When your brand is liked, but not loved

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

308040_478690928818846_943242162_nAs we dive deeper into brand love, we need to set up the Brand Love Curve as a core foundation that we use in every part of this book. In the consumer’s mind, brands sit on a Brand Love Curve, with brands going from “Indifferent” where consumers have no opinion to the “Like It” stage where consumers have a rational connection up to the “Love It” stage where consumers start to crave it and develop an emotional connection and finally up to becoming a “Beloved Brand” for life, where consumers are outspoken fans with a deeply emotional cult-like connection to the brand. Slide1

 

Don’t feel bad about being at the “Like It” stage, because that’s where most brands sit. But it does mean that you might not be making the most out of the potential of your brand. You have been able to carve out a niche and be a chosen brand against a proliferation of other brands in the category. You have good shares, moderate profits and most brand indicators are probably reasonably healthy. It’s just that no one loves you. You are likely not really doing enough in your marketing to create a bond with consumers. Consumers see your brand as a functional and rational choice. They tried it and it makes sense so they buy it feeling that it meets a basic need. But, consumers don’t have much of an emotional connection or feeling about the brand. You you are seen as ordinary, which is just a little bit better than indifferent.

There are seven reasons why you are at the “Like It” stage:

  1. Protective brand leaders leads to “caution”:  While many of these brands at the Like It are successful, they get stuck because of overly conservative and fearful Brand Managers, who pick middle of the road strategies and execute “ok” ideas. On top of this, Brand Managers who convince themselves that “we stay conservative because it’s a low-interest category” should be removed. Low interest category does not mean you just give up. It means you need to do even more to captivate the consumer.
  2. Rational thinking marketers means “boring”: Those marketers that believe they are strictly rational are inhibiting their brands. They lack passion. Boring brand leaders produce boring brands. dont be boring.001The brand managers get so jazzed on claims, comparatives, product demonstration and doctor recommended, that they forget about the emotional side of the purchase decision. Claims need to be twisted into benefits—both rational and emotional benefits. Consumers don’t care about you do until you care about what they need. Great marketers find that balance of the science and art of the brand. Ordinary marketers get stuck with the rational only. 
Don`t get stuck with just features and claims. Match them up to consumer needs and create rational benefits and then dial them up to emotional benefits.
  3. New brand with momentum: Stage 2 of a new brand innovation is ready to expand from the early adopters to the masses. The new brand begins to differentiate itself in a logical way to separate themselves from the proliferation of copycat competitors. Consumers start to go separate ways as well. Retailers might even back one brand over another. Throughout the battle, the brand carves out a base of consumers. As your new brand continues to gain momentum, now is the time to layer in the emotional benefits, look to find a small growing army who love the brand.
  4. There’s a major Leak:  If you look at the brand buying system, you’ll start to see a major leak at some point where you keep losing customers. Most brands have some natural flaw—whether it’s the concept, the product, taste profile, ease of use or customer service. Without addressing the leak, the brand gets stuck. People like it, but refuse to love it.
  5. Brand changes their mind every year:  Brands need consistency. When the promise and the delivery of the promise changes every year it’s hard to really connect with the brand. A brand like Wendy’s has changed their advertising message every year over the past 10 years. The only consumers remaining are those who like their burgers, not the brand.
  6. Positional Power so you think “who needs love?”:  There are brands that have captured a strong positional power, whether it`s a unique technology or distribution channel or even value pricing advantage. Brands like Microsoft or Walmart or even many of the pharmaceuticals products don`t see value in the idea of being loved. The problem is when you lose the positional power, you lose your customer base completely.
  7. Brands who capture love, but don’t impact the life ritual: There are brands that quickly capture the imagination of consumers but somehow fail to capture a routine embedded in the consumers’ life. Whether it’s Krispy Kreme, Pringles or even Cold Stone Ice Cream, there’s something inherent in the brand’s format or weakness that holds it back. It might be loved, but just not often enough. Out of sight, out of mind, means you almost forget you love them.

Here are the indicators that your brand is at the “Like It” stage:

  • Low conversion to purchase: While the brand looks healthy in terms of awareness and tracking scores, the brand keeps losing out to the competition as the consumer goes to the purchase stage. It usually requires a higher trade spend to close that sale which cuts price and margins.
  • Brand doesn’t feel different enough: An important advertising tracking score to watch is “made the brand seem different” which helps separate the brand from the pack. When you’re a rational message, you won’t see this score break through.
  • Stagnant market shares: When you’re a liked brand, gains you make are offset by losses on something else. Your brand team is content when they hold onto their share, content to grow with the category.
  • High private label sales: If you only focus on the ingredients and the rational features of the product, the consumer will start to figure out they can get the same thing with the private label and the share starts to creep up to 20% and higher.

