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Shopper engagement sounds like ‘war.’ It is.

In Apple, brand-building, retail, Shopper Marketing on August 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

By Robert Liljenwall

Retail isn’t the same anymore.  Consumers are marching into their favorite retailer with their smartphones at the ready … these handy data companions are helping customers analyze retailer offerings and give focused advice on their shopping list where and when it’s not available from the retail shelf.  Shopper engagement is not managed by the retailer as much anymore as by the shopper, who is now in control.  Armed with new ‘shopping weapons’, today’s shoppers know exactly what they’re looking for. And if they don’t find what they want, they either move on or order online when they get home.  Shoppers are on the hunt, especially in these challenging economic times (and, yes, we know that recession was officially over in June 2009.)??????????????????????

It is not always ‘bad news’ that consumers are now empowered with more information than ever before.  Retailers and brand marketers who truly know their customers’ needs and wants are able to capitalize on the shopper desires.  And as Internet sales continue to rise in all sectors (e-commerce rose 18.4 percent through the first six months of 2013 compared to same period in 2012), we spent more than $64 billion online during the second quarter of this year according to the US Census Bureau, which tracks these things … an increase of 4.8 percent over same period in 2012 of total retail sales of $1.126 trillion for 2013 2Q.

So what does this all mean?  We know several things:  One out of four Americans work in retail services.  Retail sales is increasing … slowly at a rate of 0.09 percent for the second quarter, and, no, retail is not going away.  Also, we know that mobile commerce is not going to take over retail (projected that only 1 percent of total retail sales will be on mobile devices by 2016.) And according to latest consumer research, the average consumer uses 10.7 different sources to make a purchase decision.  It all doesn’t just happen in the store.  But we know that, too, don’t we?

But what is happening is that individual retailers are fighting to keep their customers happy and keep them buying “in-store.”  Best Buy is notable for its struggle against Amazon and was able to make a dent in their California market by forcing Amazon through legislation to pay sales tax, but is that enough?  Target kicked out Amazon Kindle products – each were tired of being “showrooms” for Amazon and its own products.

Enter POPAI – the Global Association for Marketing at Retail – which published their fourth edition this spring of “Marketing at Retail – Understanding, Influencing and Winning Today’s Shopper.”  POPAI itself has experienced a metamorphosis in its 76-year history – starting out as a vendor-driven point of purchase trade group attracting producers, retailers and brand marketers.  But as technology expanded across all fronts, POPAI today reflects the broad array of “interests” that serve the entire retail industry – both in-store and online.

Marketing At Retail

Marketing At Retail

In this 386-page text – the largest ever – you will certainly recognize the change in the retail and technology landscape.  New chapters on mobile commerce, social media, and technology advances and online integration with in-store merchandising.  You will find an expanded offering presented by 23 of the top professionals in marketing at retail.  This publication is also available on an e-Version.  You can order your copy at Hard copy sells for $39.95 and the e-Version for $35.95.

Starting in summer 2011, we found that in putting this publication together we wanted to have the most complete resource for everyone serving the retail industry – and subjects not previously covered such as mobile commerce and social media were going to play a major role.  Throughout the editing process, too, we were constantly updating the chapters because technology and new retail initiatives were coming into the industry and we wanted to insure our readers they had the latest.

We do recognize that retailers certainly know that their #1 goal is to gain customer insight.  Consumer behavior, as Dr. Dan Flint (University of Tennessee) points out, is changing as technology changes, because consumers now have more data available to them than ever before.  “They can make choices quicker and more accurately because they have current data at their fingertips.”  And the authors point out that retailers are learning how to provide better customer technology support inside their stores with Wi-Fi and local data points on what’s on sale and to guide them to their own personal shopping needs.

Speaking on behalf of the authors, I want to share with you one grand example of how stupid some major retailers can be.

