The brand iPod is dead – the brand Apple lives on

Apple announced the end of iPod. It is not only the end of a well positioned brand, but also the end of the portable music player category.

 

In 2001 Apple launched the iPod. One look at the above advertisement made clear what the iPod brand was all about: a digital music player holding 1000 songs in your pocket. The advertisement combined a clear product image, brand name, and category benefit.

 

Strong brand

Consumers went en masse to the shops to buy iPods. Repeat: consumers went out to buy the iPod, not the Apple. For many it was in fact the first real encounter with the company Apple.

The advertisements were very consistent and therefore recognizable for consumers:

The portable music category got an enormous boost and iPod became very quickly the leading brand inside the category. In fact the brand iPod became synonymous with music player.

 

Changes inside the category

Inside the overall music category, the medium to enjoy music changed in the last decades. It went from CDs bought in record stores and played on CD players to digital music players (iPod) and digital music stores (iTunes). For years the iPod and iTunes brands made room for the smartphone and apps such as Spotify. Every change impacted the brands representing the category.

The shift from music players to phones impacted Apple, iPod and other electronic brands operating inside the ‘Portable Music Player’ category.

Companies only manufacturing & selling portable music players do not exist anymore in the same way Apple would not exist anymore if the company would only be active in portable music.

The change in medium and ultimately killing iPod does not harm Apple. Apple uses a Multi-Category Strategy with strong brands like iPhone in phones, Mac in computers. Unfortunately over the last years, Apple started using descriptively named line extensions. For example, the company bought the Beats streaming music service, merged it with iTunes, and renamed it to Apple Music. The company launched Apple TV and Apple Watch. Often the line extensions are inspired by the company leadership.

Line Extensions

The Multi-Category Strategy using descriptive line extensions make a lot of sense with the leadership team and shareholders. The thinking could go like this: ‘when we rename all our products Apple, then they contribute directly to the Apple brand, a key indicator for shareholders and investors.

The thinking goes wrong with the consumer. Unique names are so much easier to talk about and recommend.

‘I stream music using Beats on my iWatch’ is much better in terms of positioning and owning a unique category than ‘I stream music from Apple Music on my Apple Watch’. Consumers are likely to even remove the Apple brand in the conversation – the exact opposite Apple these days wants to achieve.

The success of the iPod and iPhone were instrumental to the success of the Apple brand. But too often, successful companies fall in love with the company name, forgetting that people buy brands and not companies.

 



This article is based on content in the book Win With What – the first category-led growth book for anyone who wants their business to thrive and survive.

Get your preview at WinWithWhat.com

 

Segway – a brand that failed to take a position

Segway is a brand that failed to take a position and communicate clearly the What of the brand.

According to Wikipedia, Segway is ‘a two-wheeled, self-balancing personal transporter’ .  The problem is apparent: it is not possible to relate Segway to anything we know. Until a brand can be related to something people know, the brand keeps drifting in the brain – trying to find a category to ground itself.

Below is the hompage from March 2002. Segway is welcoming visitors to ” the evolution in mobility” without explaining What the  product is.

 

When diving into the “Segway HT” section the focus is on communication what the product does “Human Transporter” and the benefits “that functions like an extension of you”.  Also on this page it is still unclear what the Segway exactly is. Human Transporter comes close, but nobody would say “hey, can you get my human transporter?”

 

After almost 20 years of trying to convince people to buy a Segway, the company decided in June 2020 to stop making the product. FastCompany wrote, ‘Exclusive: Segway, the most hyped invention since the Macintosh, ends production’.

The expectations at launch were enormous :

‘Its inventor, Dean Kamen, famously predicted in a 2001 Time magazine interview that the Segway ‘will be to the car what the car was to the horse and buggy.’ In the same story, venture capitalist John Doerr predicted the company would be the fastest ever to reach $1 billion in sales.’

