Apple Watch customers could wait months.
by Robert Liljenwall
Apple Watch customers could wait months.
by Robert Liljenwall
How will fans love thee? Let us count the ways.
by Robert Liljenwall
Am I going to get the Watch? Yes. When? Not sure. I have gleaned myself from the frenzied rush to stand in line for hours or dial 17 times to reach an Apple order taker after the clock strikes Midnight. I’m older now…and besides I have learned that, like with the Watch, I don’t really need it. I want it. And yes, it’s my destiny.
MS Office comes to your iPad
by Robert Liljenwall
The announcement happened March 27, but it has been in the works for months. Microsoft Office is coming to iPad. I already knew this: I learned about it a week ago – while ‘camping.’ My Airstream was parked next to another Airstream in Northern California, recently purchased by a just-retired Microsoft executive. We got friendly, and I told him that I would not get an iPad until it had Microsoft Office, one of my major objections to the tablet world. (I have a MacBook Air, which I love). He then informs me “… that’s going to happen in the next two weeks!” “You’re kidding?” He said it was decided that “Microsoft has to be where our customers are … and they’re on iPads, and so we have to be there, too!”
We at BTN have always felt that Microsoft was too narrow-minded in refusing to allow Apple to have the Office suite – it was a strategic decision to drive customers to Surface, their tablet version. But it clearly wasn’t working – Surface sales have always languished, and while it’s very versatile, it never had Apple’s panache and the new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recognized that if must deliver services to both businesses and consumers wherever they are, especially on mobile devices.
The new Office Suite app will be live for free on Apple’s App Store immediately, but for creating and editing content, you will need an Office 365 subscription, which their Home Subscription costs $9.99/month or $99.99 a year. The expected revenue for Microsoft is estimated at $1.4 billion, which outweighed any risk to Windows.
So, the Microsoft brand has somewhat righted with its iPad move. Microsoft has been trying to make it in the non-Xbox world of hardware with phones and tablets, but it continues to struggle. A recent study showed that Apple and Samsung have now just about crushed any attempts from others in the smartphone and tablet business. So, Nadella may just be on a roll to adjust Microsoft’s focus to the services business.
Always, there were tensions between Microsoft and Apple, stemming from the Bill versus Steve battles from the early days of the PC development in the late 1970s. Microsoft swiftly grew to soaring heights, leaving Apple in its dust. But Microsoft invested $150 million in Apple when it needed it in 1997 to integrate Microsoft Office into the Apple line of products, which provided Jobs the boost he needed for selling computers.
Apple has not provided any sales projections yet – but BTN will keep you posted. Hmmm … time to go shopping? – RJL
by Robert Liljenwall
It’s been quite a year for big brand stories, and even bigger surprises. Here’s our take on the Top Ten stories for 2013, from the intersection of branding and technology.
1) Edward Snowden managed to build a powerful, influential global brand in less time than it takes to say, “Gotcha!” And all on the back of technology and the US National Security Agency secrets he divulged starting in June 2013. While he may not be a household word, he certainly is now infamously (or famously) known in every government spy agency, every major capital, and by every editor or newscaster carrying the day’s news. Only 30 years old and a relatively low-level NSA contract employee, he managed to steal rarified, classified material that is called the most significant leak in US history. He used The Guardian and The Washington Post while employed by NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton to leak his material. At his news conference from his ‘temporary home’ in Russia this past week, he says the leaks and subsequent chaos caused at the highest level of governments around the world has assured him of ‘victory.’ “Mission accomplished,” he says. He thinks of himself as a hero while others have other apt descriptions. Time will tell how this plays out.
2) The National Security Agency’s brand image has fallen fast since the Snowden disclosures. The NSA-Snowden story remains evolutionary as one judge tells the government to stop and another one just the other day says it’s OK. But surely this NSA scandal has affected the US brand all over the world. The reality is that probably everyone else is doing it, too … so it’s probably more bark than bite from the average American point of view. But in government circles, the confusion surrounding NSA and all government ‘oversight’ programs bothers many of us.