I have a Macy’s revolving account and pay my monthly bill online.  When I made a ‘confirmed’ payment on my Macy app. via my iPhone, I noticed that the payment had not been subtracted from my account within a week’s time.  I called Macy’s only to learn from the Macy’s customer service rep that…”We’re sorry, but we’re finding that many payments made on the iPhone do not get recorded even though you receive a confirmation!”  “Well, is this new?”  “Oh, no, it’s been going on for some time.  We’re sorry.”

Sorry!!!  I couldn’t believe it. But wait … the nightmare continues … I went to make my payment online with my iMac, and then I can’t seem to get a confirmation, so I called customer service again. The Macy’s rep asks what kind of browser I am using.  “What do you mean?  I am using Safari.”  “Oh, sir, we don’t really support Apple.  Do you have a PC you can use?”  True story, so help me Steve Jobs.  Can you believe that a major retailer would allow this to happen?  My next purchases were with….guess who?  Amazon.  (We awarded Macy’s the Lemon Award for August.)

Retailers who don’t give the same kind of attention to detail and support that an Amazon gives to its customers is going to find defections growing.

Is there a ‘war’ going on?  You bet.  Retailers who understand the stakes are Disney, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Starbucks, In & Out Burger, Nordstrom’s and Apple, of course.  They have their customers in focus – they have gained keen customer insight, which should be the goal of every brand marketer and retailer.  There are many great retailers who are embracing the “new, smarter shopper” and are eager to support them online and in-store with technology that enables them to easily get the ‘stuff’ they want.

Shoppers have more choices than ever … and when retailers make it difficult to do business with them … you lose them, perhaps forever. You have to win the shopper battles to win the war! – RJL

[Note: both editors of BrandTech News are also contributing authors to the POPAI textbook, and Robert Liljenwall is Co-Editor]

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Chicken soup ain’t good for the Apple soul

In Apple, Healthcare, Shopper Marketing on March 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

Samgyetang, a Korean chicken soup

Image via Wikipedia

Well, excitement filled the air again last week when I accidentally spilled chicken soup on my MacBook Pro while recovering from the flu.  A late 2009 model, my MacBook Pro was toast.  Gone.  Dead.  Logic board destroyed.  No matter how good chicken soup is for your soul, it’s absolutely not good for your laptop, Apple or not.

I had little time to decide – heading out for a 10-day trip back East in two days, it was now or never. And I soon discovered that sending my computer to the Apple hospital would take almost a week, and $1,240.  Soup cost me $1.99, laptop repair would be about the cost of a new computer.

Disgusted with my own stupidity and lack of dexterity, I looked around.  Surely in SteroidLand, there was a solution waiting for me.  Ah, ha, the MacBook Pro Air – sleeker, slicker, lighter, sexier, and actually, younger (a 2012 model vs. 2009).  And it only cost $9 more than my rehabbed three-year old sister.  After confirming that this was the right decision with two very helpful Apple customer service reps, it was a done deal.  And since I had recently put iCloud (via Lion) on my iPhone 4s, the migration was instantaneous:  I transferred my contact list, calendar, and over 20,000 emails instantly onto my new Air.

I was such a happy camper, and as I was walking out the store with my new Air under my arm, a young man was walking with me as we approached the front door.  I stopped and asked him:  “Did you buy anything?”  He answered, “No.”  “Well, you know, the alarm goes off if you don’t buy anything.”

For just a second I knew he thought I was serious.  He gave me a quizzical look, which quickly faded to relief and a broad grin as I was smiling, too.  “Naw, just kidding.”  He seemed relieved.  And I was relieved, too.  I was a very happy Apple camper, on steroids, again!

Let me see? A new iPhone 4s, a new Air in the past two months.  Yup, I’ve done my job of helping Apple this past quarter – along with millions of others around the Planet.  I just can’t leave an Apple store without buying something.    — RJL

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What is the easiest way to build a brand?

