“Wow Apple, that Sucked!” said the world.

Apple, it feels like you are just talking to yourselves.

UnknownI am a huge Apple fan.  Not only as a consumer, but as a marketer.  In fact, last year, as I ripped into the Surface launch or the Samsung TV ads, people accused me of having a pro-Apple bias.  It’s true.  I do.  I admit it.  From 2001 to 2011, Apple was the smartest brand on the planet.  But I’m now worried that Apple is quickly following the pattern of Sony from the decade earlier?  We once thought Sony could do no wrong. Is it now Apple’s turn? 

As we saw the stock price plummet in Q4 of 2012 and the stock price was stuck at $500, it was clear that if all we see in 2013 is the Iphone 6, the iPad4 and the Ipad Mini 2 then we will have a problem.  Well, we just saw what 2013 has to offer and the answer is NOTHING.  There’s not really a leap-frog jump forward in the phone–just a jump sideways.  There’s no new iPad or laptop and the ideas of watches or TVs seem a year or two away.  Every year I look forward to getting surprised by Apple and now the only thing I have to look forward to this year is the new John Lewis TV ad this Christmas.  

The world just gave Apple a Collective “So what else you got”

The two new phones “unveiled” this year are 1) more bells and whistles and 2) less bells and whistles.  This launch was a classic case of talking to yourself.  Great brands solve a problem.  I’m not sure what problem these phones solve for consumers.  Apple EventAnd I’m not sure they even thought about the consumer.  Steve Jobs once said “you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology”.  These two new phones feel like a bunch of tech-geeks talking to themselves.  A better flash in the camera. auto image stabilization, and true tone images.  Oh and I can now turn on my phone with my finger print.  What consumer problem does this new phone solve?  And what is the main benefit they offer the consumer?   It is so easy to forget about the main benefit, especially when you get so wrapped up in what you do.  Guess what?  No one cares what you do until you care what consumers want. 

The $500 stock price that Apple was worried about in January would look good right about now.  After the “unveiling” of these two new phones, the stock plummeted $26 this week.  

There are Five Connectors of a Beloved Brand

To be a Beloved Brand, you must have an idea that’s worth loving.  Under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity (see diagram below) that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including

  1. Brand promise
  2. Strategic choices
  3. Ability to tell their story
  4. Freshness of the product or service
  5. Overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  

Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising or the experience.   It is not just one or the other, but the collective connection of all five that make a brand beloved.  If one of them weakens against the brand promise, it puts the entire brand at risk.

Slide1As i look at 5 connectors, Apple is still has the strongest positioning, but the other parts of the mix are starting to crumble.  The big idea behind Apple is complexity made simple.  Since every great brand tackles an enemy of the consumer, Apple takes on the frustration and intimidation that consumers have with technology.  The Apple brand promise is we make it easier to love technology, so that you can experience the future no matter who you are.  

Over the last decade, Apple has done an amazing job in creating products that take the most complicated of technology and deliver it so that anyone can use it. Apple takes the technology out of technology so we can all benefit.  That’s right–”so we can all benefit”.  Core Apple users are in denial that Apple is not a mass brand.  Yes, the masses rely on the innovators for advice, but Apple caters as much to my 70-something mother (iPad owner) as it does to my 15-year old daughter (iPhone user).  

Slide1

But, the last 2 years has been a period of incrementalism.  In 2012, we saw iPad 3, iPhone 5 and iPad Mini and 2013 we see these two new phones.  Slightly better, slightly lighter, but just as expensive.  There becomes less and less of a reason to trade up.  And sadly, at risk, less and less of a reason to love the brand.  Technology is about leap-frog.  And the world will not stand still in the next year.  Brands like Google and Samsung are ready to leap.  