Here’s some challenges for how to get to the “Love It” stage:

  1. Build a bigger following by driving deeper consideration and purchase:  Begin to sell the brand’s benefits as solutions, not just the product. Invest in building an emotional brand story that helps to drive increased popularity and entices new consumers.
  2. Begin to leverage those people that already love:  Focus on the most loyal consumers and drive a deeper connection by driving the routine which should increase usage frequency.  On top of that, begin cross selling to capture a broader type of usage for the brand.
  3. Love the work: It is time to dial up the passion that goes into the marketing execution. The most beloved brands have a certain magic to them. However, “Like It’ brands tend to settle for ok, rather than push for great. With better work, you’ll be able to better captivate and delight the consumers. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect the consumer to love your brand.
  4. Fix the leak: Brands that are stuck have something embedded in the brand or the experience that is holding back the brand. It frustrates consumers and restricts them from fully committing to making the brand a favorite.  Be proactive by fixing the leak.
  5. Build a Big Idea: Consumers want consistency from the brand as constant changes to the advertising, packaging or delivery can be frustrating. Build everything around a big idea, including the brand story, the innovation and experience to establish a consistency for the brand and help build a much tighter relationship.

Brands at the “Like It” stage get complacent. You need to disrupt the marketing team to focus on driving passion into the work. You need find a better balance between rational and emotional benefits. 

Find your love by showing more love for your consumers

Here’s a workshop we run on creating a beloved brand. We hope it provokes you to think differently so you can see how you can unleash the full power and profitability of your brand.

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We offer brand coaching, where we promise to make your brand better by listening to the issues, providing advice that challenges you, and coaching you along a strategic pathway to reaching your brand’s full potential.

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For our brand leader training, we promise to make your team of brand leaders better, by teaching sound marketing fundamentals and challenging to push for greatness so that they can unleash their full potential. Feel free to add me on Linked In, or follow me on Twitter at @belovedbrands If you need to contact me, email me at graham@beloved-brands.com or phone me at 416 885 3911

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The Microsoft Tablet Disaster was so easy to Predict

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

bgr-surface-red-touch-coverWell, that was quick.  Nine months ago, Microsoft made a big deal about getting into the Tablet business. And now nine months later, Microsoft is writing off $900 Million worth of Tablets that have been occupying a warehouse.   Not only the major write off, but now that the outlook and confusion of what’s next for Microsoft looms, the stock price dropped 10%, losing $30 Billion in market value.  Ouch.  

I hate being right!!!  I just hate it. The reason I hate it, is because it seems like the obvious should be obvious to everyone.  This tablet launch just had disaster screaming all over it.  Sometimes the answers are so obvious, yet people are blinded by not asking the right question.  They just go ahead with wrong answers. For Microsoft, they missed a bunch of right questions?  

Q: What business are we in?   
A: We do software really well.  Especially when we are in a monopolistic position.  We kinda suck at hardware.  Did you see what we did on Zune?  That wasn’t pretty.   

Q: Do we have a leap-frog technology? Is the Microsoft Surface product better, different or cheaper?  
A: Not really different.  It’s like a really nice iPad with a very bad and cheap plastic lid. And better?  Well it is better than a tablet, which people use for fun.  But it’s nowhere near a Macbook Air which people use for work.  So we’re better than one and worse than the other.  We’re a bit confused but we hope the consumer gets it.  And we are going to charge a significant premium, because we are Microsoft and we always do.   So I guess it’s not really better, cheaper or different.  But, we have lots of resources and stores of our own.  Well, not a lot of stores, and they aren’t very crowded.  But we hope this does well? 

Q: Will it be pretty easy to communicate the point of difference?
A:  Not really easy.  We are going to do ads with geeky people dancing and closing the lid. A lot.  People might think they are laptops.  But we’ll press the screen so they know it’s like their iPad, only it has a lid.  We won’t try to out-cool Apple.  We’ll try to be cool, as in “the coolest kid in the Science club” kind of cool.

Q: Apple is already on their 4th tablet and likely has 3 years of incremental innovation in the pipeline?  Samsung Galaxy is an amazing product and they are killing it on cool innovation.  Do we have any R&D innovation beyond the initial launch?    
A:  No.  Is that a problem?  