In Apple, brand-building, Disney on August 23, 2011 at 11:46 am

By Robert Liljenwall
Outdoor bulletins (nee Billboards) are one of the surest and fastest ways to build brand awareness in any market – especially in Southern California where it’s the Billboard Capital of the World – with millions of cars (and consumers) on the road practically every minute of every day who pass by these Advertising Wonders.  You can build brand awareness quickly and cheaply in Southern California – with its 28 million residents – by purchasing strategically positioned large, outdoor bulletins on key freeways like the 405, 110, 5, 210 and 60 in the Los Angeles region.

They aren’t cheap per board – some running over $45,000 per site, per month – but the CPM is relatively cheap – in the pennies/M – compared to television.  And you can get complete coverage within a short time frame (like 30 days) of practically 100% of the market.

Everyone knows that you never walk in California – you drive, whether it’s for lunch 60 miles away or to go to the corner super market just steps from your home.  Californians are so lazy and auto-dependent; they love to soak up the latest billboards just to keep their minds awake while in hour-long traffic jams on the not-so-efficient freeways.  Of course, you know that you cannot put more than seven words on a billboard and have it understood, right?  But there are more agencies than not  and dim-witted clients who just love to jam just about everything including the kitchen sink into the 18×48 billboards – Look at all that empty space? Of course, at 80 miles an hour, you can probably just read three or four words.

Notable brand marketers who know their outdoor stuff – Apple (who else?), Anheuser Busch,  Toyota, Audi, Coca Cola, Heineken, Hollywood studios….they are pros at putting up eye-catching ads with not a lot of copy – they just want to sell the brand.  Outdoor advertising is a brand-building medium that remains hugely popular with advertisers.  It’s cheap, efficient, and proven to be remembered with consumers.

The latest technology, of course, is four-color process, large vinyl printed sheets that stretch across the outdoor boards.  Long gone are the famous billboard artists who use to hand paint all the artwork – including the photo-like artwork that was an “art” by itself.  I remember when we did the Disney characters on our billboards in the 1960s and 1970s….it was all original art from our style-guides given to these very talented artists.  They loved working on the Disney characters because they admired the art and creativity.

Today, this art has all been replaced by Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.  It’s mechanical but efficient and spot-on accurate.  I love the simplicity of the Apple billboards – no copy, just the outline of a dancer with the iPod in their ears.  Clean and simple.

This brings me up to the attached artwork (below) – I was speaking in Mexico City this week (August 15) for Diffusion Paramerica – who is one of Mexico’s largest billboard companies – and they surprised me with place five billboards around Mexico City with my photo and subject matter on it – and also had five taxi cabs with my mug on it, too.  Surprised?  I think so.  It’s a first for me.  –  RJL

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Apple Tops BrandZ’s ‘Most Valued Brands’ Study

In Apple on May 22, 2011 at 8:28 am
Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

by Robert Liljenwall

Apple has now climbed to the top of the World’s Most Valuable Brands, according to the latest study published by mega-agency WWP in their 6th Annual BrandZ list earlier this month.  WPP companies, which include some of the most eminent agencies in the business, provide national, multinational and global clients with a broad range of marketing and advertising services.  Their annual BrandZ study, conducted by Millward Brown, measures the brand equity of thousands of global “consumer facing” and business-to-business brands, based on interviews of over 2 million consumers globally.

When you scan the Top 100, you’re not really surprised by the rankings.  The “usual suspects” remain strong and relevant in 2010.  For example, behind Apple comes Google, IBM, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Coca Cola, AT&T, Marlboro, China Mobile (a newcomer to the Top 10), and General Electric.

It’s important to immediately point out that brands are in good shape: While the overall recovery has been tepid, the report states, the value of the world’s best brands grew at a considerably faster rate than what we saw in 2009. Compared with an overall improvement of 13% in the world’s equity markets during 2010, the best brands grew their value 30% faster, registering a 17% increase since last year.

Inside BrandZ

The BrandZ report is a brand goldmine – full of segmented rankings and data on a variety of how the Top 100 brands are connected within their categories – while pulling out insights on trends, emerging markets, and how ‘we’ – collectively – are coping with the merging of brands and technology.

