venice Beach Boardwalk on my lunch hour, seeing Harry Perry roll by on his blades.

The South Bay had its compensations. Like bucolic country, for one thing. There really was a Stevens Creek near the west end of Stevens Creek Boulevard. Instead of turning right on Foothill Boulevard and heading north to Palo Alto, you turned left and took Stevens Canyon Boulevard south through vineyards and open space preserves.

You could still drive through orchards. C.J. Olson’s Cherries straddled Mathilda Avenue south of El Camino Real in Sunnyvale. Peach orchards bottlenecked Los Gatos Boulevard where it turned into Bascom Avenue. Blossom Hill Road turned pink and white with blossoms in the spring. And you could have ham and eggs at the Good Earth Restaurant, wondering where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sat when they talked about the startup they’d named Apple.

Creative Services was housed at 10455 Bandley Drive. Bandley 2 they called it. Steve Jobs was still at NeXT, up in Mountain View. Jobs had been ousted from the company he’d co-founded. But his spirit still lingered. Some of the people I worked with had worked with him.

The great creative directors had left Apple by then, but we still had some smart people in Creative Services. It was a full-service in-house agency with designers, art directors, writers and print buyers. Our receptionist was doing postgraduate work in physics. She was a contractor named Chandra (I think her parents were hippies).

Idyllic, right?

It was too good to last. Soon after I joined Apple, the company had a bad quarter. Wall Street screamed for blood.

This was a time of mergers and acquisitions, you understand. It was a mania that started in the 1980s, when Fortune magazine — representing the view of Wall Street — wrote fawning articles about CEOs who…

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