3) Obamacare site bombed on launch. Millions have been impacted by the false start, and the cancellations of 5 million-plus insured guarantees a major hit on Obama and his signature program. The continuing debacle exposes tremendous technical shortcomings of government-run program. How has this affected Obama’s brand? Obama’s negative ratings continue their downward spiral. Recent polls show that most Americans don’t want or like the Affordable Care Act – and it’s just beginning. Will more Americans lose or gain insurance coverage in early 2014? How will the voters’ sentiment play out in the midterm elections? If there was a BrandTech News ‘perfect storm’, this was it!
4) Cyber Monday surpassed expectations, and mobile commerce on smartphones and tablets are making inroads toward becoming the biggest e-commerce sales day in history, up 16.5 percent to $2.29 billion. Mobile traffic (as a part of online sales) showed similar record sales – IBM’s data demonstrates that mobile shopping did grow significantly from last year – with traffic increasing by 45 percent to 31.7 percent share of all online traffic, and total sales growing by 55.4 percent year-over-year to surpass 17 percent share. But, mobile’s share of traffic was down 20 percent from Black Friday while its share of sales was down 21 percent.
5) Target‘s 40 million ‘error.’ This story moves onto the list and no, it’s not the first time hackers have gotten into credit card files. But 40 million? Is this a brand-buster for Target? We at BrandTech News think that Target has really mismanaged this fiasco – offering a lame 10 percent discount … they beefed it up a bit, but it was, as one writer put it: “… a puny effort.” News reports that a group in a Target parking lot were regaling in their recently purchased Christmas gifts – only to have police discovered they did so with purloined credit card #s. It sends a chilling message on how fragile the relationship there is between a brand’s success and the failure of technology. What will it take before you trust Target again? We’re still skeptical.
6) Changes at the top – Microsoft’s Ballmer moving on. Michael Dell takes control back. Personal brands linked to their technology heart/soul have been the hallmark of America’s technology history, starting with such iconic brands as Thomas Edison, Tom Watson, Bill Hewlett and David Packard. Their brands were synonymous with their technology. Ballmer leaves on a mixed note and no one has been named to replace him. Dell tries to reclaim his past glory days by taking his namesake company private. We believe that Apple, Google, and even Samsung have all whizzed past the former Whiz Kid. The future of the PC – as we used to know it before smartphones and tablets – is in doubt. And let’s not forget ‘golden boy’ Ron Johnson – former head of retail for Apple – who was unceremoniously disposed as CEO of J. C. Penney. Personal brands will be forever linked to their founders and managers over time … and to be sure, it’s a challenge to survive in these chaotic times. Perhaps Steve Jobs ‘got out’ at the right time – the pinnacle of his career and company? Time will tell. We’ll be watching.
7) Apple wins China Mobile. This is probably the biggest, best news Apple has had in a while. Their fall launch was successful to a point – rave reviews on the technology and upgraded products, but capturing China Mobile with 760 million users is the big (nix that, it was HUGE) win on the global stage. Surely this will propel Apple’s future onto solid ground in Asia, but on the homefront, Apple has some homework to do, in our view. The Apple story is two-edged – #1 – Apple has made up lost ground on its stock closing in on $600 after plunging below $400 in the past 52 weeks … .and Apple is now worth $503 billion, making it the most valuable company on the Planet. So the brand continues to perform well with investors, but the #2 worry is whether Apple has lost its creative and innovator brand status. Not everyone is saying this, but we suspect that Apple’s brand will suffer greatly in the winter rollout of new products if they don’t come up with something new, spectacular even. Is Tim Cook really something more than a good operator? He is that – but Apple customers and investors want more to insure the future.