For example, many of us would never suspect that would become a more valuable brand than the world’s largest retailer – Walmart – but this year, WPP has put the world’s largest “online” retailer ahead. Who would have thought just a few years ago that Apple would be the world’s #1 most valued brand?

It should be noted that Interbrand’s Top 100 Global Brands competes for attention with the BrandZ ranking although its criteria and methodology is different.  One of the key unique elements of this methodology is the ‘Trust-R’ assessment, which looks at the relationship between trust and recommendation.   WPP finds that there’s a high correlation between high Trust-R and bonding, which drives sales.  The other unique element is the ‘Value-D’ assessment, which seeks to measure the gap between the consumer’s desire for a brand and the consumer’s perception of the brand’s price.

The Top 100 Brand List focuses on “actual monetary (quantifiable) contribution to the brand’s success.” For example, the BrandZ ranking notes that the Coca Cola brand value is based solely on the “value of Coca Cola” – and not all of the other company’s 3,500 brands owned/managed/distributed, such as Fanta and Minute Maid. Apple’s brands, on the other hand, are based on its broad monolithic brand structure where all of its products are considered part/parcel of the Apple brand.

Our Observations

As BrandTech News reviews the comprehensive rankings in the Top 100 Most Valued Brands, it is clear that technology brands continue to dominate – 12 out of the top 20 brands are technology companies.

Facebook, just seven years old, made it to the Top 100 (35th) in a meteoric rise and with 500+ million registered users already – of whom 50% visit daily – is quickly morphing into the alternative Internet where it has become the premier connection for brands, consumers, and everything promotional. Only 30% – 150 million – of the users are in the United States.

But what is propelling Apple has been the phenomenal success of the iPhone and the iPad. Before the launch of iPad2, there were 15 million iPads around the globe because Apple made it available on Verizon and distributed through a bank of hungry retailers. Apple expects to sell 30 million iPad2 this year – giving it a dominating 80% market share in the tablet market. And just how in the world will the other 100 tablet makers share the remaining 20%?

What does this success breed? Apps – and lots of them. Today there are 350,000 apps created just for Apple and another 250,000 for the Android. What does this do for the merging of brands and technology? Consumer obsession, frenzy – on steroids.

Another key point in the brand study was that we are seeing an upward trend in all surveyed sectors in the study: All 13 product sectors measured in the BrandZ Top 100 ranking appreciated in overall brand value – which didn’t happen in 2009, when only four of the sectors grew. To some extent, this bodes well for 2011 and beyond if we truly believe the recession was officially over in 2009. Since these WPP surveys cover events of the previous year (2010), the ongoing Middle East unrest and higher oil prices are of course not reflected in these rankings. The leading sectors in brand value growth was insurance (137% increase), fast food (22%), luxury (19%), technology (18%), and apparel (10%). These were followed by financial institutions, beer, cars, soft drinks, personal care, retail, oil & gas, and telecom providers.

The top retail brands were Amazon, which rose 37% in brand value last year alone. Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour, Target, eBay, Home Depot, ALDI, Auchan, IKEA, Lowes, Marks & Spencer, Best Buy, Costco, Lidi, Kohl’s Asda, Sam’s Club, Sainsbury’s and Safeway. The growing use of mobile devices, pre-shopping on the Internet, and discriminating shoppers who are more deliberative before the purchase decision – have made shopper marketing much more challenging. Lower prices weren’t always enough – shoppers wanted a better shopping experience, and private labels grew but not at the rate they had during tougher economic times.

Walmart tinkers and retreats
According to BrandZ, Walmart executed a course correction to reassert price leadership after alienating some of its US customer base by reaching for affluent consumers with edited merchandise displays and less cluttered, more efficiently run stores. The previous effort, Project Impact, was intended to hold on to higher-income shoppers.  Walmart decided in 2008 to reduce POP displays from 700 to 300 per store, and to eliminate 15% of the items carried in store. This perceived, less-cluttered look was to give Walmart the chance to expand and clean up their aisles – not necessarily appealing to the ‘value-happy’ customers.   Instead, at stores open for a year or more, sales fell 1.5% in its second quarter, ending July 31, 2009. Third-quarter sales dropped 0.5%, followed by a 2% retreat in the fourth quarter.  In March of 2010, Walmart reversed course to correct this trend.

