Apple’s mistakes make me mad

I am beginning to detest this new fad coming out of Apple Inc and Apple’s mistakes are making me mad.

Apple's mistakes are bad for the brand
So magical no one can get them…

It appears with every new release that’s about to hit the market, something backfires badly. Quite frankly, I am tired of hearing that products planned for release are suddenly not ready. Consider the AirPods which were originally slated to be released alongside the iPhone 7. Still no sign of them. To my chagrin, the Apple website still claims the Bluetooth headphones are “Coming Soon.” It’s been saying that for a while. Bad news for the AirPods though, as this isn’t the only problem the device is going to face (http://www.stealingshare.com/2016/09/08/apple-airpods-wont-succeed/).

I remember when I bought my iPad Pro; similarly, you could only get portions of the device upon its release. Devices were available but keyboard cases were a bear tough to find and the accompanying Apple Pencil was next to impossible to purchase.

I just can’t stand this type of fictitious marketing or the inability for a company to be properly prepared when it says so.  And Apple, one of my most respected brands, is one of the worst at this practice.

Issues with the new software update are par for the course.

When I read that the latest IOS update, 10.1.1, was wreaking havoc on Apple devices; I wasn’t surprised. Nope, not in the slightest. Apple's mistakes are becoming too frequentRather, I was annoyed. Once again, Apple only had the finish line in mind and missed the small details along the way.

You simply cannot miss these.

Right now, Apple remains one of, if not the strongest brand in the world. As it is ruler in its class, it has some wiggle room when it makes mistakes. The fans will most likely remain fans and work around the speedbumps. But, this won’t always be the case. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are all making tremendous technological leaps and bounds; and each has devices that now have just as much “cool” factor as Apple’s do. Respectfully, the ill-preparedness of Apple will catch up with it soon and it should take heed In the words of the legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

American Airlines Rebranding Failure

American Airlines rebranding is an example of all that is wrong with branding

American Airlines RebrandingThe American Airlines rebranding initiative earlier this year is an example of what pisses me off with branding companies and the drivel they sell to clients.

It was a total waste of money. Worse still, it was a squandering of an opportunity to lead and grow.

Here is a little background for any of you who don’t follow the airline industry as closely as I do (read a market study on the industry here if you are interested).

American Airlines Rebranding
The old American Airlines logo

The merger

American Airlines merged (or purchased depending on your point of view) with US Airways.

American Airlines rebranding was necessary because the old American Airlines company was having a difficult time staying afloat.

It had to go through reorganization just to continue in the business. US Airways was not in any better shape.

Regulators approved the merger because it was believed that, without the acquisition, American Airlines would not be a viable company anymore. It was believed that having American go belly-up would be a bad thing for consumers (the flying public).

But who cares about you and I? What it really meant was that, as consumers, we would have less competition and fares would increase as a result. Same thing happened when United and Continental merged and when Delta and Northwest did the same.

The flying public is not a consideration in this equation, the viability of a large corporation was.

Here is the real problem with the American Airlines Rebranding

American Airlines RebrandingThe industry needs to rethink its business model and the airlines need to redefine their brands. Public sentiment hates the airlines.

They have become unreasonably difficult to use, are costly and unreliable. The passenger is always on back burner.

If your flight is delayed, they appolgize but it turns out to be only your problem. “Please stay in the gate area” even if the flight is delayed an hour or more.

You are captive to the gate because, if the airline should find another plane to run the route, they might take off before the projected delayed estimate— and if you are late, well screw you.

American Airlines had an opportunity at the time of merger to redefine its brand, change its business model and flip the playing field upon which all the copycat competitors compete.

It SHOULD have rebranded. Instead they went to Futurebrand and got a new logo.

A new logo is NOT Rebranding

Who is to blame for this? American Airlines should bare much of the blame. It was lazy and complacent in looking to redefine the category and the brand.

It is the sort of thinking that got it into financial trouble in the first place. But Futurebrand is complicit too.

American airlines rebranding
The NEW American Airlines logo

Why did it not tell American Airlines the truth?