8) Facebook and Twitter go public – check your calendar – both are healthy at year’s end! Brand turnaround for Facebook is our Comeback Player of the Year. Twitter’s early success is not assured for the longer term – too early to tell, but Facebook has legs and is riding high for now. Thank you, Mister Zuckerberg, for your vision. After exploding out of the box and hitting a high of $65, Twitter fell back to Earth just a tiny bit – losing 13 percent as of last week before New Year’s. Finding the economic models that is going to propel these two behemoths toward financial security seems to be the challenge – initially for Facebook they are fast figuring out the ad revenue model, and soaring at present. Twitter remains optimistic it will solve their revenue challenge in the near term. From a brand point of view, both Facebook and Twitter have ranked high with users … and investors, too. Our question for you: Do you visit Facebook every day? Do you tweet? Let us know your answers.
9) Microsoft buys Nokia. You’d think this was a ‘marriage made in tech heaven’ several years ago, especially when Nokia controlled the world’s mobile market share. But BrandTech News – and others – aren’t so sure this recently done marriage is going to last long. Nokia had already accepted a ‘live-in’ relationship with Microsoft when they committed to Windows Phone several years ago, and many thought this merger was on fast forward, not on pause. But it finally happened. And the Finnish folks couldn’t be happier since they were on a death march much like BlackBerry – too little, too late. But now with Microsoft’s Bank solidly behind the new couple (and publicly committed in splashy television ads), Nokia has another chance to again be a dominant player the mobile market. The brand still has plenty of strength in Europe and elsewhere, but we think it’s been critically diminished in the US market – perhaps irretrievably.
10) BlackBerry’s ‘death watch.’ Here’s the latest: executives jump ship; huge losses; burnt through $800 million this past year. We heard there were reports for hospice care until the new Foxconn deal in Indonesia put all talk of being ‘done’ on hold – temporarily, at least. Indonesia is a stronghold for BlackBerry, but the brand is so tarnished that it would take a miracle to turn it around. BrandTech News expects that BlackBerry will not be able to catch up with Android or iOS, and even Windows Phone in many markets. They will remain – forever – a second or third tier player. Not enough to survive. – RJL
by Robert Liljenwall
Perhaps the biggest ‘noise’ generated since Apple introduce its Fall Lineup of new devices and software was the iPad Air. It’s lighter, sleeker and faster. But its Retina display makes it so pleasing and attractive to the eye; one can’t help but want to plunge right into the screen.
I have an regular MacBook Air now and while I love its lightness and quickness, I don’t love the screen, and I am tempted to get an iPad Air. But then what? Honestly, with my current Air, I still enjoy the luxury of the lightest-weight laptop out there that can take all of my applications, like Microsoft Office – which has become a major battleground between Microsoft and Apple. As long as Microsoft is in the tablet business, they’re not going to let Apple have Office – regardless of how Microsoft’s sales for its Surface are not setting any sales records. Does this really go back to Jobs versus Gates “days”? Probably. Can you imagine the day Microsoft announces that they have struck an Office deal with Apple for the tablet market? My suspicion there was someone in Seattle who made the statement … “over my dead body.” (Bill is only 58, so don’t hold your breath.)
But getting back to the iPad Air. Macworld‘s Jason Snell (11/6) couldn’t say enough good things about the new iPad Air – “they made the best tablet better!” And while initial sales figures have not been released, according to Chinese suppliers, the initial sales response is nearly three to four times that of the iPad4 (a year ago) … which means that the iPad Air will most likely be the holiday’s premier, high-end gift under the tree.
With the world’s fastest processor – A7 – the iPad Air will most likely not sway too many iPad Mini owners to switch since it is expected that Apple will convert the Mini to a Retina display come early 2014. And then there’s the issue about “hand-ability” – the Mini is easier to hold with one hand versus the Air or regular iPad4.
