Apple iPhone naming going bananas

The once extremely logical naming structure of the iPhone product range has gone bananas with the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR

In product naming, it seems to happen a lot – the once so easily understood structures become very complicated. In cars, the same is happening to Mercedes-Benz and in some way to Volkswagen as well. These I will cover in an upcoming next article.

Apple was so simple from the start, in 2007 Apple launched the iPhone. Then it made the decision to add a key feature in the name, the iPhone 3G in 2008.  So far so good.

The 2009 model was an improvement over the 2008 model, but not a revolution. Apple decided to introduce the S marker for these improved (supercharged?) iPhones. The 2009 model was called iPhone 3GS.

This logic served well with the next models:
2010 – iPhone 4
2011 – iPhone 4S
2012 – iPhone 5
2013 – iPhone 5S
2014 – iPhone 6
2015 – iPhone 6S and 6S Plus (the bigger screen variant).
2016 – iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

Back in 2013 Apple tried the iPhone 5C, the model name could be post-rationalized: the C for color – it came in many different colorful covers.

Apple also tried in 2016 the iPhone SE, also here the model name could be post-rationalized to perhaps Slim Edition.  Apple never told consumers the meaning of the name even though consumers always like to put meaning in names, it makes them easier to remember.

But in 2017 it went wrong…. Apple skipped the iPhone 7S convention and went straight to iPhone 8.

Then it introduced the iPhone X (“ten”) as the new full screen most advanced product. It worked  – the iPhone X was the future and sales went well.

But what comes after the future? In the case of Apple, an improved future, the iPhone XS.  So far so good…  but instead of sticking to a successful and commonly understood naming convention Apple decided differently: it introduced the Apple iPhone XS Max, yes this is the previously called Apple iPhone Xs Plus and introduced a new iPhone called the iPhone XR.

At the moment of writing, sales have gone on for some time. It becomes very clear that the naming structure has gone bananas.

First of all the iPhone XS Max is a drag of a name for a consumer product. What comes after Max? The Max II? The MaxS (I hope not!) Why not simply stick with what people already know? There are the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Plus for the bigger screen variant.

It might have been that the naming team at Apple decided to change to Max as the screen is the biggest of them all. But that would be a mistake as consumers read Product Brand – Identifier – Variant. So, consumers compare the “Max” against the version without the Max, and not against the iPhone XR.

Clearly, the screen is the differentiator if you follow the Apple messaging – but comparing the key messages on Apple.com does not make this very clear either.

Even comparing the screen sizes does not help – it turns out that in terms of Big Screens, the iPhone XR has a BIGGER screen than the iPhone XS. (of course, Apple is after screen resolution between the XS and XR but what you don’t tell, people don’t know)

 

In fact when going through the comparison on https://www.apple.com/iphone/compare/ you will find it very difficult to spot real differences between the XS and the XR. And when there are differences it is not clear how they impact you as a future user.

So the question becomes obvious – what is Apple trying to achieve with the iPhone XR? Is the confusion this product obviously is causing (through bad naming and communication) worth the effort?

Could Apple do without the product? I think so, the less the better. That is what the market has told Apple before, first with the iPhone 5C and another time with the iPhone SE. Now the market will tell again that there is no space for an iPhone above, beyond or below the core range of products.

The real question is: how will Apple fix the naming structure going forward?

Brand appeal among student

During the past couple of months, I had the opportunity to teach Global Branding to second-year international students at Avans University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. A great opportunity to test the appeal of some of the leading brands of today.

It is always fascinating to see how different age groups react to brands. It is especially interesting talking to students in their 20’s as they will become the generation of tomorrow.

One valuable lesson I learned while being employed at Nokia is that for brands to be successful in the future, they will need to be able to pass from one generation to another.

When looking at some of the leading brands of today according to, e.g. the Interband top 100 and using this group of students as a sample, there are some interesting observations. I did a similar test when teaching in 2016, and interestingly the ‘winning’ brands have become stronger.