Steve Jobs always talked about “Making a dent in the Universe” and people bought in and followed. Apple’s beauty has always been to give us what we never imagined.  And yet, now we are starting to not only imagine it, but predict it.  Everyone saw the iPad Mini coming.  In fact, we asked for it and Apple merely succumbed to our request.  Technology is supposed to surprise us with advances that not only meet our needs but cater to the needs we didn’t even know we had.  Apple has to get that back.  Slide1

So what is wrong with Apple?  
  • is the strategy of going after China worth losing relevance in the Western world?  And if you lose relevance in the West, will China even want these phones in 5 years?
  • Have you lost traction on the technology?  Apple always hinted that they had an endless path of ideas that would come out through the decade.  Ok?  But the last 24 months have been very blah!!!
  • Is the Apple culture still the same?   We all knew things would change after Steve Jobs and his relentless insane pursuit of perfection.  But I’m not sure we knew it would change this fast?   Has Tim Cooke set a high enough bar for the culture to jump over? 
  • Has the Apple story-line changed?  With this launch it feels more about Apple and less about the consumer?   Is Apple becoming just another tech company trying to peddle their new bells and whistles.  

If we tie those questions back to the 5 connectors of what makes a great brand, we see the promise is in good shape, but the strategy, story, freshness and experience are now at risk of not delivering against that promise.  And that puts the brand at risk.  For Apple, it starts with lining up the freshness of innovation to that brand promise.  

Well Apple, 2012 and 2013 really sucked.  Now we wait for what’s up in 2014  

 

To read about the Apple case study of what helped the brand rise to fame:

 

email-Logo copyABOUT BELOVED BRANDS INC.:  At Beloved Brands, we are only focused on making brands better and making brand leaders better.Our motivation is that we love knowing we were part of helping someone to unleash their full potential.  We promise to challenge you to Think Different.  We believe the thinking that got you here, will not get you where you want to go.  grOur President and Chief Marketing Officer, Graham Robertson is a brand leader at heart, who loves everything about brands.  He comes with 20 years of experience at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke, where he was always able to find and drive growth.  Graham has won numerous new product and advertising awards. Graham brings his experience to your table, strong on leadership and facilitation at very high levels and training of Brand Leaders around the world.  To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1

 

At Beloved Brands, we love to see Brand Leaders reach their full potential.  Here are the most popular article “How to” articles.  We can offer specific training programs dedicated to each topic.  Click on any of these most read articles:

Ask Beloved Brands to run a workshop to find your brand positioning or ask how we can help train you to be a better brand leader.
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3 thoughts on ““Wow Apple, that Sucked!” said the world.

  1. Apart from a headline that is OK for driving traffic, there isn’t much in this article that would stand up to scrutiny.

    The premise that the world felt ‘blah’ to the new phones is simply correct. Many headline grabbing bloggers and stock-chasing analysts said ‘blah’. The world in terms of consumers has yet to speak.

    There was a similar reaction when the iPad Mini was launched, yet it is the best selling iPad, and therefore the best selling tablet. Consumers love it.

    In all product areas Apple has higher margins than any competition – by far. Computers, phones, tablets, and app store. Users of iOS are much more engaged when using their devices than users of Android. And let’s face it, non of the others matter. iOs users surf more, communicate more, and spend more. It all adds up to a tremendous ecosystem that just works for consumers.

    No innovation? Well we’ll see. The 5c is essentially the existing 5 in a new lightweight package that allows Apple to sell larger volumes and yet maintain margins. The 5s takes camera technology to new places (a larger sensor, not just more megapixels, the fastest lens yet) , and increases security while making it more user-friendly. When was the last time better security was easier to use? Most of all, it’s 64 bit. That is a whole new world of computing power. It opens up huge avenues of development.

    Apple has never simply pursued mass market share.

    Brand is what the consumers say it is. They will have the last say, and more importantly the say that matters.

  2. Stephen, glad you like my headline. I’m not usually that good at headlines. The higher margins is covered in the presentation. And I bought an iPad mini and barely use it. I love the line “Brand is what the consumers say it is” I’m a consumer and I’m expressing my disappointment as a consumer. I’m also expressing my concern as a marketer who is a fan of brands, especially Apple. On that note, the Apple brand is a mass brand. If you don’t know that yet, 1988 called and wants their parachute pants back. Sorry, but I heard that the other day and have been waiting to use it. My 78 year old “ipad owning” mom and my 15 year old “iphone drooling” daughter have equal right to the brand as you might.

    As a consumer, I want more. That’s all. That’s the bar for Apple to hit. Keep me, the consumer, satisfied.

    And now I wait 2 more months for my John Lewis fix.

  3. Pingback: Ten Things to Make You Less Sad About Q4 | BizMarketer

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