It gets said a lot – and not just by me – but it’s worth saying again: Apple is the best brand in the world. So when analysts are shocked that Apple INC is not only profitable in today’s economic climate but actually thriving, I’m just as stunned they didn’t see it coming.
What else would you expect? No brand does a better job of creating preference among consumers than Apple does.
It does everything right. Apple Inc has created a brand about who the customer is when they use that brand, a rule so many brands fail to follow. In this case, Apple consumers believe they are ahead of everyone else and want everyone else around them to know it. (That’s why the recent Microsoft’s ads hit so close to the bone – “Maybe I’m not cool enough for Apple” – even though those spots have been mocked.)
Apple is also so consistent. Even the packaging feeds into that sense of simplicity and innovation and ease of use. That’s another brand rule companies fail to follow through on. Even one action not on brand is a negative, people.
Apple has transformed the music industry (iPod) and the cell phone industry (iPhone). And it’s done it by following the rules of branding to the nth degree: Being about the customer (the one who looks ahead and likes to show off about it), positioning it against the competition (stodgy PC) and living the brand in every aspect of its business, not just marketing. (The marketing, though, is brilliant. The “I’m a PC” and “I’m a Mac” ads are brand marketing nirvana. This is who I am when I’m a Mac user. This is who I am when I use a PC.)
That’s why when Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, says Apple users are only buying a logo, it demonstrates that he doesn’t get it. What those users are buying is themselves – and the power of that approach is proved in the numbers.