Q: If we are so good at software, and the world has moved to Apps, which is sort of like software, why don’t we take all our energy and expertise in the software business and start applying that to Apps?  
A:  Wow, that’s a good question, but we’ve already ordered the plastic lids for the Tablets.  Why don’t we do both.  But truth be told, we kinda suck at Apps.    

These questions would have allowed us to look at the vision, promise, strategy, story, freshness and culture that would showcase how ill prepared Microsoft was for the Surface launch. Here’s an example of how a brand like Special K uses the promise, story, freshness, and culture to help guide their brand.

Slide1

Answering these 5 questions also helps to map out the Microsoft Brand Strategy Road Map.   It might also highlight how wrong the surface is to the overall Microsoft brand. Here’s an example of what the Brand Strategy Road Map looks like.

Slide1

Predicting Disaster Was Pretty Easy

In the spirit of predicting this disaster, I wrote a story last June on the how the Microsoft Surface would be a disaster.  Like I said, I hate being right.  Click on the story below:  

Why Does Microsoft Keep Copying Apple?

At the time, the response i got back was 50/50, with half of the people criticizing the Microsoft Surface launch and the other half criticizing me for criticizing the Surface launch.  I always figure 50/50 is a good ratio to stir the pot.  But, I was starting to think I might be going overboard on being an Apple lover.  Here’s a summary of my view.

Getting into the Tablet Business Feels like Zune

Getting into hardware is a big gamble and not something that fits with Microsoft’s strengths.  To be a success, you either have to be better, different or cheaper and this feels like none of those.  Just like the Zune, it feels as though they are late and aren’t really offering anything that’s a game-changer to the category.  Like most categories at the stage where tablets are, until someone really shakes it up, the next few years are likely all about constant small innovation, new news each year with Apple leading the way on the high-end and Samsung’s cost innovation will likely squeeze Microsoft right out of the category.  The analysts are so excited by the launch that the MSFT stock price is down 1.3%.

The Best Strategic Answers Start with the Best Strategic Questions

 

To read more on How to Write a Brand Plan, read the presentation below:

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@beloved-brands.com 

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.

Apple: What goes up, might come down

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

 

The Apple brand of today is still healthy, the stores are still packed and sales are still strong. But the fear is that if Apple’s innovation over the next 18 months looks like Apple’s innovation of the past 18 months, then the Apple brand may be at its peak, no longer on the climb.   

My hope is that Apple finds their way and regains the momentum of the brand that has surprised and delighted us like no other brand. But my fear is they become another Sony that rests on their laurels and coasts for the next decade. I’m a big Apple fan, typing away on my MacBook Air with my iPad mini and iPhone close by and my iMac sitting on my desk. But it sure does feel like Sony of the early 1990’s. There’s talk of geographic expansion into China, but that might take their eyes off the real need: we need to see real innovation. Enough of the incremental BS. What do you have that will surprise me beyond my wildest dreams?

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.

Slide1

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.  

Problem #1:  Has Apple Broken their Promise? 

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”.  Apple is now a brand owned by the Masses. 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 14-year old daughter (iPhone user).  

There are 4 instances in the past 18 months where Apple has gotten off track:  

  1. Apple Maps were a disaster in more ways than one. The first week of iPhone 5 owners was largely filled with the most loyal Apple users, the innovators who will influence the rest of us. And the maps disaster was the first major flaw of the post-jobs era that people were waiting for.   
  2. Siri remains a disaster. Siri does not deliver the promise as it adds frustration, not solves it. Siri is a nice little toy that combined with Apple’s auto-correct takes my enunciation and turns into words I’ve never dreamed of saying. I end up having to re-type the mistakes of Siri, which defeats the whole purpose behind voice recognition.  If these were brakes on a car, it would be re-called for the safety of society. It’s unlike Apple to release such a bad product.   
  3. Retina Display is not a mass play. The launch of iPad 3 feels odd. They kept the iPad 2 out in the market and didn’t even put the #3 on the iPad 3. It feels like something the niche Apple brand would have done, but now that you are a mass brand, you must cater to your consumer.  
  4. Apple TV has done nothing really. While a few friends have it, I hear no one talking about it. A quiet Fizzle.  

USP 2.0

Strategically, these 4 innovations were some of the big plays by Apple in the past 18 months. And where do they fall on the test of uniqueness? The Maps puts you in the losing zone where you are competing with Google Maps in the zone where they kick your ass.  Retina Display ends up being a niche play for photographers or fussy consumers, but for the rest of us it is in the “who cares”, certainly not worth an extra $150 compared to the iPad 2. And Siri is not on the map, because it’s just an under-delivery that while it’s an innovation that leads the consumer, it only ends up frustrating them even more.   