On a significant note, Walmart is in the throes of negotiating to buy Massmart Holdings in South Africa, and if that occurs, many predict that Walmart will have a positive impact on improving local economies wherever they go on this continent. Is Walmart a game changer? We think so.

Meanwhile, Dollar Stores won shoppers by tinkering with range and promoting low prices (they are the fastest growing retailer segment in the US today). Target countered the high-price perception of its trendy approach to discount retailing, expanding food selection to drive shopping trips and increase basket size.  The largest global brands continued their expansion into China and other fast-growing markets such as India and Brazil. Each of these countries has brands that are now solidly placed in the Top 100 Brands.

This 52-page report (which you can download at ) can be overwhelming in the amount of data it has collected. In conclusion, however, we congratulate WPP on another great report – and while it’s a ‘good-news’ report for brands, retailers, and technology providers (compared to the previous two years – we continue to be optimistic about our retailing future – where it occurs.         RJL

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A Love Story

In Apple on January 8, 2011 at 1:00 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

We met three-and-half years ago in the summer of 2007.  It wasn’t exactly love at first sight – I thought she was very thin – I had been used to more robust, full-bodied types, and I found out quickly that if I touched her in the wrong place, all sorts of hell would break loose. But she had a pleasant, rather intriguing face – and she had so many facets to her personality that I’m still trying to figure her out.  She was a stunner, though; that is for sure.  She just overwhelmed me from the beginning, and I’m still trying to understand this lady.  She is so terrific.

Of course, after we got to know each other, we became inseparable.  We would take long walks together…no matter when I went, she would go with me.  I would panic if I didn’t know where she was at all times.  She was soon becoming the love of my life.  We went everywhere together – to the movies, on vacations, and soon, we became very, very intimate.

Naturally, as our relationship developed, we slept together every night.  I soon found out that I would panic if she wasn’t next to me – even when I was away from home.  I remember when I couldn’t locate her…where was she?  Did she leave me?   I thought I was getting a bit obsessed about this new relationship. But I had become so dependent on her.  Was I becoming obsessed with her?  I have never felt this way about anyone, and it began to worry me.  Even my friends noticed that I was becoming obsessed.

But we had so much fun together.  Even in the craziest moments, I could talk to her about anything.  She was so smart – she seems to have the world at her fingertips…and she would give me answers in an instant…

I loved the way she looked…compared to everyone else in my previous life, she was just a beauty – her face and body were so delicious and she could change faces in an instant…making me laugh, cry, or become more thoughtful.  She had so much talent and knowledge…

I found out quickly how addicted I was to her…she always gave me the time of day, and she was an incredible help to me on everything in my life – my business, my family and friends…she seem to have this uncanny knack for keeping track of my chaotic lifestyle, and even when I wasn’t the least bit interested in her, she would demur, patiently waiting for me to come to her.

And I always did.

She had her bad sides, though.  What drove me nuts sometimes is that I would be talking on the phone, and if she was nearby, she would cause havoc with my phone calls by hanging up on me.  At first, I blamed her for these rude acts, but I soon realized that it wasn’t all her fault.  It was the phone carrier of all things!

She was a slippery devil, too.  If I didn’t treat her right, she would literally slip away, out of view…where did she go?  I remember looking for hours at a time to find her…I would become more and more desperate.

I couldn’t understand why she would disappear if she loved me like I loved her.  “Silly,” she said, “I was always near you…you just get all wrapped up sometimes and didn’t remember where I was.”

Every year, she would want a new look…”I always have to be my best for you, darling.” I understood that.  So every summer, she would disappear for a few hours and then re-emerge as this refreshingly new lady in my life.  It was amazing – she would be able to do all these new things just to please me.  Just me! She seemed to know exactly what I wanted, because when I complained about anything, she just made a note of it and Voila! She fixed it.  She always kept her promises doing this or that.