Unfortunately the company failed to create a clear need by explaining the What of Segway. Those who bought Segway would likely not refer to it as the ‘human transporter’, ‘personal transporter’, or the ‘two-wheeled self-balancing personal transporter’.

What Segway could have done is to stay closer to what people already knew and were familiar with at the time of launch. Explore a variation of the scooter category, promote the What and create a need by showing how people benefit from the new category and with that, the Segway.



This article is  from the book Win With What – the first category-led growth book for anyone who wants their business to thrive and survive.

Get your preview at WinWithWhat.com

 

 

Apple is finally back at its core with the all-new Mac Studio and Studio Display

Over the years Apple lost its touch with the creative sector. The Mac Pro got very little attention and hardly any updates. The iMac Pro came and vanished again.  But now Apple is back with the Mac Studio.

The launch of the Studio was about time.  In 1997 Steve Jobs returned to Apple and launched the Think Different campaign. The campaign was the start of the reintroduction of Apple and linked the company brand to a new computer category: the computer for creatives.

Between 1997 to 2002, Apple told buyers of PCs that a better and more exciting alternative was required next to the IBM PCs. The reason? If every human did the same, using the same tools, the outcome would be similar, and society would not progress.

To support establishing the new category, Apple featured and promoted the creative ideas of people like Alfred Hitchcock, Pablo Picasso, Mahatma Gandhi, and Thomas Edison in ads.

The company established the need for the computer for creatives and successfully linked it to the brand Apple. The Apple company and Apple products became known for products optimized for the creatives of our time. Apple computers quickly found their way into marketing, creative agencies, DTPers, designers, musicians, writers, and anyone who aspired to be creative. Apple linked the brand to those who shape business, science, or society.

After the successful linking Apple with the creative sector the company got very sluggish in serving the creative crowd.

The release dates of the Mac Pro (a product made for the PROs!) tell it all:
2006 – First generation
2013 – Second generation
2019 – Third generation

The iMac Pro did not even get pass one generation.

Any Studio owner must have been thinking many times to switch to powerful Intel and Windows machines!

Till now: The Mac Studio is the answer to the creatives. Even the name indicates where the product will be used: in the Studio.

Apple understands how to (not) do discounts

Black Friday is the day many brands offer discounts. Strong brands, like Apple, never discount the core products.

For companies, sales discounts are a great way to boost short- term sales. It is an approach with guaranteed success. Even people who do not need the product right away might buy because of the great discount. Like with everything, there is a flip side to discounts.

1. Postponing purchases
Consider carefully discounts for products that are not fast- moving consumer goods but substantial investments for consumers. Consumers can often wait to make the purchase when it is not highly necessary. It is not uncommon for people to sleep on the old bed a few months longer and wait for a good discount.

2. Creation of artificial purchase cycles
Some companies run discounts during specific times of the year. When consumers know about the cycle, they will wait for the following discount round. The brand has unwillingly created an artificial purchase cycle.

FujiFilm is a company with artificial purchase cycles. The company runs pretty steep discounts on its cameras and lenses in spring, summer, and winter. People who are in the FujiFilm camp make purchase decisions three times per year. If the desired products are not on sale in the current round, chances are the dream kit will show up in the next round.

3. Abandonment of retail prices
Discounts reduce the suggested retail sales prices of products in the mind of the consumer. Once buyers have seen a printer in a special offer for US$69, they won’t pay the US$99 suggested retail price ever again. Getting the product cheaper has now become a real possibility. The discount helped the short-term sales but made the brand and product positioning weaker.

 

The alternative to discounts
The best alternative to discounts is to provide perks around the core product. For example, a brand known for its leading Music composition software should not discount the core product, the What of the brand. Instead, it should provide extra perks around the core product like giving a plug-in or sound bank for free.

Apple follows this strategy. The company hardly ever gives direct discounts but turns discounts into Apple Gift cards. Of course, the Gift Cards are to be used in the Apple Stores.

Perks are a great way to give people ‘a good deal’ while in their minds, the value perception of the core product has not changed.