Problem #2: Is Apple still making a dent in the universe?

What caused Apple to rise so fast during the first decade of the century was innovation–the iPod followed by iTunes, the iMac vs the PC, the iPhone and then the iPad revolutionized the way we interact socially. In many cases, Apps have replaced software.   Wow, Wow and Wow!!!

Slide1

But, the last 15 months has been a period of incrementalism.  In 2012, we saw iPad 3, iPhone 5 and iPad Mini and the fear among investors is that 2013 might be iPad 4, iPhone 6 and iPad Mini 2. 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.  

Is Apple still making a dent in the Universe?  

Problem #3: Apple must quiet the “Anti” Apple Segment

Haters are always going to hate. In the technology space, the innovators and early adopters are those who tell the rest of us what to think and do. These consumers are constantly looking for the “technology fraud” and it feels as though some are starting to call Apple on it. The Samsung advertising has capitalized on this insight, openly mocking the iPhone5 launch. The only way Apple can shut this down is with action on the technology front. If Apple’s next product is the iPad Mini with Retina display or  the iPad4 comes with a better battery life than this group will become even more outspoken.

There are so many parodies of Apple being shared by millions that not only mock the technique of the advertising but the incrementalism of their technology.  This only fuels the haters.  

Problem #4: Leadership Style

When Tim Cook took on the Apple brand, people worried but became re-assured that he had been running the Apple brand for a while. The brand was on a high after an amazing decade under Steve Jobs, and as a leader he faced a “sustaining success” leadership challenge. Keep the momentum going. Can anyone re-live that visionary relentless pursuit of perfection that Jobs brought to the role.  

Now it appears that Cook faces a “re-alignment” challenge. Cook needs to re-invigorate the R&D at Apple to push for innovation that goes beyond expectations. Making a dent in the universe means pushing for greatness, not settling for OK incremental-ism. Cook has quickly fired all those connected to the Maps fiasco. But, he has to look at himself in the mirror for wondering how it got out past him. The pressure is definitely on. The questions of 18 months ago are back:  

Can Tim Cook do it?   
The World and the stock market are watching Apple.

To read How to Create and Run a Beloved Brand, read the following presentation:


Positioning 2016.112

Why does Microsoft keep copying Apple?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

 

Within the last 48 hours, I’ve now heard that Microsoft has launched a tablet and will open their first store outside the US, right here in Toronto. To me, both are direct and desperate copies of Apple.  And both are mistakes that won’t really help the brand garner any consumer love, but rather keeping it stuck at the “Like It” stage.

“It’s a nice reader, but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it.’  “

Bill Gates, 26 months ago.

To put all my potential biases on the table, I have an iPhone, iPad and a Mac desk top, but I also have a PC, both desktop and an ultra book. So,I’d say I’m fairly balanced between Apple and PC.   But there are two major differences in how I feel about each:

  1. My PC is functionally efficient. It’s smart, easy, just makes sense. When I get emails from people using a PC, there’s no risk of conversion difficulties. I prefer word to pages etc. But, while I like my PC, I absolutely LOVE my i-stuff and get excited every time I use them. I can’t wait for what’s next.
  2. In no way do I connect my PC to the Microsoft brand. My PC is a Toshiba.  Microsoft might think they are the PC, and tried to convince us with those “I’m a PC” ads, but that did nothing for me.  The only moment I thought about Microsoft was the 12 minutes it took me to load Office and the 23 seconds it took me to file away the box.

Brand success comes when you find what the consumer wants, and then match it up against something different that you do better than anyone else. What does this new tablet that is so different from what’s already in the market?  

For any brand, copying just makes you seem desperate, weak and uncertain of who you really are as a brand. Here are the three ways that Microsoft has tried to copy Apple.

Copycat Mistake #1:  Getting into the Tablet Business Feels like Zune

Getting into hardware is a big gamble and not something that fits with Microsoft’s strengths. To be a success, you either have to be better, different or cheaper and this feels like none of those. Just like the Zune, it feels as though they are late and aren’t really offering anything that’s a game-changer to the category. Like most categories at the stage where tablets are, until someone really shakes it up, the next few years are likely all about constant small innovation, new news each year with Apple leading the way on the high-end and Samsung’s cost innovation will likely squeeze Microsoft right out of the category. The analysts are so excited by the launch that the MSFT stock price is down 1.3%.

