Category Archives: Naming

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.

 



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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. 

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.

DealExtreme.com -> DX.com = waste of money

DealExteme is a Chinese based gadget web store. Al products are made in and shipped from China. Shipping is for free and prices are amazing. Personally I ordered some camera equipment, like remote controls etc here.

When I was visiting DealExtreme  I noticed a big banner on their site:

I know what the folks at DealExtreme must have been thinking… we have a great website, we are selling well, we have a reputation of delivering cheap gadgets with free shipping but we want to make it even more easier for consumers to find us, so … we buy DX.com and rebrand DealExtreme to DX.com, we cannot go wrong!

Unfortunately you do go wrong because “DX” are just two letters that do not mean anything… Let’s imagine the following conversation:

  • Wow, where did you buy that amazing gadget?
  • I bought it at DX.com
  • DX.com? What is that?
  • O, it is website with great deals from China

Versus

  • Wow, where did you buy that amazing gadget?
  • I bought it at DealExtreme.com a Chinese web store

The latter makes of course much more sense as the brain does not need to figure out the meaning of “DX” and in word of mouth it does not need explaining. Abbreviations are simply not a good idea: you want people to remember your name… not your abbreviation.