Does Apple no longer think America is cool?

There’s been lots of talk about this Apple ad recently including this piece in Forbes and lots of discussion on social media. I’ve even had Twitter dialogue with the legendary Tom Peters about it. It’s safe to say that it has caused a stir.

There’s lots about this ad that is interesting. What’s most interesting for me is the strapline on the ad – Designed by Apple in California.

Not designed by Apple in the USA. Or in America. Or in the United Sates. Designed by Apple in California.

Now Apple is very careful about how it presents itself. So why would it choose that particular phrase?

Well, time was when Made in America meant, bigger, faster, better. Nobody said cooler then – they didn’t need to do so – you just knew . America was all things cool: The space race, Hollywood, cool music, from Miles Davis to The Beach Boys to The Doors, cool literature, cool theatre, and so much more. America was bigger, brasher, better.

Then there was the world of computers. From IBM and HP, through Xerox and DEC, to Microsoft and Novell and Cisco. All the way from Doug Engelbart and the mouse and windows and WIMpS and WYSIWYG, to Steve Jobs. The United States had it all.

That was the point; The United States had it all. From Microsoft in Redmond to Novell in Utah to Xerox in upstate New York, these innovations were spread across the US. Anybody watching a moonshot launch would see astronauts launching from Florida, talking to Mission Control in Houston, Texas, riding a rocket made all over the US.

More recently, the world is a colder place, and America is an America of the Lehman collapse, the sub-prime crisis, the BP gulf disaster, the Tea Party, and Detroit going bankrupt. For the first time in my life America doesn’t have a native capability to put a man in orbit. With Brazil nipping at its ankles and China biting its ass, America has to compete in spheres that it has effortlessly dominated for a hundred years or more.

So maybe Apple sees California as separate and still cool. California is still San Diego and San Jose and Silicon Valley. California is Pixar and Google and Ebooks and Twitter and a million new startups. Maybe just as important, California is not the East Coast, not Wall Street, not the banking crisis, and not Washington DC. Maybe Apple has decided that to be Californian is now somehow different, other, cooler, than being American.

In my experience, it’s long been the case that many Texans were Texans first and Americans second. I used to work with a very nice Texan chap called Ed, who when asked if he was American would reply, “no, I’m a Texan”. Maybe Apple – the epitome of tech cool for the last decade – has decided – for very clear commercial reasons  – that it should now say, “no, I’m Californian”.