——
This post is taken from my new book Win With What – the first category-led growth book.

Icelandverse

Iceland’s parody on Metaverse – a new tourism video sparking thought about virtual versus real life.

Zuckerberg told the world “the metaverse’s defining quality is the feeling of presence … like you’re there with other people.”

The Iceland Tourism board made a brilliant move by positioning the country Iceland as a complete opposite of a virtual reality world envisioned by Zuckerberg.  Icelandverse is ”a place of “enhanced actual reality without silly looking headsets.”

 

 

It is good that brands (countries are brands too!) position themselves by presenting an alternative or an opposite. We humans still need alternatives. If you are not all-in Metaverse, then there is an alternative, the Icelandverse. If you do not like Coca-Cola, there is Pepsi. Alternatives and opposites help people to make a choice.

 

Facebook going Meta(verse)

Facebook is making a smart move – rebranding the corporate brand to Meta, linking itself directly to Metaverse  while allowing each of the product brands to flourish.

 

Facebook follows the strategy of Alphabet Inc. Back in 2015, Google implemented the critical principle of brand building: expand your business, not your brand. Google Inc changed its corporate brand from Google to Alphabet – to undo the Google link: “the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.

Facebook Company was struggling in a similar way, because of the direct link with Facebook the product. The company even made the mistake to bring the company brand Facebook into the UI of Instagram and WhatsApp. Visually showing the Facebook brand impacted clarity of all brands involved- imagine the screens with ‘From Microsoft’ or ‘From Google’.

 

Not only did the clarity of Instagram and WhatsApp start to dilute, but also that of Facebook and Facebook Company. If a brand tries to be everything to everybody, it will ultimately become nothing to no one.

So on the 28th of October 2021, Facebook “did an Alphabet” – and changed the company name from Facebook Company to Meta. A brilliant move and name. By disconnecting the Company from Facebook it gives all products room to expand.  The Meta products:

The name Meta is directly linked to Metaverse – the virtual reality-based successor to the Internet. Perceptually Meta and Metaverse might become the same.

“Metaverse was originally coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world. Stephenson used the term to describe a virtual reality-based successor to the Internet.” (wikipedia)

 

Under the new corporate brand Meta the company can align all product brands and efforts under the strong mission “help to bring the metaverse to life“. The mission can now be executed with focus and without diluting the Facebook product brand or the other product brands.

 

Mercedes-Benz transitioning to electric

Mercedes-Benz moves into electric using the ‘half-pregnant’ EQ sub-brand approach. The company misses  the point that buyers first and foremost need portfolio clarity.

Whenever there are ground-breaking developments, the incumbent businesses need to watch out. Category shifting breakthroughs are most of the time developed by new companies. They can be so impactful that complete new categories are established and make today’s brands look old and obsolete. Bad news for existing brands!

In the past, we saw it was Nokia versus iPhone, and today it is in the car business Tesla versus the rest. It was not Mercedes-Benz who established the new electric car category globally – it was Tesla. Interestingly, it was Karl Benz who invented the first gas-powered automobile already in 1886. Quite a few years later, in 1901, the Daimler Motors Corporation began selling cars.

Often when a category shift happens, and your brand represents or is a significant player in the old category, the brand will eventually follow the faith of the category. As a brand owner, you need to do everything you can to prevent a downfall.

At Mercedes-Benz, they saw the change to electric coming as well. The company was clearly not ready, and it took time to adapt. For the company, it was vital to continue selling the old gasoline cars to not go out of business. The ‘half pregnant’ business strategy translates directly to the product portfolio strategy. The current Mercedes-Benz portfolio visualizes a company in transition, and it is far from the Mercedez-Benz slogan “The Best or Nothing.”

Look at the entire portfolio as presented on https://www.mercedes-benz.com/en/ and ask yourself:

    • what is the car type? (small family, business, SUV, etc.)
    • what is the ranking of the car inside the overall portfolio (good, better, best)
    • what are the electric cars
    • what do all the letters and combinations of letters mean?