But in the end, I know if I wander into the Apple store, I will be reaching for my wallet. I’m still unhappy with iOS7 and its pastel-colored, hard-to-read screens on its apps … but I’m patient. – RJL
by Robert Liljenwall
The journey is over. And it is now beginning. I have my 32GB Gray iPhone 5s in hand … and I am warming up to it. If you really want to experience it before you buy it, download iOS7 and you’ll get the (almost) complete look/feel, which takes time getting used to. I hated the color and font scheme of iOS7 but my passion to get the 5s overcame my dissatisfaction with the look I had on my 5 after downloading 7. Thought the pastel/light gray scale was very inappropriate and still do, but I am getting used to it. If you need glasses to read your screens on your iPhone, you’ll need them for sure on the 5s.
But back the journey. As you may have read, I canceled my phone order for a gold 32GB when I realized that I could actually get one on 5/20 at the Pasadena Apple store (instead of waiting until Oct. 8). They still had plenty of gray 32GB in stock … and the wait was a very tolerable 45 minutes in line. The Apple sales people were extremely helpful, courteous and gave me all the time necessary to feel comfortable with some minimal training. The entire transaction took less than 20 minutes, and it was seamless. I was, indeed, thrilled I made the right choice to stop by for a second time at the now infamous Pasadena store (where fights broke out early 5/20 with homeless stand-ins who were cheated by a rather unscrupulous creep who refused to pay them to stand in line for 10 hours). The line at Apple was 3 times longer than when I got inside … apparently word spread that they had some inventory – AT&T had only 64GB.
Why am I so passionate about this? Brand marketers love people like me – we put up with lines, some dissatisfaction with the product, and still plow forward through what most people think is insane. This is what Steve Jobs has done to me and millions more. Is the torch passed? I think so. Business Week had a great cover “What Us Worry?” – showing CEO Tim Cook and his two henchmen – Craig Federighi and Jony Ive. But like I said earlier, “it’s too early to tell.” I can tell you this: It’s fast. Video and photo quality are the best ever. Downloads are quicker. New pull-up that gives you immediate access to key programs is brilliant. And thank God for iCloud – all apps and programs perfectly preserved.
So far, the Journey with Apple has been a real treat, actually. Well that’s not totally true. My girlfriend, Julie, wasn’t particularly happy with me waking her up on 5/20 at 4:45 a.m. to run me down to the Apple store (some 5 miles away) to see how the line was (too long) … and she continued to comment on this ‘sacrifice’ during the day. “Yeah, but haven’t you had fun telling all of your friends about your ‘experience’?” “Of course …” So, I just provided her with some great story-telling fodder … so she benefited, too, wouldn’t you say? She agreed. – RJL
Our intrepid Brand Editor, Robert Liljenwall,
shares his Homeric quest for his very own iPhone 5s
Time: 9:22 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013
Called AT&T and they immediately had a message that if you wished to order an iPhone, “please go to our website, ATT.com.” Which I did. Discovered they had purchase options for every phone except the 5s and really no mention of it … all of their in-store phones were posted. I think they could have had a posting of the 5s with the notation that orders will not be taken until Sept. 20.
Time: 9:30 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013
Called Apple to find out the best way to order an iPhone 5s. ”Order it over the phone because we will probably run out of inventory Friday in the stores and the insure that you get the best chance of picking up a 5s right away is to order for store pick up. ” OK – that’s my path.
Time: 9:35 a.m. PDT – Sept. 19, 2013
Called Jeff Sandgren, my BTN partner to inform him of the ‘path’ (order on phone) … and then he hit me with – “what time zone are they talking about, New York time?” Hell, I don’t know.
Called them back immediately. ”Sir, it’s Pacific time.”
There you have it.
Time: 1:15 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013
When to call? Apple told me it is probably best to call ahead of midnight – long queue and you will probably not get connected right away. I’m slitting my own throat on this recommendation – so please wait until I get my iPhone 5s before you call. I will notify BTN immediately when I have confirmation.
