Earlier today I read this article on the revival of brands – roping in new consumers. In a nutshell the article talks about old brands the likes of Polaroid, Memorex and TDK – once the brands dominating their niche market who have shrunk into obscurity – or even liquidation. These brands are now being bought up in the firesale that the global recession has sparked and being fused into a wider portfolio of brands. These brands are then used to release new products from new owners – that do not necessarily share in the ideals, ideas or ultimate goal of the company before them.
But – is branding really that powerful?
It pains me to use this example with all my heart; but lets have a look at Apple;
In the 90’s; Apple was probably the un-coolest brand you could ever have imagined.
The grey towering obelisk with its rainbow filled apple and its odd square, one buttoned mouse. These were a tool for a very select few people – the “mac monkeys”. Mostly in professional industry – music production, graphics and video editing.
In the closing years of the 90’s; with its nemesis PC muscling in on its market – Apple was fading into public and financial pitfall.
But then in 1998 – It started to change. With this;
The apple iMac;
Smashing pre-conceived notions of square, grey, one buttoned and outdated – in One. Single. Product.
Although this was a step in the right direction – with the creation of the “i” Branding and the casting off of the image of old – Apple was still not quite on par with its alternatively coded rivals.
Apple lurched on for 3 years after this, releasing several new products (rebranded old products) under the new “i” branding – none of which made a huge impact in the market place. Until, in 2001, Apple’s salvation arrived – its ticket to the top of the stock market, Steve Jobs ticket to every club in silicone valley, the HOLY GRAIL, the one, the only
In the mp3 player boom – the iPod managed to stand out from the rest.
But how? Remarkable branding?
Not at the start anyway, the iPod had what other Mp3 players did not – a centralised organisation of music, which you could drag and drop, organise and create playlists for – All from one program! That’s right – it was Mp3 players made easy – no drivers, no browsing preset folders, one program – that simple. Not only this, but with an encouraging hardware spec to boot – this was without doubt, the best on offer. A perfect product.
And yey – From upon high Steve jobs did see this and decreed that it was good.Apple now had a new direction to follow – and a new brand to follow. Simplicity can be seen in all of Apple’s following products, with some pretty cutting edge, kick ass hardware to follow it up. Combined with its new trendy brand Apple is now the biggest player in the tech market.
But if you ask yourself: What came first? Chicken or the egg? Branding or the product?
Yes the branding came first, but it needed that product, the perfect product to make the brand.
If Apple continues with these simple ideals – I firmly believe that they will continue their dominance of the market – irrespective of the branding – Products make branding – not the other way round.