Apple, it feels like you are just talking to yourselves.
I 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. And 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
- Brand promise
- Strategic choices
- Ability to tell their story
- Freshness of the product or service
- 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.
As 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).
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.
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:
ABOUT 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. Our 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @grayrobertson1
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