In these times of Social Media and Digital communications, when everyone seems to value speed above all else, it’s still important, from my point of view, to go back to the fundamentals of marketing & branding.
One company that stands out, from my point of view, with regards to branding, is Apple. They have created this psychological bridge in the minds of their followers (aka customers) between their offering (iPads, iPhones, Macbooks, iPods, Appstore etc.) and the need it fulfils – need to be connected and enjoy a vast selection of digital entertainment tools and, essentially, have a better life. Apple’s products deliver a consistent above the market user experience across all their devices, which consolidates the mental connection with every new product consumers buy and with every new service they use.
Apple’s genuine asset is the ecosystem that it creates with the mixture of technology and proprietary operating systems and marketplaces. They leverage this mixture to create the unique psychological image in the minds of the consumers that covers both the brand and the need. Customers now demand for an iPhone, not a smartphone, and for a Macbook, not just a laptop, even though the technology behind the two is not that different. It’s the status, the experience and distinct service offering that allows Apple to create more value through its strong branding.
Today, according to Forbes, Apple’s brand alone is valued at $98 billion and is mainly attributed to their omnichannel seamless experience delivery. Even though the methodologies to determine this number are unreliable, it serves as a benchmark against other companies with similarly strong brands. But one must remember that the brand without the subsequent innovation and strong operations is not a guarantee for success (see Polaroid or Betamax).
Apple did not create the need for a PC or a smartphone; they simply focused more attention to those needs by offering a different experience than other market players, thus branding that type of need and the offering it fulfils. One can see this in their advertising, in the way the products are designed, the way the Stores work (both on and offline) and in the way they have created a movement around themselves, a movement that constantly queues in front of their shops whenever a new product is rolled out.
Essentially, Apple can be branded as a design firm, a media platform, a publishing company, a software company, a computer manufacturer, but most importantly a cult. (an iCult, if I may). It uses its brand to effectively speed up the decision making process by connecting emotionally and supplying enough rational justification to ensure the customer is happy with her purchase.
The branding that Apple uses actively contributes to the realisation of the other, higher, tenets – the brand attracts a certain type of customer (segmentation tenet), creates a certain experience through which it fulfils an otherwise unmet need (tenet two) and is to my best of knowledge an ethical value creation business (tenet one).
Thanks to Apple’s great branding, the world is now, to a certain extent, a black and white picture – Apple and non-Apple users