Apple’s revolutionary new credit card will be arriving in the hands of U.S. customers this summer, but despite its timely launch as part of Apple’s rising emphasis on services over tangible products, it seems that Apple’s credit card is an idea that’s been rattling around inside of Apple for at least 15 years.
In a recent blog post, Ken Segall, former Creative Director at Apple and the man who came up with the classic Think Different campaign, outlines how Steve Jobs actually first had the idea of an Apple-branded credit card back in the nascent days of the iPod and the iTunes Store.
The year was 2004, long before Apple had become mainstream, in the days when the company was known primarily for its Macs and an odd new fad device called an “iPod.” However, with the iTunes Store, Steve had succeeded in getting the music industry on board to build the first major digital music store, and with Apple’s new push into e-commerce, it seemed like a great time for Apple to get into the credit card business as well.
In typical Steve fashion, though, he wanted to do something different. Instead of offering frequent flier points or cash back, the Apple Card would be far cooler. It would offer free music.Ken Segall, The ghost of Apple Card past
In fact, Steve Jobs even wanted to call it the Apple Card, although not surprisingly, he also wanted to do something quite different with it than most credit cards of the time — instead of offering traditional rewards points, the Apple Card would offer free music. Users would earn “iPoints” with every purchase, which could then be redeemed for free music on iTunes. Essentially, the card would be a tie-in for iTunes customers, in an era when Apple’s iPod star was rapidly taking off and that was the only “service” that the company was offering.
The upside for Apple was enormous. With its own credit card, Apple would not only make money when customers bought its products, it would make money when customers bought anything. Anywhere.Ken Segall, The ghost of Apple Card past
Unfortunately, despite Steve’s unprecedented success with getting the music industry on board for iTunes, he wasn’t able to build a working partnership with MasterCard, so the Apple Card died on the drawing board before anybody outside of Apple heard anything about it.
However, Segall notes that the card had gotten close enough to launching that Apple’s internal creative teams had already mocked up the entire ad campaign that would be used to launch the card, and in his blog post, Segall shares a few of the many ads that the teams created, featuring wordplays combining consumer products with bands that had appeal at the time, such as “Buy balloons, get Zeppelin.”
We’ll never know for certain how well Steve Jobs’ 2004 Apple Card would have worked out, since it failed to get off the ground through no real failure of the concept itself. Of course, the Steve Jobs’ 2004 Apple was a very different company than the trillion-dollar behemoth it is today, and the launch of the new Apple Card probably owes no small debt to the industry clout that Apple now enjoys. Combined with the advanced security, privacy, and technology features that Apple is now able to bring to the table, the new Apple Card seems like something that Steve Jobs himself probably never would have dreamed of back in 2004.