Copycat Mistake #2:  Microsoft Stores Don’t Have the Drawing Power

Microsoft is launching a new store in Toronto, which will be their 12th store.  Everything in the Microsoft stores feel like a direct copy of the Apple store format. Open concept and instead of a genius bar, they have technician helpers. But the products in stores aren’t all Microsoft, but rather other PC brands like Toshiba, Dell or HP. Doesn’t that really just make it another Best Buy? For these stores succeed, they’ll have to come up with something different or they just won’t have the drawing power to generate enough sales to justify the store.  About five times this year, I’ve walked past an Apple store just before it was about to open and it had a line of about 10-15 people already waiting to get in. Any time of the day, they draw a crowd. That’s brand power. On the other hand, Microsoft has had to resort to free concert tickets to generate a line up for opening day.

Copycat #3:  I’m a PC was an Advertising Disaster

Some of the best advertising of the last decade was “I’m a Mac…and I’m a PC”  capturing our imagination with hundreds of clever spots. At the early stages of that campaign, I was in a crowded bar with that constant hum of noise that a bar produces. All of a sudden the place went silent.  All the patrons looked up at the TV for 29 seconds of an “I’m a Mac” and we all laughed and then carried on, back to the constant hum of bar noise. That’s a powerful brand.  But Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” response was a disaster.  It felt desperate, contrived and just awkward.  Almost embarrassing.  These are just bad.

For all the power and the efforts over the last 30 years, Microsoft still feels like it’s stuck at the Liked stage, never achieving any real love. At their height, they had a positional power of the early 1990s with a dominant Windows presence. They destroyed every competitor in sight. Poor Word Perfect and Lotus 1-2-3. Even then, there was very little emotion between the brand and the consumer.  Instead, they exerted their monopolistic power, doing nothing for the consumer.

Beloved Brands would have died for what Microsoft had back in the 1990s. They would have begun to listen to what consumers wanted and started to build their brand around the life of the consumer, being at the forefront of what the consumer wanted, giving it to them before they even knew they wanted it.  They would have found ways over the years to surprise and delight their consumer base with true innovation, style and design.  They would have shifted their focus towards creating a brand image with perceived quality that tugs at the heart instead of just relying on real quality that feeds the mind.  They would have put all their focus on the entire experience of the consumer, not just standing behind their better mousetrap and the monopoly of Intellectual Property.  Wait a second, this is starting to sound a lot like Apple. If only Microsoft had copied the Apple strategy beneath the surface, instead of just trying to do the same tactics as Apple (a tablet, a store and a TV ad) then maybe they would have turned their positional power of the 1990s into a Beloved Brand.

For those who want to laugh, here’s the best of the “I’m a Mac” ads.

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management. 

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution. 

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands

Apple is Facing Major Declines…

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands in the Market

Those are fighting words for most Mac, Iphone or Ipad users. If you are in the Apple tribe, that headline probably gets your blood boiling, ready to call me an idiot and tear into this blog. But, I don’t really mean it. I hope that you’re totally upset, so I can prove a point, as to how loyal Apple users are. So relax and enjoy the article. It’s all about how great Apple is. In fact, I’m typing on my Mac as I speak, with my Ipad charging away about a foot away. I could not live without my Ipad–stylus and all.

A few weeks ago, someone asked for a good marketing book to read. I said “Have you read the Steve Jobs biography, because that would be a great starting point.”  I do believe that aside from his craziness, Steve Jobs is the best marketer of our generation. Everything he did was about the consumer, not just in taking their feedback but in guessing what they might want next. He was committed to the art of marketing, from the design in the product and software right down to some of the best advertising of our generation whether it’s “1984” or “I’m a Mac”.  He was obsessive in his commitment. He had to love the work or he’d reject it.  His bar was exceptionally high.

For Apple to this point, it has all been about Steve Jobs and thinking differently.  With his own voice, here is what makes Apple great.

 

Brands travel along the Love Curve, going from Indifferent to Like It, to Love It and finally become a Brand For Life.  When you achieve the ultimate status as a Beloved Brand, demand becomes desire, needs become craving and thinking is replaced by feelings. And, Apple is the most loved of all Brands. When you love a brand like Apple, you are loyal, unrelenting and outspoken. Try saying something negative about Mac to someone in the tribe and watch out. That’s like knocking their favourite sports team. To Apple users, it’s very personal: you are possessive of your Apple brands you own. It’s extremely emotional for you, certainly not rational.