In German cars, students want the brand Audi a lot more than BMW or Mercedes-Benz. In Interbrand Top 100, Audi is #42, BMW #13, Mercedes-Benz #8. In other words, the student appeal is in reversed order. This result is similar to 2016.

In social networks Facebook clearly had its peak, the sample group uses Facebook only to browse posts, not to engage or post updates. The reason? Instagram is more appealing because it is clear what it is all about. In Interbrand Top 100 Facebook is #9 (Instagram is not listed as a separate brand). The result is following the trend of 2016, with the exception that back then, some students were still very active on Facebook.

Coca-Cola(#5 in Interbrand) is hardly consumed, in fact, just a small percentage is drinking any of the Coca-Cola variants once per week … the alternative? Water! This is very much in line with the global trend of the decline of the soda category and growth of water.

In productivity apps, it is clear that Evernotehas trouble – just a very few students were using Evernote or had heard about it. In the Apple AppStore, Evernote is also slowly declining in the ranks.

What is happening? 

Some of the brands listed have perhaps grown too much with their audience, think BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Facebook and lost appeal with the younger generation. While Evernote has lost focus and evolved from taking notes to an all-round capture everything and anything tool and Coca-Cola is clearly in the middle of fighting the perception of soda drinks.

The lesson?

Brand appeal is not forever – even for the remarkable brands discussed in this post the battle between Brand identity (what the brand desires to stand for) and the Brand Image (how it is perceived) remains one of constant fine-tuning.

Happy Socks

Happy Socks is not anymore just socks, it is underwear and now as well swimwear. How a great brand idea to turn everyday accessories into happy designed colorful items gets limited by the name.

I am a huge fan of the Swedish brand Happy Socks. In fact, my closet is full of their happy colorful socks 🙂 Happy Socks did something remarkable – 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 band name that boozes energy in a boring category works well. Their socks are truly happy compared to the traditional socks – and don’t we all need a little bit more happiness once in a while?

So, I understand that at the Happy Socks Headquarters the owners must have been thinking…. let’s replicate the success to other closely related categories like underwear. Now, I do have a couple of Happy Socks underwear items too, and it is just weird. I mean, a logo that reads Happy Socks on underwear is not the best possible combination.

 

Recently I got an email about a new line of products: swimwear. Yes, seriously – think about the following conversation:
-A- You wear cool swimwear!
-B- Thanks!
-A- What is it?
-B- Happy socks
-A- Sorry?

Of course, the core idea of the brand can be replicated to other categories as well – but in case of Happy Socks, the core brand name will forever be limiting.

In this case there are two options:
1. Stick with the category of socks – and take more market share
2. Bring the other products under a different brand

 

Do you recognise the challenges of your company in this article? Do you need clarity in brand architecture and optimising it for long term cross-sell and up-sell? Just get in touch with me. 

Be decent

People perceive their favorite brands as trusted friends and react accordingly when a brand falls short of their expectations or promises. Think of a brand as a decent human being and act like one.

Here in the Netherlands one of the biggest banks has an issue with decency. Now for months, we hear ‘how Rabobank is growing a better world together’. Rabobank even announced a three-year programme to kick-start the transition to a more sustainable food and agricultural sector.

Perhaps unfortunately for Rabobank, two things have happened in society:

  1. People are in general more suspicious about what big companies are saying and especially in the banking industry.
  2. As Rabobank correctly has identified, sustainable food and agriculture have become more and more critical to choices people make.

The more relevant and important your brand or cause is to people, the more your actions will get noticed – and get reactions.

It took only a little bit of time for people to figure out where Rabobank invests. Turns out ‘6.8 out of the 8.8 billion that Dutch banks invest in ‘very animal-unfriendly meat industry’ comes from the bank that advocates a ‘better world.’