That American was losing the opportunity to grow its market share beyond the simple fact that it was merging into a larger airline.

It’s because Stealing Share competes in an industry (rebranding) that does not understand the business it is in.

Other brand companies still sell corporate identity changes and pass it off as rebranding. No wonder the art of branding has a bad reputation.

Here is the result of that effort by American Airlines and Futurebrand. A new logo, a new name—The New American Airlines (absolute genius don’t you agree?) and a theme that tells the flying public that they are now the largest airline in the world.

God knows that is why we choose them!

Remembrance Day equals Veterans Day

Remembrance Day
Veterans Day is more aptly named Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth of Nations (which includes Canada).

It is a solemn pause in the work week (I hesitate to call it a holiday) when the citizens of Europe, India, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland remember the fallen generation of the Great War (WW1).

Remember: On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month— All quiet on the Western Front.

Remembrance Day
Soldiers preparing for no-mans-land

The horror of that War, still unequalled in the lunacy of human history, was to be remembered for all time with the promise to do such things never again.

Forgive me if I rail about this misnaming every year on Armistice day.

The special day of remembrance and reflection was truly known as Armistice Day in the US until, as an example of the wisdom of Congress, the name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954.

Remembrance Day hurts

The young men of 19 tender years of age that were slaughtered in that war were to be remembered forever. The red poppy became a symbol of the dead in Flanders Fields. Here are the first two verses of the poem that made the red poppy synonymous with the Great War.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Remembrance Day
Human remains are still being found 150 years later

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.”

 

Below is a video featuring LAST POST. A bugle call tied to Remembrance Day.

This past summer my wife and I visited memorials, cemeteries and battlefields in France and Belgium.

At the battle of the Somme, fought between 1 July and 18 November 1916, more than one million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. It is that sacrifice that gave birth to Remembrance Day.

Remembrance Day
Vimy Ridge. The ground still looks like ocean swells from the pounding of shells 150 years ago.

What was lost.

As Americans, we were spared most of the carnage of that war. We entered the last year of the War and, while are casualties were terrible, they paled compared to the massacre of Europe, the British and French Empires.

Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day in London last year.

Perhaps that is why the date is still honored in Canada with its original meaning. Newfoundland, part of the Commonwealth of Nations but not yet (in 1916) part of Canada, had 100% casualties at the Somme.

Every young man from that small province was lost. An entire generation was lost and honored on Remembrance Day.

Never again.

Visit Ypres, the Somme, or Vimy Ridge and those young men who died so young 150 years ago live again. The land is still twisted and scarred.

The dead still lie inches beneath the soil and in perfectly manicured graveyards. Over 1,000 of them. I visited too many to count.

Do we lose something important in our history lesson by calling Remembrance Day (Armistice Day)? Is it Veterans Day? I think we do. We lose the main idea of the day— to reflect on the great losses and promise never again. It is the promise part we miss.

Sporting Goods are not Immune

The outdoor and sporting goods segment has seen its share of shakeups over the past couple of years. Large big box chains like Sports Authority have closed stores or closed shop altogether. Recently, we have seen behemoths Bass Pro Shops LogoBass Pro Shops and Cabela’s consolidating. The trend in the outdoor and sporting goods segment is mirroring the trends in the rest of the retail market.

At least on the surface. Dig a little deeper and there are some major differences.

Big box retail has long suffered through a period of decreasing same store sales, as once loyal customers flock to other alternatives. While some of these alternatives are certainly other brick and mortar stores, many more are simply online retailers. Amazon has picked up the lion’s share of the fleeing customers.

In the outdoor and sporting goods segment, the defection from brick and mortar to online hasn’t occurred yet, at least not to the degree in other parts of retail. The outdoor and sporting goods segment is, at least for the moment, insulated from the migration to online platforms.

Sporting goods are kind of personal

A key reason for this is that, for the core outdoor and sporting goods consumer, purchases are very personal. Bow hunters need to feel how a bow handles. A fisherman needs to feel the flex in a rod and an avid hiker would likely not purchase a boot without knowing how it feels being worn. This has allowed many of the outdoor and sporting goods retailers further insulating themselves from online alternatives.

Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain and REI focus more on outdoor activities like fishing, hunting aDicks Sporting Goods Logond camping, respectively, while stores like Academy Sports and Modell’s focus more on traditional team and individual sports. Dick’s is much more of a generalist, calling itself the “largest omni-channel full-line sporting goods retailer in the US.” Dick’s also owns Field and Stream, Golf Galaxy and True Runner, which further demonstrate the industry’s move to specialization.

While many outdoor and sporting goods stores have been successful in carving out their niche, it is a niche carved out only by their product focus, not their brand focus. Closer examination reveals that there is little differentiation in this category beyond some of the pseudo-specialization of products that is occurring. While meaningful, the brands themselves do not differentiate one versus the other. That is, the brands do not provide a value to the consumer. Consumers generally go to these stores for a product they want to touch and feel before they make their purchasing decision – not because of the store’s brand.

This is not to say that a consumer might decide to go to a Bass Pro Shops, REI or Dick’s just to look around. But the products are what bring consumers to the store, not the store itself. These retailers recognize this too, with each of them is trying to create a better in-store experience. (You get the full treatment at the Bass Pro Shops in Springfield Missouri.) More and more, stores like Field and Stream and REI are also trying to make their stores more of an experience, putting the focus on the store, not the brand.

At this point, it is difficult to imagine further consolidation in the outdoor and sporting goods category and the major players are surviving this nasty retail environment for the moment. However, they all must make investments in their continued viability. While creating a better shopping environment is critical, it can be easily be copied and improved upon. Investments must be made in brand differentiation that goes beyond outdoors, country, athlete or camper. These terms describe what their customers are but fail to describe who they aspire to be. Aligning with that will differentiate the outdoor and sporting goods stores from the others.

The US brand. What is the United States of America?

The US brand is under siege. Is anyone else worried about the future of the US?

The US BrandI don’t mean in terms of which candidate you support in the upcoming election. There are sane people on both sides of that debate. I’m talking about the very fabric of what it means to be a citizen of the US brand. An American.

At our root, we claim to be a nation bound by a Constitution that dictates our civil behavior. Since the election of Washington until Lincoln, every election has been followed by a peaceful transition of power. It is what it means to be an American.

The one time that process failed was in 1860 and it resulted in a bloody war that ended in the complete defeat of those that opposed union. The debate for peaceful transition had been decided once and for all with an anything but peaceful five years of blood soaked division. I believe, despite all of the posturing today, that this election will also be a peaceful transition of power from the incumbent to the newly elected leadership.

The US brand has been under siege in the past

I don’t think I am alone in looking back upon the last decade with a bit of distain. Our national genius for compromise has been replaced by vitriol and obstruction. When FDR was first elected, humorist Will Rogers said, “Well, if he gets to the White House and it catches fire and burns to the ground, we will say at least he got something started.” Just like Will, I have become weary of partisan posturing and I want to get SOMETHING done.

The US BrandMy worry is not over the election itself, although the personal attacks are hard to hear. After all, one of these two candidates will be our next President. In many ways, I would love to hear what each candidate will do to help our country if they lose. My sincere hope is that either candidate will try their best when elected. That is the minimum I think we can expect. The rest is just politics.

What REALLY worries me about the US brand? A fear that, as a nation, we might be ungovernable in the future. A large percentage of those that are voting say they do not trust the information published from our government. They do not trust what they read in the news and they do not trust our elective process. I then wonder how they plan on making America Great Again or becoming Stronger Together?The US brand

If you don’t read the news, where are you getting your information? If you don’t believe anything the government says or publishes and don’t believe in the right of the majority to rule— well you don’t believe in our Constitution.

I can’t wait to read comments on this post. In the past, my worst fears have been realized in those comments. Aggressive and hateful bloggers post comments that prove my point. They did not read what I had to say.

Until we address the basic problem, which is IGNORANCE, we have a broken system with broken constituents. Just remember that the root of the word ignorant means to IGNORE.