Nothing comes close to what Apple has done over the past 10 years, whether it’s in desktop computers, laptops, mp3 players, smart phones, tablets and even the retail space. Three times this year, I’ve walked past an Apple store before the mall opens, and there are usually 10-15 people waiting for the doors to open up. I’m sure every retailer would love that.

Samsung and Microsoft are strong brands, but stuck at the Like It stage.  While consumers gladly buy their products, no one is going to stand up and defend them. People are indifferent about Brands like Dell and HP who have commoditized laptops, charging a slight premium, but barely.  Even Sony has fallen from grace, recently announcing billions in losses.  If you are born before 1975, and rarely buy electronics, you still think “wow, that’s a great price on a Sony”.   But that group gets smaller every year.  The HTC brand only wins from carrying Android, but no one really cares they have an HTC phone.

Apple has an amazing brand following.  It’s like a tribe of loyalists ready to speak out and defend the brand.   How have they done this?

1.  Products that the consumer doesn’t even know they want yet:  While in the technology field, Apple has never done the better mousetrap. Apple is all about the consumer. Apple has an invention mindset.  It’s more than just making money. They want to make a dent in the universe.  It’s about thinking different and delivering something the consumer could never have imagined. Apple carefully considers what consumers are looking for. They are completely meticulous in the planning and design stage. They keep things plain, simple and so easy-to-use products not only to make the consumers happy, but also make them want to buy more products in the future. Apple is an idea connected to simplicity, not just a series of products.

“You’ve got to start with the consumer experience & work backwards to the technology.  You can’t start with the technology & try to figure out where you’re going to sell it”

Steve p. Jobs

2.  Are You a Mac?: Let’s face it, Apple is a cool, hip brand. It pushes a strong identification with everything young, up-to-the-minute and smart. The “I’m a Mac Campaign” was brilliant in not only defining the Mac brand as smooth, confident and cool, but defining the PC brand as old, uptight and awkward. At the height of this campaign I was in a crowded bar that went immediately silent when one of the “I’m a Mac” TV ads came on. Also, many of the Apple products have separated themselves from the competitor, whether it’s the white headphones on the iPod, the number of apps for Iphone and Ipad or the cool sleek designs of the Mac.  Not only that, the Apple store is a store just for Apple users.  My mom, who is 77 and a recent ipad user has been to the Apple Store numerous times, taking some of the courses or just asking for help.

For fans of the “I’m a Mac” campaign, here are 15 ads.

3.  An Obsessive Commitment to the Consumer and the Apple Brand.  Stemming from Steve Jobs, the entire company is committed to simplicity in design and functionality. Whether it’s the rounded edges, colour choices for product or the Glass on the Apple stores, there is a certain obsessive behavior. Sometimes you wonder if it’s worth it, but would Apple be Apple if it wasn’t for these obsessions?

Apple leverages this obsession to create consumer loyalty. Looking at the phone industry loyalty data, Apple has by far the highest loyalty of any brand:  over 90% of their consumers love the Iphone. Brands like HTC, Blackberry and Sony have scores in mid 60s while Samsung has only 57% prefer the Samsung. Creating the tribe is great, but Apple delivers satisfaction to their consumers.

To be a Beloved Brand, you must love the work you do. If you don’t love the work you do, how do you expect your consumer to fall in love with your brand?   Brands that are stuck at the like stage settle for ok. Beloved Brands like Apple start at great and still push to make it even better. They are never satisfied.

The more loved the brand, the more valuable the brand. The tight emotional connection with the consumer becomes a source of power it can leverage whether that’s with consumers themselves to pay more, stay loyal or buy more products.   Plus, that power can be leveraged with retail partners, suppliers or competitors.  

In 1976, early in the life of Apple, Ronald Wayne decided to cash in his 10% of Apple for around $800. If he held onto it, that 10% would be worth $56 Billion. Mind you, we have all missed out on quite a few investment windows over the years. If you had put $100K into Apple in 2003, you would have around $10 Million!!! You wouldn’t be complaining about the economy, wondering who to vote for in the fall. But unfortunately, I didn’t know Apple would do so well.  Has the Apple brand peaked? Hardly: Apple has gained 81% in market cap the past 12 months. I missed that window as well.   

My hope is that momentum can continue. Not because I have invested money, but because I’m emotionally invested. I crave what’s next, even though I can’t even imagine where they will go.

Positioning 2016.111
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