by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded
I’ve have written in the past that brand is not about being the best. Often times, the best doesn’t win in the marketplace. Too many marketers, especially tech companies, believe in this myth. Their whole brand strategy is, “If we’re the best, then it should sell itself and we should dominate our competitors.” This is not only false, but it’s an unsustainable position. Your competitors aren’t going to stand still. They are going to innovate. If you have 7 steps, they’ll create 8. If you have 100 gigs of RAM, they’ll develop 101 gigs of RAM. Customers don’t buy on specs. They buy your brand based on the emotion it delivers to them. They use specs to justify their purchase decision.
I recently ran across an article on Yahoo! News. It talks about why the iPhone is so popular even though it’s not the best in the marketplace. Other smart phones have higher resolution cameras, can shoot HD video, processors are faster and a more energy-efficient touch-screen technology. Competitors are either matching features or exceeding those of the iPhone. So why are they STILL the most demanded smart phone three years running? Whether the iPhone has the best technology doesn’t seem to be the question most people ask. Instead, many people crave the aura of cool that iPhones seem to convey. This is at the core of the Apple brand – cool. When you see people with a Blackberry, many think they must be a business person or something. When you see a person with an iPhone, they are seen as cool.
Another advantage – familiarity breeds contentment. People are very familiar with the iPhone brand. They feel what Apple stands for even though they may not know it in their heads. That’s why they are in love with their products (“in love” is the right term). Here’s where brand makes the real difference – stock price. Apple stock has doubled over the past year which tells you that big time investors still see plenty of room for growth for Apple and the iPhone. Continuing on cool over “the best”, the iPad is already selling well and is being predicted to start the downfall of the traditional laptop in favor of an iPad-like device. The real value is it continues the brand emotion of “cool” for Apple. When you see someone with an iPad, the first reaction is usually, cool, can I see it?
Though the iPhone isn’t as flexible as some other brands, like customizing your ringtones, many customers seem to shrug it off saying, “You get used to it and quickly, you don’t miss it.” Many tech heads look at specs and judge by that (many have never owned one). That is not how most consumers look at brands or the world. Many see their friends use an iPhone, see that it’s cool and all of the “cool” things it can do (not realizing or even caring what it can’t do) and want one for themselves. It’s all about the emotion the brand promises to deliver.
Finally, one of the biggest contributors to the “cool” branding is their advertising. It’s simple, clean and non technical. They don’t try to kill you with features and benefits. That’s not brand and that’s not what makes customers fall in love. It’s the emotion the advertising can communicate to your customers that counts. Not the stuff. Apple understands that something as cool as the iPhone still needs marketing to get the word out and create familiarity with their brand. Even the mighty Apple knows that great marketing coupled with a wonderful product is a killer combination that’s hard to beat.
Still reigning champion, three years running – brand.