Apple Tunes in on its Core Strengths
When it comes down to it, brands are built on one of two foundations… their products/services or their strengths/attributes. Most startups, in a rush to go to market, unwittingly choose the former, wrapping their company identity tightly around their (then) current products. While doing this has short term benefits, markets quickly mature, and product-identified brands often become commodities.
Consider Apple “Computers”
Had Apple really considered itself a computer company, it would have behaved like one and most likely shared the fate of Packard Bell, Compaq and Commodore – once recognized and popular brand names. But Apple based its image and direction on innovation. Even the name itself underscored their commitment to “Think Different.” So rather than marching forward in lock step with the hordes of other computer companies, Apple chose to pivot. They introduced the iPod, and the iPhone, and the iPad. But they didn’t stop at manufacturing equipment. They embraced the digital world and created iTunes as well, now in it’s tenth year. So can they now rest on their laurels? Absolutely not!
The “genius” of iTunes, the ability to buy and own music, is starting to taper off. This trend most likely drove Apple to recently acquire Beats Electronics, LLC (aka Dr. Dre) for $3.2 billion. Apple, arguably one of the best and strongest brands, understands a key principle when it comes to branding. Customers don’t want your products and services… they want what your products and services can do for them.
Consumers the world over still want information, and they still want music, but the delivery method and technology will always remain in a state of flux. Recognizing this fact will help to keep your company aware, responsive and nimble. You will be able to spot changes and adapt without feeling threatened by change. Look at the rapid rise and fall of Blockbuster Video. Had their vision been about delivering leading edge entertainment, not renting videos at brick-and-mortar stores, they might have moved more quickly to mail DVDs, then to rent them in blue boxes, and then to stream movies and TV shows online. They might even have moved into content creation. It’s all part of delivering entertainment. On the other hand, Disney has done just that, expanding and adapting their product line to supply entertainment through a myriad of evolving channels. Xerox is another example of an evolving and adapting brand. Rather than fighting to remain the top copier company, they are slowly reinventing and repositioning themselves as a provider of business processing and information systems.
Finding your “Pivot Point”
Before naming and branding their startup businesses, I encourage my clients to drill down deeper than their initial product offering and see what is the true driver behind their business. Rather than building a brand that dead ends into a cul-de-sac, create an identity that allows you to navigate, and still deliver on your brand promise – be it quality, service, innovation, customization, efficiency, etc. Avoid product specific or geographic names that will leave you hamstrung in a matter of a few short years. Think about what it is you do, why you do it, and how you might do it differently five to ten years from now. By taking time to identify your core strengths, you can build a brand and a reputation that not only stands the test of time, but one that can adapt and grow as your company grows.