Time: 1:23 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013
Talked with Apple again regarding the requirement to have iOS7 on your existing phone to transfer data to your new iPhone 5s or 5c. You don’t need it. I have downloaded it anyway onto my current iPhone 5, and not thrilled with the interface. But that’s my preference – at least I want to be able to read better-reading font that isn’t lightface. Let me know your opinion … Calendar is especially weak.
Time 3:49 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013
Been navigating the new iOS7 on my iPhone 5. Clean, slick but of course, you can’t read half of the content because the designer specified a light-face font that is used on all standard Apple applications (calendar, weather, mail, contacts). The trouble with their design, which will annoy anyone who even has 20/20 vision, will be that the type face, when used in a secondary treatment, is converted to color gray, and the font is then apparently screened back to 20 percent, which means, simply, you cannot read it quickly or easily. This is extremely annoying and I consider this a major design flaw that will endanger the acceptance of the new iOS7 interface. The Apple tech rep I just talked with said – “well that’s the way it is. It cannot be changed.” So there you have it. Be prepared to struggle with readability. I am a huge Apple iPhone fan, but this design alteration is going to cause the company problems.
Time: 7:15 p.m., PDT, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013
Apple Store – Pasadena. Frustrated with the interface look/feel, I decided to descend upon the Apple store in Pasadena (#2 store to open) … ranted a bit with an employee who had no idea what I was referring to … asked for manager. ”What’s the problem?” I told him gently and calmer this time: ”I find that the interface design on Calendar, Call screen and Address book, along with several other apps, were terrible – type is too light…you can’t read the thin-faced font that is 20 percent gray (like on the phone record for time called; calendar (Saturdays and Sundays).” I show him what I meant … and Steve (the Manager), agreed. He was calm, helpful sympathetic and empathized with me – “I agree with you.” He said he was a part-time app developer and already noticed this deficiency and had notified Apple about the color scheme. He said hopefully they will fix this soon … and I told him I think this is similar to the “map” fiasco … I would shoot the graphic designer responsible for this. There are numerous issues with color, backgrounds and contrasts – but I won’t go into this now. It’s set. Nothing we can do about it tonight. I’m still moving forward in buying the 5s tonight (after midnight), so I am not giving up on Apple. But I wasn’t the only one to complain – seems like there were about 45 other customers in Apple with the same complaint … we’re not alone. See you later … Are you listening Apple?
Time: 12:22 a.m., Friday, Sept. 20
Called Apple at 11:38 p.m. to check on “best time to call” and this lovely miss from Austin, TX . “Best to call around 11:58 … so you’re not held in the queue too long.” So I did. Slammed shut. ” … due to the high call volume …” Well, you know the drill. I even contemplated driving to the Apple store and waiting in line, but my late-in-life maturity kicked in. So, after 35 calls later, I’m in the queue now. Yes … I’m “in” … and I’ve been on this call for 8:05 minutes so far and counting. I’ve gone from depression to elation. (You see, how whip-sawed Apple treats us?) I’m not there yet … but hopeful. Keep you posted.
Time: 12:50 a.m., Friday, Sept. 20, 2013
I am somewhat elated – after 35 calls, holding for 21 minutes, I got through to an Apple rep in Portland who was very helpful. I did get a ‘gold’ 5s because I could … and 32GB … and with Apple Care, which came to $475. However, it is being shipped (as all orders are over the phone according to the Apple rep) … which means I get it in three weeks or so. Not happy about that. I honestly thought I would be jumping into my car and standing in line to get a phone, but the line was long already at 4 p.m. today and I thought it was crazy for me to head down there at midnight and stand there – perhaps if I was 30 again … but I’m more than twice that age now, and that was a deciding factor. I can wait … done it before. The point is: I do have a 5s coming. BTN will be covering the progress/success of iOS7 as well as how the new iPhones are selling. Apple was OK – and frankly, I’m getting use to iOS7 a bit more. As I was waiting to dial tonight, I called my friend Eric Kuhne in London who is also a big Apple fan – and he just raves about the new iOS7 and shares some of my concerns about the color scheme and font treatment. I will say this, the iOS7 is super-fast and I can’t wait to test out the other features when I get up Friday. It’s almost 1 a.m. here in Pasadena … so it will be another Day of Adventure with Apple.