None of it is clear.

Unclear portfolio

 

To make things worse, Mercedes-Benz applied a strange form of sub & endorsed branding with the electric range.

Headlines in car magazines said “Mercedes-Benz’s EQ Sub-Brand Aims to Launch a New Electric Model Every Year” (Car and Driver in 2016) or just as recently as 14 Oct 2021 “Mercedes EQ subbrand to launch in U.S. with electric variant of S-Class sedan” (Automotive News).

What happened at the marketing department at the Mercedes-Benz headquarters? A sub-brand, really? Master-brands and sub-brands are all marketing talk, and they do not exist in the buyer’s mind. People are not shopping for sub-brands or master-brands. They shop for brands and might look for a product within a range.

The basic rule is that people think and buy in the following order:

Brand -> Product range -> Model
not Brand –> Brand -> Product range or Model

It is Mercedes-Benz (brand) -> EQ (range) -> Model
and not ‘Model by Range’ as the Mercedes-Benz Me Lifestyle magazine wants the reader to believe.

So what could Mercedes-Benz have done differently? There would have been two ways to transition the company Mercedes-Benz into the new category or electric.

 

1. Conquer and Switch
The  Geely Holding /  Volvo Corporation strategy. The company repurposed the Polestar brand for just electric cars to compete (conquer) in the electric car segment, while Volvo can switch to electric at its own pace.  For the Mercedes-Benz Company, a new brand (not EQ!) would take on electric while Mercedes-Benz could transition at its own pace.

 

2. Fix the portfolio outside-in and Switch
Let’s face it; the current portfolio is a complete mess with cars inside and outside classes (ranges). This does not help navigate the portfolio and  does not help buyers  relate or understand the order in the portfolio.

Mercedes-Benz should first create ranges that make sense to the buyer or already have meaning, like the A, B, C, G, M, S and V class ranges.  Then slot all cars inside the ranges. No exceptions.

The GLB would move into the G class, and so would the electric EQB. To create clarity, the car model would be renamed GLB EQ.

Then the brand can Switch at its own pace into electric, eventually letting go of all the gasoline models.

Inside-out portfolio

 

Outside-in portfolio

Mercedes-Benz in executing a Switch strategy without clarifying the portfolio to buyers. At this stage option 2 is  the  route to go. Does it come without risk?  Not at all.  It is all about the ‘old’ gasoline car brands versus the ‘new’ electric car brands in a category shift. To compete in electric,  Mercedes-Benz will need to be more convincing in the buyer’s mind than the perceived leader in electric.  This means that when a consumer is in the market for an electric luxury SUV, the Tesla Model X has the leadership perception in terms of the technology over the Mercedes-Benz EQC. Internally there will be a division between those who work on the cool new models and those who need to maintain the old – till the last old gasoline car is sold.

Generally the Conquer strategy is the safest and cleanest route to execute company transition into electric.  The Switch strategy involves  perception risks and can be complicated to execute internally.

Happy Socks is going slowly back to just selling Socks

Happy Socks is going back to its core of selling socks. The website is restructured around Socks. The Happy Socks Underwear is gone.

The brand’s core idea, to bring happiness and color to every corner of the world, can be replicated to other categories as well – but in the case of Happy Socks, the brand name will forever be limiting. 

Back in 2018, I wrote a post discussing the brand stretch of Happy Socks into underwear, swimming gear, and much more. I did not see a future for Happy Socks Underwear, Happy Socks Swimsuits, or Happy Socks Pool Sliders.  Strategically I saw two options for the Happy Socks company:

  1. Stick with the category of socks – and take more market share
  2. Bring the other products under a different brand

It seems that Happy Socks company is moving into the direction of option 1. The website is reworked, and the homepage has a clear focus on Socks.

 

The web menu makes the distinction even more clear. It is all about Socks and Not Socks.