It’s getting late, and I have to run.  I wanted to finish this little love story before I go.  She is sitting right next to me as I write this…and I am so very, very happy.  She is the sexiest, classiest lady I know.  She is full of life, and always at my side, giving me support no other can ever give me.  She is so special.  I truly love her.

Of course, I’m talking about my iPhone4.  Julie, my girlfriend, thinks that she has definitely been replaced as #1.  Not true!  My friends at Apple have always kept their promise…and as a devoted – even downright biased iPhone user/owner – I’m hooked, obsessed, and so thrilled she is in my life.

She is the Apple of my eye…uh, both of them!                    RJL

©Copyright 2011 Robert Liljenwall.  All rights reserved.

Phat Phace, Phetus and the Golden Apple

In Apple, brand-building on October 19, 2010 at 3:20 am

Look closely.  What do you see?  First, it’s a graffiti image by the street art impresario known as “Phetus”.  In fact, this is his trademark image, the “Phat Phace”, which according to his website “… has been infamously scrawled across the globe.”  And when we say trademark, we mean that literally.  That’s what else you see, the even more infamous circle R that denotes an actual registered trademark.

Phetus and his “phriends” hail from “Strong Island” NY, where their artistic expressions began by decorating public surfaces (i.e. graffiti), before broadening to more commercial aspirations including tee-shirts, hoodies, hats, skate decks, comics (Concrete Immortalz), graphic novels and, ultimately, sculptural pieces and paintings.

“We wanted to get into all these things,” Phetus explained with a heavy sigh, but we just didn’t have the funds to launch any of it the right way.”

When we found Phetus and the Elite Gudz group, they were very definitely doing it the right way, with a spacious corner at Comic Con, complete with comfy leather couches from which passers-by could admire the artwork and listen to a series of in-booth guest artists rap and spin their tunes.  It was a destination location on the show floor.  So where’d the coin come from?

The woebegone look on Phetus’ face at this point turned to a broad grin as he held up his iPhone and began to shake it.  On the screen was the image of a can of spray paint, branded with the Concrete Immortalz logo.  And sure enough, as he shook it, it made the distinct rattling-ball-bearing sound of a real can.  Then he picked out a suitably urban background, chose his color, and began to spray with the usual fluent graffiti motions.  Shhhhh went the phone.  Lo and behold (and public nuisance free) his masterpiece appeared onscreen.

‘Graffiti Spray Can’ is a free app store download, which in the few short months since its launch has already garnered over 4,000,000 downloads, making it – according to Phetus – the #3 free app on iTunes.

While others struggle with monetization schemes, Graffiti Spray Can simply added an advertising feature to the top of the screen and, shake/shake/shake, money sprayed out.  Enough money for merchandise, promotions like this, and a splashy intro for the artists’ latest project, the elite movable cubes (“you know,” said Phetus, “e=mc cubed!”), artistic originals that you can browse and buy at .

Phetus wouldn’t smile for our camera.  He’s got to watch his street cred image.  But trust us, beneath that bohemian ennui is a happy capitalist iTunes success story. So we tip our cap to Phat Phace (just not a Yankee cap, heaven forbid) and wish that he may, to quote Yeats, “… pluck till time and times are done / the silver apples of the moon / the golden apples of the sun”.

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Steve Jobs dips into Apple’s brand equity to answer critics….

In Apple, brand-building on July 30, 2010 at 6:40 pm
Image representing Steve Jobs as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

by Robert Liljenwall

How strong is Apple‘s brand?  Count the numbers – more than 3.3 million iPads sold in the past two months….Apple is selling the new iPhone4 at the rate of 4 million per month….Apple becomes the nation’s second largest corporation (the largest tech company ahead of Microsoft) in terms of valuation, second only to EXXON Mobile.  Overall, between the iPhone, iPad, and iPodTouch, Apple is selling 6.85 million IOS devices a month or 42 percent more than Android.  This is a battle of classic proportions between Apple and Google, and it ain’t over yet.