Time: 7:28 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, 2013
This is the last communique regarding the pursuit of the iPhone 5s. I have it in hand. But it was a circuitous route, filled with intrigue, mystery, discovery, luck, and a couple of good Samaritans along the way. It is a happy ending … but the journey to finally have the iPhone 5s in my possession was also fraught with danger and some chaos.
To cut the 5s chase, I found that I could get “immediate gratification’ at the Pasadena Apple store who had 5s 32GB still in inventory Friday afternoon. I canceled my “midnight order” because it would be shipped in October … what were they thinking? I decided to drive by the Pasadena Apple store and only a relatively small crowd was milling about … were there 5s phones available? Yes, there were! I got in line and after 45 minutes, I was given a personal Apple “support” person to assist my purchase. I canceled my previous order … and the entire transaction for the 5s was completed in just a few minutes. An AT&T rep was there to assist … and I asked if she was busy…”not at all. Apple really has their act together this time around.” I was so impressed with the ease and seamless process. I was ‘in and out’ within 20 minutes. The Apple personnel were incredibly helpful. Yes, I believe the iOS7 system is plagued with design challenges – but I am really impressed with the speed, the intuitive insight they have designed into each program … and I am getting use to the graphics. At the end of this journey, I’m a very happy 5s owner. Powerful, sleek and smart. That’s the 5s. The Apple brand is “safe” for now … stay tuned. – RJL
A sage marketing professional said that when someone asks you how it’s going, a safe answer always is: “It’s too early to tell.” For no matter what the question is…this response always seems like a very intelligent answer, especially when commenting on Apple’s release of its new phones and iOS7 today. The cat was already out of the bag weeks ago, as reported in BTN, so today’s event was really anti-climactic. Anti-climactic for several reasons: 1) really, no new product was introduced and it’s been two years since Steve Jobs departed and we haven’t seen a new product, only updates and enhancements; 2) there was no home run – a bunch of singles and perhaps a double … and Apple left players on base; and 3) the ‘brand vote’ was negative – the stock didn’t go up, it went down – 2.28 percent loss in overall value today (9/10).
#3 is really not surprising. Carl Icahn touted Apple as a stock near $600 and there have been buy recommendations for $525 and $540 before the event … .so the fact that Apple went down is a bit depressing if you’re an Apple lover … “how could you leave me?” But the reality is that until Apple makes a major move with something new besides cosmetic and interior system improvements, people will question Apple’s vision. Yes, the new enhancements are quite nice – such as finger-print ID … faster processor … longer battery life … and better camera. And a cheaper phone will help Apple in China. But Apple does not appear to be a forward-thinker these days, and it pains me to write this. The Samsung people must have smiles on their face … although the iPhone 5C could give them trouble in China … but we’ll see.
It’s really too early to tell … until Sept. 20 when Apple starts putting the iPhone 5S and 5C in people’s hands. I will most likely trade up – always do because I love my iPhone and trust Apple…and that’s the core of the Apple brand – customers who love their products and trust them. Do Apple people want bigger screens? Perhaps, but frankly, I love the way my iPhone fits in my hand – and I have short fingers, so a wider phone would not help my experience. And besides, Apple’s legacy and quality of design simply cannot be matched by the Galaxy. Just can’t.
Apple was rumored to have the iTV in the wings – but it was a no-show. And when that does happen – I suspect next spring – it will restore some of the lost luster on the Apple brand. Yes, the Apple brand lost some buzz today … sorry to say. I remain loyal but am still waiting. A good friend, Robert Page, sent me this rather poignant quote from Steve Jobs this morning which bears passing along to you:
“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backward to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re going to try to sell it … A vision for Apple [is] ‘What incredible benefits can we give the customer?’ … I think that’s the right path to take.” – RJL
by Jeff Sandgren
Not one, but two new iPhones. Not one, but two chips. Not one flash element, but two. Not more pixels, but more light. Not a new screen size, but a new home button. Apple’s latest product release wasn’t as much about “… the right path to take …” as it was about the path not taken.
