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Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

Finally! Microsoft wakes up.

In Apple, Microsoft, mobile & tablets, Technology on March 28, 2014 at 6:48 am

MS Office comes to your iPad

by Robert Liljenwall

Office on iPadThe 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 

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Top Ten Brand/Technology Stories for 2013

In Apple, brand-building, Healthcare, Microsoft, Steve Jobs on December 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm

Big Brand Hits and Misses From 2013

by Robert Liljenwall

Top TenIt’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

iPad Air’s Magic Ride

In Apple, innovation, mobile & tablets on November 8, 2013 at 3:37 pm
Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

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

Looking back and forward on 5s Journey

In Apple, brand-building, iPhone, retail, Steve Jobs on September 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm

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.

iphone-5s-loveWhy 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

My Perilous Path-to-Purchase the iPhone 5s

In Apple, iPhone on September 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm

RJL official shotOur 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

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Apple debuts new stuff … is it enough?

In Apple, mobile & tablets, Samsung, Steve Jobs on September 10, 2013 at 11:11 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

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). Touch ID

#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

Apple’s Latest iPhones: The Parallel Paths Taken

In Apple, mobile & tablets, Samsung, Steve Jobs on September 10, 2013 at 11:06 pm

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.new iPhones

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:

  1. Splitting the line. Dividing iPhone 5 into the C and S lines is good technology – and good business. There’s a big market out there for those who aspire to flash the Apple logo, but not pay the premium price. The choice of a polycarbonate shell is also smart, keeping down the cost while preserving the premium brand value of the upscale model. The big question here is: is it cheap enough?
  2. 64-bit microprocessor. The A7 is a smart move, and a smart response from Apple to quad processors like Samsung Galaxy S4’s Snapdragon 800 quad processor. With iOS 6 and the upcoming 7, Apple has more control over their micro architecture than Android has, so it makes more sense to unleash the power of 64-bit processing while others add more cores. The big question here is: is it fast enough?
  3. The Motion Coprocessor. A very interesting response to Samsung’s Galaxy Gear watch, on a lot of levels. It makes sense in the way that a graphics coprocessor does, and the combination of the now-ubiquitous sensors of acceleration, gyroscope and compass into a continuously monitored and integrated sensor array, complemented by the CoreMotion API, should thrill developers almost as much as the A7. And Nike’s immediate jump onto this bandwagon with the Nike+ Move app is probably a great first example. The big question here is: is it a precursor for an iWatch?
  4. Bigger aperture and pixels, dual flash. As with more processing cores, so with pixels in digital photography; the strategy of competitors has been to add more in order to improve performance. But optics is optics, and the simple science is that if you can smack more photons into a photoreceptor, you theoretically ought to be able to goose the performance. A lot of the camera features touted in the new iPhone 5 were “catch-up” (e.g., slow motion capture and burst mode), but improving the optics and the equally bright move of having dual-toned flash elements that deliver the optimal ‘heat’ for the lighting are smart steps toward better photography. The big question here is: will users see the difference?
  5. Touch ID home button. Apple’s acquisition last year of AuthenTec made this almost a foregone conclusion, but it’s still a great example of the Jony Ive’s mantra of “more useful and more elegant” and of the blurring of hardware and software in subservience to the user experience. The iTunes purchase authorization is also a no-brainer smart move in this regard. The big question here is: is there an alternate sign-on for icy cold outdoor winter fingers? We assume so.

display comparisonSo 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

BrandTech News Q&A with CoreBrand CEO James Gregory

In Apple, brand-building on September 3, 2013 at 9:00 pm

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.Jim Gregory 01 (Square)

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.

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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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 Amazon.com 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 www.wpp.com ) 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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