April 26, 2009

Brands matter

Was reading an interesting article on the Time website about how Apple are enjoying huge success with the iPhone and posting stunning results while other mobile companies like Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola are suffering. It talks about the power of branding and how the Apple brand is the main factor in making them buck the trend in today’s economic situation. Other manufacturers have similar handsets – as the artilce says “Samsung builds a smartphone that looks and works a lot like the iPhone. It is called the Instinct and Apple owners think it is junk”.

In some ways there is the question of fashion to take into account. A couple of hundreds of years ago no self respecting gentleman would have been caught without a powdered wig. It may not have been as technologicallly advanced as an iPhone but was just as essential. Today only judges and actors wear them. At which point did the general public put away their wigs for the last time? Was one poor guy the last one walking down the street with one on his head?

An interesting book by Douglas Atkins from a few years ago looks at the brand as a cult.Turning customers into believers. Atkin, a strategy director for a New York ad agency, believes “the process through which consumer brands build customer loyalty is equivalent to the way religious cults recruit members”.

Like many cults there are few with happy endings. The Motorola Razor phone became a cult item for a short time. Jennifer Garner used one in the series Alias to open a safe. Unfortunately they could not spread the love to their other products. Apple have managed to maintain their cult of design since the iPod became popular. They cannot afford too many flops like iBoombox speaker system (or whatever it was called). Have Apple found the magic formula for great brands? They are number 1 in the list of most admired brands. The pressure is on (not unlike Steve Jobs’ other cult – Pixar) to make sure the faithful remain happy.

Next time we see Steve Jobs maybe he’ll be wearing a powdered wig. Will Mac lovers everywhere do the same? Probably not. But it would look great with a black turtleneck.