That being said, some of the technological innovations are noteworthy, if not necessarily as mind-blowing as Jobs-era Apple devotees have come to expect. From a technologist’s point of view, here were the sound moves:
So much for the Path Taken. Equally notable are the Paths Not Taken. Top of that list has to be the decision not to change screen size, or pixel count (and density). The number one comment I hear when people see an S4 for the first time is “look at that screen.” At an eye-pleasing 441 pixels per inch, the 1920X1080 S4 screen is like crystal meth for the eyes – once you’ve tried it, you’re pretty well hooked (see comparison of two a’s, Galaxy S4 is on the right). Time will tell if Apple succumbs to the chant of ‘You scream, I scream, we all scream for more screen.”
And there are many other me-too’s not pursued, like the lack of Near Field Communications. Instead, Apple has apparently chosen to go with a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solution in iOS 7, called iBeacon. Other cool features like the Galaxy’s Air View, Smart Scroll and Smart Pause also didn’t make the cut. One can’t dismiss the possibility that some of the choices are driven by recent patent wars. If so, it’s not exactly the customer-centric vision that Jobs espoused. – JTS
One of our preferred sources for updates on big brands is CoreBrand’s BrandPower reports. CoreBrand specializes in helping organizations understand, define, express and leverage their brands for measurable results. They offer practical and applicable brand research, valuation, strategy, identity systems and management. Independent since their founding 40 years ago, CoreBrand focuses on using brand as a business asset to improve corporate value.
We recently spoke with CoreBrand’s CEO, James Gregory, about their latest Brand Respect report, just published in August. Jim is the founder of CoreBrand, and the creator of the Corporate Branding Index®, an annual research survey designed to capture vital reputation and financial statistics for CoreBrand’s various measurement products. The Brand Respect report factors in ‘familiarity and favorability’ to identify the most-respected and least-respected brands, based on a survey of a large panel of business executives.
BTN: What common characteristics do you see in the Top Ten Most Respected Brands that place them so highly?
JG: If I could put it into a single word I would say “consistency” — Consistency of vision and communication, consistency of business processes, consistency of the culture within the company are all keys to getting the most out of your brand building efforts.
BTN: What do you think is keeping Apple out of the Top Ten, and/or what could they do to move to the head of the class?
JG: Apple is not universally loved except by those us who are brand zealots. Certainly Apple has been moving up over the years and is doing very, very well as a brand but it has not yet achieved the Top Ten status among the business leaders we survey.
BTN: Do you see a relationship between the Favorability decline and the rising influence of Millennials and their notorious lack of brand loyalty?
JG: Certainly something has been putting downward pressure on Favorability. We look at inflection points such as when did all of this start and we can trace it back to 2003-2004 when Sarbanes-Oxley was enacted holding management more accountable for their financial statements. We have not arrived at a conclusion as to the drivers of the decline — certainly Millennials may play a role in the decline of Favorability.
BTN: Your report mentions that Delta and Best Buy, while among the least respected, are on the rise. Can you offer any insights or examples on what they’ve been doing that may be contributing to that rise?
JG: The “Least Respected” list represented companies with the greatest divergence between Familiarity and Favorability. Best Buy is going through a major reinvention of its brand and we’re watching it closely to see if it has traction. Delta has nearly universal Familiarity but quite low Favorability for a company of that size. Delta’s merger with Northwest and their rebranding efforts are starting to show signs of improving the brand, but they have a long way to grow. Also, this was not a reflection about their customer service but rather about three attributes of Favorability including: Overall Reputation, Perception of Management, and Investment Potential. The airlines industry scores very poorly on Investment Potential and all companies within the airline industry could use more respect.