The Not Socks section cover face masks and swimming gear. By positioning the products clearly as “Not Socks” it feels these products are more like accessories, not part of the brand’s core. This positioning gives Happy Socks Company more freedom to make changes to the portfolio. For example, if a line does not work, the company can easily replace it without hurting the core Socks offering. Of course, it is still weird to walk around in Happy Socks Swim shorts.

But how did the company get here?

Happy Socks got famous for its colorful socks. When the company was founded in 2008, most of the socks in the market were plain. The founders decided to change that and bring more color and design to our feet. Something remarkable happened: they made a boring accessory item (socks) into a hip fashion statement and succeeded.

The mix of focus on colorful socks, decent quality, and a brand name that boozes energy in a boring category worked well. Happy Socks are truly happy compared to traditional socks.
In 2017 the company sold most of the shares to a private equity firm – usually one of the warning signs that growth needs to be accelerated. The shareholders must have been thinking: the company knows about color and design, there are contracts with factories that can produce socks. Why not do some clothing? Happy Socks quickly expanded the product portfolio to underwear and swimwear.

Today the company seems to be getting more and more back to its core: socks. By positioning everything else as “Not Socks” it allows for freedom to experiment with the portfolio – without hurting the core.

ZOOM the company that delivers happiness

Some of my readers know that I am busy with a brand new book. At this stage, most of the book is written, but I continue my research. One of the companies I recently looked at was  ZOOM and specifically the About ZOOM web pages. My aim: to figure out what ZOOM stands for both inside and outside the company.

It was honestly a shock to read the content that defines ZOOM. In short: the About ZOOM page is a collection of empty and not differentiating brand & strategy blurbs. 

Let’s take a look at each of the elements of the About page:

#1. What is the Promise of ZOOM?ZOOM delivers happiness, every single day.

Yes, you are reading this right. Think about that the next time you are in a ZOOM call or get communications from ZOOM.

 

#2. What is the ZOOM culture?

To deliver on the ZOOM promise of Delivering Happiness, the company simply defined its culture as Delivering happiness – how thoughtful, differentiating and unique..

 

#3. How is the promise of ZOOM delivered?

Through one value: Care. Whatever ZOOM employees do for Community, Customers, Company, Teammates, and Selves: they Care.

I am not sure how just “Care” can be differentiating. Values should give clear guidance, like a compass, how decisions are made, actions are performed, and how employees communicate internally and externally. The company values should be so strong and unique to the company that users experience them every single time  when interacting with the brand.

So, what is ZOOM all about?

By now, you might be thinking, is ZOOM a new-age type of Happiness company, with dedicated employees delivering Happiness every day, and who are delivering this amazing Promise in a caring way.

Now, just hang on for a minute because the ZOOM Mission and Vision turn it all in a different direction.

 

#4 The Mission and Vision of ZOOM

The Mission and Vision seem an afterthought or leftover from previous strategy work.

The keywords of the previous sections Delivering Happiness and Care are replaced by Frictionless, Secure, Empowering, and  Accomplishing more.

Do you feel the difference? It is huge – when employees are focused on, e.g., empowering and accomplishing more, they are in a very different state of mind than when they Care or Deliver Happiness.

On the Mission and the Security element specifically: during the initial part of the Corona crisis, ZOOM got hit with severe security flaws, and even today, there are still privacy and security woes. Tom’s Guide keeps an up-to-date list here

 

#5 About ZOOM

The website continues with a small section, “About ZOOM” which again steers the company’s core into a different direction. In this section, ZOOM is there to help you express ideas, connect to others, and build toward a future limited only by your imagination.

 

Simple suggestions for improvement 

What is wrong with all of this with the stock-listed company ZOOMPretty much everything!

Let’s clarify the ZOOM brand in a straightforward way with just a few steps. 

#1 Firmly claim a position
It is vital to claim a position – only by doing so can people know precisely the difference between your brand and others in terms of what it concretely is and does.