In our connected world, both positive and negative messages distribute faster and wider than ever before. As a result, the Dutch now know that the Rabobank is not what they advocate. They also know it is not only the Rabobank that has this issue, but many more banks – there are only a few without issues.

Suddenly consumers are getting aware of a new category in banking – ‘the animal friendly banks,’ opening the doors for the real sustainable banking brands who smartly so jump on the wagon and educate consumers about the wrong investments traditional banks make.

And how is the Rabobank responding? Just as how people expect from the big institutions: without taking real responsibility. Rabobank does not think of their brand as a decent human being and does not act like one. Only when a brand does, people will acknowledge the mistake and might forgive you for it.

Will the biggest change for Diet Coke in 35 years make a difference or is it lipstick on a pig?

A very exciting start of 2018 for Coca-Cola Company in America: the successful Coke Diet brand is renewed after 35(!) years.

Coca-Cola Company calls it a relaunch of the brand. The cans are smaller, have a fresh new design, and there are four extra flavors.

The renewal and modernization of the Diet Coke brand is done to attract a new generation of drinkers and offers millions of current fans a new look and more flavors.

Rafael Acevedo, the North America group director for Diet Coke, further explains that “we’re modernizing what has made Diet Coke so special for a new generation. The same unapologetic confidence still comes through, and the same great Diet Coke taste people love is here to stay, but we’re making the brand more relatable and more authentic.”

A two-year study has shown that younger Americans have an affinity for “big, yet refreshing and great-tasting flavors” in their favorite foods and beverages – from hoppy craft beers to spicy sauces.

So far everything goes according to the plan. Coca-Cola Company sees an opportunity to increase their share in the category of diet cola: welcoming new drinkers with new flavors and getting current drinkers to try new flavors.

The problem, however, is that whole soda category in America is in decline for the last 12 years. In 2017 the sales were similar to 1985 (!). These days, consumers know better: sugar is not good for you. This insight causes the whole category to decline.

You would think the war against sugar would give the sales of diet products a push – the fewer calories, the better – but it is not happening. Why? Consumers are getting more and more skeptical about artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame. In fact, the skepticism is so bad, that currently, the high-sugar variants of Coca-Cola and Pepsi the number 1 and 2 most sold cola products.

It did not help that Coca-Cola in 2012 began to defend the use of sweeteners in newspapers. This way you achieve exactly the opposite effect: consumers will trust you even less.

And it becomes tough when your biggest competitor starts to make a point in advertising and on the can that aspartame is excluded from their Diet line.

Consumers move to other categories of drinks and the big winners in the fight for healthy drinks are not the Diet brands, but the water brands, including Dasani, a brand of Coca-Cola Company.

I expect that the new design and the new flavors will undoubtedly benefit the Diet Coke brand in the short term. However, in the long term it is “lipstick on a pig”. The trend against unnatural has started, and not just in the soft drink category. Also in the food category the organic market in America has grown from 1B USD in 1990 to 40B USD in 2017. This is a trend that will affect many categories.

In a declining category, a brand has to take what it can take while the category is still selling, but as a company, you will have to focus on new categories. And this is what Coca-Cola Company does very well, as we see with their new brand for ice tea: Fuze Tea, but more initiatives are needed to get back in growth mode.

Dutch supermarket brand Albert Heijn leaves the German market

Albert Heijn is a Dutch supermarket chain and part of the Ahold Delhaize food retail group. Ahold Delhaize operates in 11 countries with 21 brands.

Mid-2011 Ahold announced to open Albert Heijn (in the Netherlands abbreviated to AH) stores in Germany. The retail group naturally has a healthy growth strategy to expand in adjacent markets and beyond.

The retail group envisioned that the “AH To Go” convenience store formula could serve as a spearhead for growth in Germany. It has not worked: the doors of the stores in Germany will close as of 1 April 2018.

Very unfortunate, of course, because anyone who has ever entered one of the “AH to Go” stores in the Netherlands can conclude how sophisticated these stores are: a combination of the right products, location, and convenience.

