Category Archives: Portfolio

Apple Redefining the PC industry

The Apple The Future of Mac event was a big bold move as Apple transitions away from Intel processors to in-house developed silicon. The move is in fact a redefinition of the PC industry business from ‘processor speed’ to a pure choice in form factor.  Yet another industry will get a rude awaking. 

One to rule them all

The reason for Apple silicon is obvious: when you own the full stack from silicon to the user interface you are in control of the total experience while reducing interdependencies.

There is however one drawback to this approach and that became painfully obvious during the presentation of the new Macs: Apple has just one chip which is not advertised in speed.

Consumers have learned that processor speed and the type of processor determines the processing power of a computer. Secondly, by using different processors manufacturers are able to differentiate between their line-up.

An entry laptop will not have a 3.0Ghz 6 core processor with a turbo boost for example. The fact that it was technically not possible (battery and heat-wise) helped to differentiate in various product-lines built around the processor.

 

No more differentiation around the processor

With the introduction of M1, Apple uses the same silicon in their-line up. It was clear from the launch events that Apple struggled with the differentiation between the products.

Just take a look at the Apple Mac Compare page for the new M1 products: Macbook Air, Macbook Pro and Mini and you will notice it is all the same

There are some small differences, like Touch Bar, Wide Stereo Sound, nits brightness, expansion ports… but nothing more.

Even on the individual product pages, the same M1 information is presented:

 

The future is form 

Going forward the difference will be in the form, additional gimmicks, but not speed. In fact, just like with the iPhone product platform the difference will be the form factor: iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max

This change in dealing with a computer portfolio is probably the biggest change we have seen.

Taking this approach makes it easy for Apple to create product update cycles based on the M processors, which could go like this:

2020
Macbook Air M1
Macbook Pro M1
Mac Mini M1

2021
Macbook Air M2
Macbook Pro M2
Mac Mini M2
iMac M2

With heath and power consumption for the first time not being an issue anymore in the computing industry line-ups can be dramatically simplified.

During the launch event, the positioning between the Macbook Air and Macbook Pro was far from clear.  Both are exactly the same, except for some small features like ports, touch bar etc – so why would Apple keep in them in the long run? The answer: for the form factor, think screen sizes and future platform enhancements made possible by the total control of everything from processor to UI.

 

Redefining the PC industry

With the move to form factor based differentiation Apple is redefining the PC industry. The same portfolio simplicity that works with the iPhone, iPad, and Watch has now finally entered the desktop and laptop market.  The PC manufacturers with Intel will be in for a rude awakening.

 

Leuchtturm – what an experience!

I would have not ever thought to buy a real notebook ever again…. but I did! While walking around in a stationary store , many colorful notebooks from Leuchtturm were looking at me.

And I could not resist… why? Because the brand works!

The Leuchttrum brand: a promise made is a promise delivered.

 

 

1. Heritage

Leuchttrum is around since 1917, that is a very long time indeed, and according to the message, they firmly believe that details matter.

 

2. Details make all the difference

Leuchttrum does live up to their belief. This ‘simple’ notebook has the following features:

  • Pagination
  • Labels
  • Page markers (2x)
  • Ink proof paper!
  • Table of content
  • Pocket to store stuff
  • Perforated sheets (8x)
  • Thread bound & acid-free paper

 

3. Focus

Leuchtturm does one thing and one thing very well:  Notebooks. Their product offer is huge.

From the Notebook category, they moved into Planners and a few storage options

This is very different than Moleskine, offering everything from notebooks to bags, to device accessories.

The ‘better’ notebook brand is perceptual of course the brand creating only notebooks! A quick look at the Instagram account will convince you immediately. The books are not only beautiful but also very functional.

The Leuchttrum brand in a nutshell: a promise made is a promise delivered. 

Blu-Ray is Dead, End of a category

The first ever Blu-Ray player to ship was the Samsung DB-P1000. Back in June 2006 there were only a few titles available but the market grew fast – in June 2008 there were more than 2,500 titles available in Australia and the UK,  3,500 in the USA  and Canada.  In Japan, as of July 2010, more than 3,300 titles have been released.

Blu-Ray was a growing category, the standard got the movie studios behind the specs and forced the HD-DVD competition to quit.

Fast forward to February 2019 and the same company, Samsung, the leading OEM simply quits the production of future Blu-Ray players. No more new players mean no incentives to produce content, which of course means that Blu-Ray is dead.

Streaming has taken over and will do so for any other physical medium. The DVD market will follow and so will finally the CD market.

The brand lesson? This is what we wrote in The Only Book You Will Ever Need on Branding  “Brands and product categories are locked. Category relevance drives brand relevance. When the product category is new and growing, your brand grows with it. When your brand is associated with a category that has evolved into something else or your product category is simply no longer relevant, then your brand will die with it.”

I am curious to see if we will see in the future a revival of the format –  similar to what we see in the Turntable – record business with currently over 3000 turntables  on Amazon.

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?

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.