14th September 2020
Trillions of reasons to believe in branding
As you probably heard recently, Apple has become the first company in history to be valued at $2 trillion. Strong Mac and iPad sales as the demand for devices increased during COVID have driven this recent growth and put Apple at the top of the tree.
At Nick Did This, we often use Apple to help explain the power of brands and why people choose one brand over another. Why do people line up outside an Apple store overnight for the release of their latest iPhone? How did visiting an Apple store become an anticipated experience? Why did Sir Jony Ives, the Chief Design Officer at Apple become not just a knight but a product design superstar? In fact, can you name another product designer? (Besides Mac Newson)
Apple recognised very early in the home computer era that your average person would respond to a highly intuitive, beautifully designed device. Apple didn’t invent the computer, they humanised it by understanding what makes people tick. They even gave their company a simple name everyone could relate to. Apple V Microsoft – pick your side. And their products were iMacs and iPads, not the Sinclair ZX80 or the Altair 8800. You didn’t have to be a boffin to use Apple products. In fact, you shouldn’t be a boffin. Apple stuff isn’t for you, they’re for ‘us’. People who bought Apple bought into the whole brand. The packaging was as clean, considered and desirable as what it contained. People put Apple stickers on their cars FFS. Apple fans were hard-core and that’s the power of the brand.
So, that’s all well and good. Where’s this leading? Back in the day when the internet was a pup, and the Apple brand was young, experts predicted the death of the brand. Leading economy information folks thought that the power of the brand would shrink as access to free information online grew. These experts didn’t understand that most people make decisions with their heart not their head. Always have, always will. Yes, it has to be a comparative product, but just like cars, people will buy the computer that connects with them, in the colour they like. Remember the iMac? The idea that access to free information would sway someone’s opinion is the thinking of someone who doesn’t get brands, or people. The value of a brand is to instil emotive reasons as to why they connect with that brand on some level. The way it makes them feel. A memory it invokes. Certainly not some rational reason like ‘access to free information’.
Ironically, if seeking access to this free information was such a big deal, you’d Google it wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t Bing it. There’s the power of the allegedly dying brand. We’ve all seen the cool things Google does, for free, when we’re searching stuff, that keeps that brand growing. Apparently the difference in the actual delivery of these search engines can only be detected by experts. But no-one cares. We like Google. We believe in brands whether we like it or not.
So, as the internet grew, the Apple brand developed more beautiful, intuitive products that aligned with the tech. They understood iPhones weren’t about being a phone and iPads were also cameras. And the other companies followed. More companies began to make products that were often better than Apple’s, but most people didn’t care. Those companies were still following and they were still making mere ‘products’, not icons. Their brand wasn’t as strong and no-one was sticking a Samsung sticker on their Hyundai anytime soon. As things like Netflix, Facebook, Insta, TikTok, Twitter etc popped up, Apple was there for them to access – intuitively, because they knew they would be coming.
As technology becomes so advanced, it’s easier than ever for marketers to target their audience with their message. This is a double-edged sword. Of course, being able to target your audience at a lower cost is great. There’s always been huge wastage in traditional advertising. However, if the audience has no awareness of the brand that is targeting them, or has no authentic connection with that brand, it’s probably a pointless exercise. In fact, it could well be a negative experience. We’ve all been the victims of unsolicited bombardment from unknown businesses and products. It seems that the more effective technology has become, the bigger the net has become, the more important branding is. Apple has trillions of reasons to believe that.
– Jeff Smith, Senior Creative