Notes on Apple, Verizon and British Petroleum

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

1 June 2010

The British Petroleum brand is destructing

To catch up after the Memorial Day weekend, some thoughts on a few items that transpired over the last week:

• Apple has now surpassed Microsoft as the world’s top tech company, something that has been a long time coming – and was only a matter of time. While Wall Street analysts have more confidence in Apple because of its ability to innovate products, it’s much more than that.

“Already, there are protests and boycotts, and BP will eventually have to uncover the highest emotional intensity among gas-buying consumers, one that may even be a negative.”


British Petroleum

It’s about brand, and Apple’s ability to be more relevant to consumers and their belief systems (“Simple is always best”) as the world moves forward and seems more complex. Microsoft, and even its Windows 7, feels like old and overly complex technology anymore, and it has become a follower (anyone remember Zune?) rather than a leader.

The simple fact is that Apple, which we have often called the best brand in the world, has rarely, if at all, made a brand mistake over the last decade. Microsoft will need to re-focus its brand to compete or it will continue to lose market share.

• Speaking of Apple, reports are now that its rumored deal with Verizon is dying, or at least postponed. There are a handful of reasons being bantered about, including incompatibility of technologies and Apple’s exclusivity contract with AT&T.

But those issues can be worked out. The Blackberry runs on several networks, so it’s hard to believe Apple can’t make that work. (And even Verizon statements seem to suggest the technology isn’t the real issue.) Also, contracts are always renegotiated in business and reports were that AT&T and Apple were talking.

What is more revealing is the theory that Verizon, as it did when Apple was first approaching carriers for the iPhone three years ago, is balking at sharing revenues with Apple – and, instead, is moving ahead with Google’s Android phones.

droid-vs-iphoneSince then, this has been a shortsighted strategy as AT&T has taken market share from Verizon and, depending on which report you trust, AT&T has now become the market leader.

I still think it’s shortsighted, but a partnership with Google is an fascinating lob into the field because of the power of the Google brand.

But here’s the catch: Google’s brand is much more meaningful than Verizon’s brand, and how the brand architecture is developed will determine success.

My feeling is that it’s probably too late. In addition, if Verizon chooses to take the brand lead and ignore the Apple-AT&T model, it will still be chasing and falling behind.

• What to do about British Petroleum? If the oil giant ever gets the Gulf oil spill figured out (and it still doesn’t look good), what is BP to do about its brand, which has been based on a “green” outlook?

There’s no other way to put it. British Petroleum must start over. It will need a completely new brand because the current one, which it has held for more than two decades, is no longer believable and is a constant reminder of a epically failed promise.

Already, there are protests and boycotts, and BP will eventually have to uncover the highest emotional intensity among gas-buying consumers, one that may even be a negative.

From a brand perspective, a negative intensity is often the most emotionally powerful one in the market and brands that align themselves with that negative intensity can become more relevant than its competitors.

This is the rare example of total brand destruction, trapping British Petroleum in a brand that was barely believable and emotionally intense to begin with, and now is another casualty in this disaster.

See more posts in the following related categories: Apple BP Microsoft Verizon


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