The supermarket chain says that the stores did show ‘modest growth’, but that there were not enough possibilities to continue.

I have trouble believing that the “To Go” formula does not catch on in Germany. Even Nielsen sees that “convenience and drug stores” have strong growth potential in traditional brick-and-mortar stores.

Going forward, the ‘Albert Heijn’ brand is only available in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Curaçao. That, personally, seems sufficient to me. Because let’s be honest: the name Albert Heijn simply does not go well in non-Dutch speaking areas. Let alone the abbreviation “AH”, “Ahhhh To Go”? Don’t think so.

The photo above this article is from the opening of Albert Heijn in Köln (Neumarkt). Now, imagine for a moment that the picture below is from the opening of the German convenience store chain “Nahkauf” in Amsterdam, London or Partis. Is that going to be successful? I do not think so.

In Germany, the brand Nahkauf stands for shops in small villages with attention to fresh and locally produced products.

Also in the Netherlands, that concept would obviously be good, but it would never work with the Nahkauf brand. Similarly, you cannot expect the name Albert Heijn to work outside the Netherlands. You cannot be successful with a bad name, not even in an emerging, growing category. Even with all the knowledge and expertise available within the retail group, you will not be able to pull it off.

It seems to me time for a new attempt in Germany, but this time under a different brand name: a name that can be pronounced by anyone in the market without problems.

A new way to be even closer to your customers

We all know that humans are emotional beings. In every decision we make emotions play the decisive role.

Understanding emotions are therefore fundamental to be even closer to your customers because once customers are emotionally connected, they stay loyal.

Emotions drive loyalty – Loyalty drives profits.

Brands therefore continuously try to find new ways to be even closer to prospects and buyers, because, once a brand is in the heart and mind of buyers, it will affect purchases and increase publicity through word of mouth.

What if brands were able to accurately understand how consumers feel emotionally about their content, and be able to create content based on desired emotional responses?

This is the holy grail of advertising, and it is here today. With Artificial Emotional Intelligence, brands can create that deeper emotional connection.

Once brands accurately understand how consumers emotionally react to content it will change the way how we become even closer to our customers. Imagine being able to:

  • optimise text in headlines, websites, chats, PR etc to fit the desired emotion of the brand
  • perform emotional analysis on social media and influencers to finally see the true emotional impact of content and go far beyond sentiment analysis
  • Place digital ads only in emotionally suitable pages on websites – no more ads showing up in the wrong places
  • Text to speech engines that become more human
  • And many more!

This is not science fiction. Using Artificial Emotional Intelligence you can be even closer to your customers today.  

Take a look at the BMW slogan. Which slogan will evoke the right emotional reaction in the reader? The Ultimate Driving Machine or The Best Driving Machine?

The brand character of BMW is that of the Achiever archetype, thus fitting well with the evoked emotion of Amazement. Yes, BMW made the right decision.

As an international brand advisor, I am fortunate to work with brands around the globe. I know that many brands struggle to be even closer to customers. Understanding the emotional reaction of customers to content even prior publication sounds magical. 

With the company we have done what nobody else has been able to do before: we accurately forecast the emotional reaction of customers to text and do that in many languages.

Using EMRAYS brands can finally start connecting on an emotional level and be closer to their customers. Read more at emrays.com or contact me for a demo.

Originally published on 15 November in LinkedIn.

Presidential Brand Battle – 6 reasons why Trump will win

This Presidential campaign in the USA  is -to say the least- very interesting. I do not think ever before we have seen candidates that are both disliked by so many people. Yet, the simple fact is that regardless all of that only one will win.

I lived in the USA when Obama won his first election. Ever since I have followed closely every election. In February I concluded that we could be looking at Bernie Sanders and Trump for president. I was partly right (depending on the various views on what actually happened inside the Democratic Party election process).