But let’s talk about brand equity=.  How does any company deal with adversity and controversy about its behavior or product failure?  We can all take lessons from British Petroleum on how NOT to conduct crisis management.  Also, we have learned from Johnson & Johnson’s masterful handling of the Tylenol scare in February 1986 when a woman was reported dead from cyanide poisoning in Tylenol capsules.  Johnson & Johnson immediately pulled the product from all shelves.  It was, indeed, a brilliant and gutsy move to take their most popular brand off the shelf.  It preserved their brand leadership for the past 25 years.

What did Steve Jobs do when their antennae wasn’t working the way they said it would work on the new iPhone4?  He held a much-anticipated, well-attended news conference.  No recall.  No apologies.  He explained this was a very common problem with all cell phones and his expertly designed Keynote slides demonstrated that the actual failure was so minor that it was within so-called industry standards.  Steve did offer a free phone guard to keep your sticky, electric-generating fingers and hands off of his iPhone so the antennae would work.  Besides, he said, all cellphones have the same problem. There, take that!  And what did his competitors say:  “Hogwash!”.

This is what we call in the brand business – a brand equity withdrawal.  If your company has a strong brand – you can get away with this once in awhile – not all the time, of course.  But Apple has been performing so spectacularly these past few years, it is hard to argue with Steve Jobs or Apple’s overall financial (re: brand) performance. The numbers don’t lie:  These are consumer votes, and they not only vote with their feet, but with their wallets.  Apple stores are grossing over $4,000 a square foot around the world (average) and it’s the highest of any retailer in the world.

When you go into an Apple store, as I did yesterday to finally pick up my iPhone4, I was amazed that in the middle of a workday, the place looked like the character shop on Main Street at Disneyland.  (I can’t recall someone asking Steve Jobs after his news conference….”where you going?”  “To an Apple Store!”).  Every spare experiential station was full with people standing in line to try out the new iMac (just came out) or the iPad or the iPhone.  Gold cards were flying out of wallets.

Let me tell you a cute story….After getting my new iPhone4 activated (“do you need a bag?” the kid in the blue shirt asked me?  “No.”  I wanted to show off the new iPhone4 box it came in).  I’m walking out the store – hated to leave, but just before I reach the doors, this young gentleman is walking next to me.  I look at him, and whispered…”Did you buy anything?”  “No, I didn’t.”  “Well,” I said, “you know, don’t you, that the alarm goes off if you didn’t buy anything.”  He stopped and looked at me, surprised at what he had heard.  I stopped, too, cracked a faint smile, and we walked and laughed our way out of the Apple store in Pasadena.  Me?  I had my new iPhone4 and damn happy about it.  The kid?  He’ll be back.  He told me Mom had to approve it first.

Apple’s brand equity?  There is probably no company on the Planet right now who has more equity in their brand than Apple.  And in Steve Jobs.  If you want a good, ol’fashion cry about the success of free enterprise, read Fast Company’s current article on Apple.  You’ll find out why Apple epitomizes the best of American ingenuity, creativity, business success, and why the Apple culture is to be emulated.

OK, so you think I’m biased.  I am.  I admit it.  But what was amazing to learn that my perception of the Apple brand is that its customers are similarly attracted to other classy, sophisticated brands.  I teach Brand Management at UCLA Extension and we talked about the Apple customer – what are their values?  What other brands would they be attracted to?  We came to the conclusion that an Apple iPhone user is the same type of person who would want to own a Porsche.  Fast Company came to the same conclusion.  I used to own a Porsche….but my needs have changed.  I own a Toyota Tundra (small ouch) to pull my Airstream (another fabulous brand)….but I damn sure am going to own Apple’s latest iPhone.  Can’t do without it.  And neither can the other millions who couldn’t wait to get their hands on the new iPhone.  If anyone knows that, it is Steve Jobs.  He knows his customers.  He has turned a “want” into a “need”.