Using ZOOM own words:
– ZOOM, the only frictionless video conferencing app
– ZOOM, the innovation standard in video conferencing

#2 Define the company character
What type of company is ZOOM? How do people work, decide and take action? This is not what we want the company to be, but what the culture is all about. Based on the direction given by ZOOM, I use the Caregiver character as an example. The Caregiver’s strategy is to do things for others, intending to help others. Compassion and Generosity are essential.

#3 Define brand values that steer 
Taking the Company Character and Care concept, we can define strong values, such as Thoughtful, Humane, Compassionate. These are all adjectives and are easy to use to steer activities. I can, for example, say, “this copy text feels thoughtful, humane, and compassionate. It is on ZOOM brand.” The values are also not the opposite or conflicting, which makes assessing actions focussed.

#4 Define the Belief
The Belief is rooted in the Company’s Character. As a belief, it is shared among all employees and is the foundation to deliver every single day the promise.
For example: At ZOOM we believe that the greatest, most sustainable happiness comes from making others happy.

#4 Define the promise
The Promise is also routed in the Company Character and delivered by employees to each other and external.
For example: At ZOOM we promise is to be good and do good

 

Summing at all up

The brand can be summed up in a few lines. While I did not include a mission or vision it feels more coherent in steering the brand in actions, decisions, products, and communications.

  • ZOOM is the only frictionless video conferencing app
  • Audience:  Community, Customers, Companies, Teammates, and Selves
  • Promise to each other and customers: to be good and do good
  • The promise is delivered through the values: Thoughtful, Humane, Compassionate
  • And ZOOM can make it happen because it firmly beliefs that the greatest, most sustainable happiness comes from making others happy.

 

Photo by Arjohn Janroe Queral on Unsplash

And so much more…

It is the Apple WorldWideDeveloperConference time of year again! Traditionally the moment that Apple showcases significant changes to all their operating systems: macOS, iOS, iPadOS, WatchOS.

This year was a mixed bag. The announcements were mostly a list of Apple app updates. Clearly, Apple is a fine-tuning mode and has difficulties coming up with breakthrough features in the current platforms and usage scenarios.

Engadget stated for MacOS “With macOS Monterey, Apple is trying to polish its desktop operating system even further.”

What is worrying is that on the Apple.com front page there is just a sheer amount of features listed under every OS.

iOS 15

Connect with family and friends while watching and listening together in SharePlay. Be more present in the moment with Focus. Explore the world in unprecedented detail with a reimagined Maps. And use powerful on‑device intelligence to do more with iPhone than ever before.

iPadOS 15 update

Do more things even more easily with powerful new multitasking tools. Create notes from any app using Quick Note. Add new widgets that let you see information at a glance right on your Home Screen. And enjoy many of the great features also coming to iOS 15.

MacOS Monterey

Share your screen with friends and coworkers in entirely new ways with SharePlay. Explore a more immersive, customizable, and streamlined Safari. And with Universal Control, you can now work seamlessly between your Mac and iPad.

Watch OS8

Give your Portrait mode photos from iPhone a starring role on a dynamic new watch face. Unlock your door from your wrist with home keys. Work out with tai chi and Pilates. And center yourself with new Mindfulness experiences.

Now – tell me quickly….
What is the key reason to upgrade your iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Watch?
or What is iOS 15, iPadOS15, Mac Monterey of Watch OS 8?

I know that the answer is not going to be a crisp one. Apple is not communicating the one reason to get completely excited about any of the updates, or the one reason you would want to have the updates running on your devices today.

Even when categories mature consumers need incentives to upgrade.  While difficult it is better to pick that One Feature to steer all communications and PR than having massive feature lists leaving consumers and media wondering where to focus on or determining which one is really important.

Receive a portion of snack-sized brand bites

P.S. We hate spam as much as you do.
Please click the activation link after signing up.

You have Successfully Subscribed!