Now, roughly a month before the election I look at both candidates through brand glasses and predict that -perhaps against all odds- Donald Trump will become the new president of the United States.

Here are 6 reasons why Trump will win the election:

1. NEW over DIFFERENT

People are not interested in what is different, they are interested in what is NEW. When a new iPhone has launched the headlines are all about the new features, hardly ever about what is different.

Similarly in politics. Obama won in 2008 with the one-word slogan “Change”. Change from the old, a promise of something new.

Today Trump represents the NEW – he distances himself from the establishment and has a new approach to the campaign. On the other hand, Hillary represents DIFFERENT, she is a different representation of the current political landscape.

 

2. POWERFUL SLOGAN

Trump clearly has the better slogan “Make America Great Again”. Whether you are as a voter in the Hillary or Trump camp – it is hard to argue with the intention – who wouldn’t want to make America great (again)? And for those who remember, the slogan is a more active version of the Reagan slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again”. Indirectly giving the message that it can be done, just like how Reagan did it in the eighties.

Clinton, on the other hand, has had weak slogans. First, there were the self-centered “Hillary for America” and “I’m With Her” slogan. Followed by the current “Stronger Together” slogan. This slogan is very controversial after the scandals with her private e-mail server, mixed interests of the Clinton Foundation or calling out Trump supporters as “deplorables” and Sanders supporters as “basement dwellers”.

 

3. THE BETTER NAME 

All successful products start with a good name. It is the foundation of your marketing. The name “Clinton” has a lot of history.  While both positive and negative it simply cannot be avoided. People have a perception of the name “Clinton” in politics and perceptions are hard to change.

On the other hand the name Trump has a history as well. Yet, there are no established perceptions of the name in the context of politics.

 

4. MORE (FREE) PR, MORE ENGAGEMENT

When looking at Google trends, social media and the established media it is clear that Trump has the lead in engagement. Of course, not all is positive but that is ok. In many ways, the established media is handing the benefit of the doubt unwillingly to Trump. They help to build the brand as reverse psychology will come to play. With all the negative press voters will ask themselves “If this guy is so bad, why is everybody then writing about him?” or “Is there nothing bad about Hillary ?”

 

5. LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE GRABBING THE WALLET

The Reuters headline “Trump scores with small money, lags with big donors” tells it all: there is a different type of support for Trump. These are not the few big cooperations or hedge funds, but the average American willing to invest in the brand. This is key as these people have shown their support by grabbing their wallets.

If played well these supports can over the next weeks amplify the Trump brand. After all, they have invested in the brand and will talk about it. In conversations, we trust a human to human recommendation over any marketing message.

 

6. CLEAR FOCUS

For any brand a clear focus is crucial. Brand supports must be able to tell what the brand is about and where it stands for.  Trump has picked topics and over the campaign has stuck to them. The topics do raise debate fueling the brand engagement. Hillary does not seem to focus on one topic and her topics do not raise the same amount of brand engagement.  Great brands know that in the mind of the consumer a brand that does just one thing really well is more credible than a brand that does everything.

 

LOOKING FORWARD TO 2020

Regardless the outcome on November 8 this presidential campaign has proven to be one of its kind. And who knows, perhaps it has set a bigger change in motion. A change that gives the Independent Candidate a shot to the presidency in 2020! Now that would be a change!

Published on Oct 5 2016

Brand lessons from Donald Trump: clear focus, massive PR and a great slogan

With the US elections in full swing it is interesting to take a brand approach to the candidates.

Without any exception Donald Trump is checking the brand boxes.

1. Clear Focus

First Donald Trump has a clear focus – he has picked his battles and topics. While many disagree he has at least picked his topics and sticks to them.  Great brands know that in the mind of the consumer a brand that does just one thing really well is more credible than a brand that does everything.

2. Massive PR

When you dominate the headlines you are top of mind.  Google Trends reveals that Donald Trump is dominating the headlines already for a long time. Bernie Sanders is recently topping Hillary Clinton.