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The good. The bad. The ugly.

In Apple, brand-building on May 12, 2010 at 10:46 pm
Image representing iPhone 3G as depicted in Cr...
Image via CrunchBase

by Bob Liljenwall

Managing brands in these tough, economic times can challenge even the best companies in keeping customers happy and, well, just keeping customers. According to recent surveys, 35% of brand loyal customers are willing to switch to a competing brand for trial – price and incentives being the major motivators.  So if you’re a Brand Manager counting on “all” of your loyal customers, better think again.  It doesn’t take a lot to move the brand needle in the wrong direction if something goes wrong with your brand.

Take for example, the bad – Toyota.  One of the world’s best and strongest brands that treasures its broad, loyal customer base – Toyota has been consistently rated by J.D. Powers as the premier automobile manufacturer. And then, Bam! — the pedal/electronic crisis affected millions of cars in the US, but Toyota buried their head in the sand by denying there was a problem. Day after day, Toyota couldn’t escape the front page and they spent more time denying they had a problem than in fixing the problem.  There are some wonderful lessons here in how not to manage a brand during a crisis.  As a Toyota owner, I never heard a peep from them for four months.  Amazing.

And then there was Tiger.  While he didn’t deny his behavior, he fell off the Planet in seclusion for four months – finally emerging to finish a respectable fourth in The Masters.  He could have left it at that but he just couldn’t help himself and acted like a petulant kid who didn’t get his way.

Again, a lesson in how not to suck up to your brand loyal customers.  But he apologized, missed the cut last week, and is finding humble pie part of his daily diet. We hope so.

On the other hand, there is the good.  Take Apple.  If there is a company on the Planet Earth with a stronger, more respected brand than this Cupertino-based firm, we can’t find it.  Profits were up 90% for the first quarter, and they sold more iPhones in Quarter 1 in 2010 than they did in Quarter 4 in 2009.  That has never happened.  Oh, in case you didn’t notice, their successful launch of the iPad was a smash sell out.  Let me just say this:

When you go into the Apple store, just leave your gold card at the front counter and let them extract every dollar they can from your wallet.  They’re good at that.  You just want to give them all your money.  Every product they create is, well, just so innovative, smartly designed, and oozes with perfection.  And ya think they left that iPhone on the bar on purpose?  I wouldn’t put it past them….didn’t hurt them a bit in terms of their next generation iPhone. I know – I’ve had every one of them and just love them. Apple makes few mistakes these days in managing their brands.

There is another good-guy story, and it has to be Phil Mickelson’s masterful Masters win at Augusta.

Playing against Tiger was not the story we might have hoped it would be – but rather, the way Phil managed his ball around the course, pulling away from the field, and then sinking a birdie on the final hole, and embracing his wife Amy (who came for the final day while recovering from cancer) and their kids after winning his third green jacket. I’m not the Phil fan many are, but I couldn’t help but cry at the incredible, real love story that equaled a great sport story.  TV doesn’t get any better than this.

And finally, the ugly.  Goldman Sachs, the untouchable, was vilified and torn apart on Capitol Hill for their scandalous behavior — not only being indicted for fraud, but handing out more than $5 billion in bonus money and not ashamed about it.  Their brand continues to be strong (they have the gold), but from America’s heartland, they epitomize the worst of Wall Street brands these days.

The good (Apple and Phil), the bad (Tiger and Toyota), and the ugly (Goldman Sachs) are with us every day.  Their brands are not dead, not by a long shot.  One thing about strong brands, if you have built a solid and loyal customer base, they will stick with you through the worst of times.  Johnson & Johnson proved that with the Tylenol episode.  So have many other companies.  I suspect that all of these brands will survive well — they’ve done it before.  Brand equity is everything — and we have learned you have to manage it well every day.  Customers are fickle, especially when they are facing tough economic decisions.  Good brands survive.  Bad brands won’t.

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