Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

Posts Tagged ‘iPhone

Getting the Most from Brand Extensions

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For the past few months I have been working with a client on evaluating a brand extension opportunity. Whenever someone mentions this topic, marketers immediately start talking about ‘fit’ – how well the new category fits with the attributes of the existing brand.

For example, if a company makes pencils, extending the brand into erasers would be a good fit. While it is rarely this simple, the concept of fit in brand extensions is pretty straightforward and can easily be confirmed with some basic consumer research.

There are two deeper strategic questions that need to be included when evaluation a brand extension:

  1. Does the extension category align with the strategic path that the brand is on?
  2. Would a successful product in the extension category add value to the master brand?

Alignment with the Strategic Path

Few brands are able to survive selling the same product forever. Brands usually need to extend themselves into new markets to allow for growth. Each individual extension of the brand is one step along this path. Thus, when evaluating your next step you must understand the longer path that your brand is on.

For example, before the iPod, Apple just sold computers. Extending to portable music players was a good fit because their laptops already provided portable devices that emphasized creativity. But at this time, jumping from laptops to cell phones would have been a step too far. Once the iPod had become successful, the overall Apple brand included small, handheld devices allowing them to further extend in this space – hence the iPhone.

The same could be said for the iPad. Jumping from an iPod to an iPad would have been too much of a stretch, but having the iPhone and iTouch in between made a tablet product a logical next step. Each new Apple product is the logical next step that also paves the way for the step after that.

Enhancing the Master Brand

Brand extensions can be loosely placed into two groups: those that dilute the master brand and those that enhance it. If Heinz launched a 58th flavor of ketchup it would dilute the brand. The Heinz master brand doesn’t improve but it is now spread across more product.

Using the Apple example again, each brand extension enhanced the overall Apple brand and each new product was a step on the path toward creating a master brand about lifestyle entertainment. The launch of the iPhone improved the brand for iPods and laptops too.

What do you think? Is fit enough for brand extensions or should brands seek more value?

Written by benwisebranding

April 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Decoupling From Your Brand

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The reality of today’s inter-connected economy is that all brands are reliant on a variety of partners to be able to deliver their brand proposition. For an airport to provide a good experience, the airlines have to be on time. For my car insurance to live up to their promise, the independent tow truck operator has to treat me well. These factors are often out of their control.

For a long time, the mobile phone brands were relatively free of this problem. While the likes of Nokia and Blackberry had to rely on the network carrier, this was rarely a differentiating factor for them.

The rise of third-party applications has drastically changed the brand proposition for mobile phone manufacturers and turned the brand model on its head. Mobile phones aren’t just appealing for the gadget you buy, but also because of the thousands of third-party applications that are available, any of which can drastically increase the value of the device to a consumer.

The manufacturers can no longer just market their brand to consumers. They must provide a compelling brand proposition to the army of developers around the world that impact the value of the handset. Apple has been a leader with this, as can be seen by their huge lead in the number of third party apps available.

People still buy the iPhone because they want the iPhone, not because they want a certain iPhone app. But that may change. People used to buy a Nintendo for the Nintendo but now choose their video game console largely based on the games available.

While the iPhone brand is all-powerful today, it could quickly become dependent on more powerful app developers.

What do you think? Will apps become more important than the phone itself?

Written by benwisebranding

March 5, 2010 at 6:14 am

The Branded App Industry Matures

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A recent article from BrandWeek says that branded apps are having more trouble gaining traction among users, looking mostly at iPhone apps. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach Apple’s list of the top 100 apps, a common benchmark for success in this space. If history is any indication, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to brand marketers.

Many new categories are founded by small, nimble companies that can quickly meet an emerging consumer need. Initially, the early adopters will jump on the new services but as the market grows it will inevitably become more difficult to stand out. The bar quickly gets raised for brands trying to differentiate themselves.

While this may frustrate some brands, it is music to the ears of consumers. The novelty of mobile phone apps is wearing off and users are looking for services that add real value. Brands will be forced to provide consumers with increasingly useful products.

Another example of this can be seen in Facebook groups and fan pages. Only a few years ago it was the norm for Facebook users to join almost any group they were invited too but any interest in a given group page rarely lasted more than a week. Today, users are more discerning in what groups they will join, focusing on the groups that are of significant interest to them and can provide users with actual value. It is exactly the same thing with iPhone apps today (although some Facebook apps are still around that should have disappeared long ago!).

Once a brand has proven the capability of making a useful app, they will be able to leverage their brand and attract users to new apps more easily – a simple brand extension. However, brand extensions are most successful when done from a strong core brand. For now, they should focus on branded apps that create exception value in order to develop the strong core brand they need.

What do you think? Will mobile phone users be more selective of their branded apps?

Written by benwisebranding

February 26, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Why Nokia’s Entertainment Play Will Flop

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Nokia, the world’s largest producer of cell phones, is planning to extend their footprint in the smartphone arena with an increased focus on entertainment, an extension from their existing emphasis on music. In a report in Marketing Week, the head of Nokia UK said “Offering total entertainment solutions and bringing entertainment to life is our new brand vision”.

This brand positioning is a mistake. While entertainment on your phone is a compelling value proposition to consumers, this space is already dominated by Apple’s iPhone. The iPhone brand is just too powerful in the entertainment position for Nokia to make inroads in this space. If Nokia’s “With Music” couldn’t compete with the iPod, why would their new position stand a chance against the iPhone?

When determining the brand position or value proposition, it is not enough to simply find a compelling position. The uniqueness is just as important, if not more so. In some instances, a second player can gain ground in the same space as a competitor, but they have to offer something unique. As far as I can see, Nokia is trying to emulate Apple’s smartphone strategy without having the innovative culture required to lead this market.

What do you think? Will Nokia’s new brand position be successful?

Written by benwisebranding

February 3, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Can Google Support the Nexus One?

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The blogosphere is buzzing with the launch of the Google Phone, aka the Nexus One. Reviews of the product vary. Some have been very positive. Others, not so much. Either way, more competition is good for the consumer who has more choice and will enjoy more new features coming from all major players. But can the Nexus One live up to the hype and match the success of other Google product launches?

I see two key issues on the horizon. A big question remains about whether or not people will buy a smart phone without seeing and touching it first. This wasn’t a problem for the iPhone. Nobody lines up for hours if they haven’t already made up their mind to buy it. But the Apple brand has proven effective at generating the buzz required for this. Google has a history of quietly bringing in new products (Wave being an obvious exception) and letting the early adopters build the user base. With CES, an Apple Tablet, and the next version of the iPhone all coming soon, it will be hard for Google to gain traction for an extended period of time.

The other big question mark for me is their ability to provide customer service. If you buy the phone directly from Google, the carrier you choose separately isn’t going to provide tech support for the hardware. I have twice had to contact Google for customer service. Once it was quick and easy, and the other time it was so frustrating that I gave up. I doubt that 50% will be good enough against Apple and Blackberry. As their first hardware product, Google’s customer service capability, which is a key part of the Nexus One brand, is untested and could prove a big liability.

On the upside, the biggest impact of the Nexus One could be that a major mobile player is (finally!) selling an unlocked smartphone. This has the potential to change the dynamics of the industry and give more power to consumers while making the carriers more of a commodity.

What do you think? Will the Nexus One make a serious run at Apple or Blackberry? Will it change the industry the way that Google has done elsewhere?

Written by benwisebranding

January 6, 2010 at 6:05 pm

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