PR-Elections-2015-onwards

What does this really mean? Somebody else is talking about what the Trump brands stands for. Whether the articles in the news are  positive or negative it will do one thing very well: making the focussed Trump brand even more real. This works especially well against brands/ candidates that are not outspoken enough: they will appear less firm or even a bit all over the place.

3. The slogan

A great slogan is a memorable phrase that is the summary of a brand. It  describes the product and its unique benefit and set the brand above the competition and ultimately create a reason for people to buy or join your brand.

Trump is nailing it here. Some might still subconsciously remember the slogan from the 80’s when Reagan used “Let’s Make America Great Again”. For others it gives a real reason to join the brand:

Trump_America_Great_Again

Anyone could say “I’d like to make America great again”.

The other slogans give a much less real reason to join the brand:

  • I’d like to be with her (Hillary Clinton, democrat)
  • I’d like a new American century (Marco Rubio, republican)
  • I’d like to be all in for Jeb (Jeb Bush, republican)
  • I’d like to  join courageous conservatives (Ted Cruz, republican)

All these slogans are in my opinion similar to Mitt Romney’s 2012 “Believe in America” (are there any Americans who deep down not believe in America?) and the John McCain 2008 slogan “reform, prosperity and peace”. Both lost against Obama with the slogans “Change” (2008) and “Forward” (2012).

In the 2016 elections there is one exception, the slogan of the democrat Ben Sanders who gives also a reason to join the brand “I’d like a future to believe in”.  Perhaps not surprisingly Ben Sanders is trailing Donald Trump in PR.

 

Coca-Cola’s “Taste the Feeling” slogan does not differentiate

Marking a significant shift in its marketing strategy, Coca-Cola  announced on Jan 19 that for the first time, all Coke Trademark brands will be united in one global creative campaign: “Taste the Feeling.”

Chief Marketing Officer Marcos de Quinto says that “The bigness of Coca-Cola resides in the fact that it’s a simple pleasure – so the humbler we are, the bigger we are. We want to help remind people why they love the product as much as they love the brand.”

Rudolf Echeveria the VP of global creative, connections and digital, adds “we’re going from ‘Open Happiness’ to exploring the role Coca-Cola plays in happiness, we make simple, everyday moments more special.”

Sounds like a convincing story except that it does not differentiate Coca-Cola from the competition – at all. “Taste the feeling” works just fine with Pepsi as well.

Pepsi-taste-the-feeling

The soda industry is in decline

CMO de Quinto explains the insight behind the campaign “we’ve found over time that the more we position Coca-Cola as an icon, the smaller we become.” This is a strange insight since the decline of the soft drinks category is happening with or without the iconic Coca-Cola brand.

In the USA the category is already for 10 years (!) in decline. In 2014, there was 14% less sold than in 2004 with the biggest losses for the Diet variants fuelled by concerns over the use of artificial sweeteners. “Water is hot and diet soda is not” writes the WSJ.

It is Coca-Cola and Pepsi again

Inside the soft drink category there is a shift happening: for the first time in years the regular Coca-Cola and Pepsi drinks are leading again. Cola drinkers are back to the core: real cola with sugar. The time could not be better to giver cola drinkers the real reason to choose Coca-Cola over Pepsi.

Taste the Real Thing

‘Taste the Feeling’ is not unique. What is? Taste the Real Thing of course!  No matter whether it is a regular Coca-Cola, Diet or Life, there can be only be one The Real Thing and that is Coca-Cola. The real reason to stay with the brand and buy it time after time again.

Coca-Cola-Taste-the-real-thing

Growth from other categories

To continue growth as a company the Coca-Cola Company will need to re-focus and reposition. Get leadership positions in new categories with new products under new brands.

And while exploring new categories and working on gaining leadership positions give current consumers the reason to drink Coca-Cola: Taste the real thing.

 

No-nonsense brand bites since 2009