How Apple became the world’s best brand
By Frederick Mordi
“Every so often, a company changes our lives—not just with its products, but with its ethos,” Jez Frampton, Interbrand’s Global Chief Executive Officer, famously said in 2013, the year that Apple upstaged iconic brand Coca-Cola, as the ‘World’s Most Valuable Brand.’ “This is why, following Coca-Cola’s 13-year run at the top of Best Global Brands, Apple now ranks #1.”
Indeed, for 13 consecutive years, the Coca-Cola brand remained the most popular brand in the world on the Interbrand annual Best Global Brands ranking, until Apple upset the applecart, last year. Evidently demonstrating that this feat is not a flash in the pan, Apple maintained the lead again in 2014 with a valuation of $119billion, while Google came second with a brand value of $107billion and Coca-Cola placed third, with $81.5billion. IBM and Microsoft followed with brand values of $72.2billion and $61.2billion, respectively. This would be the first time that two brands (Apple and Google) would cross the $100billion mark in the 15-year history of the annual Interbrand ranking. The other brands that made the top 10 are General Electric ($45.5bn), Samsung ($45.5bn), Toyota ($45.4bn), McDonald’s ($42.3bn), and Mercedes-Benz ($34.3bn).
Interbrand typically uses three key parameters in judging a brand’s value: the financial performance of the branded product and service; the role the brand plays in influencing customer choice; and the strength the brand has to command a premium price or secure earnings for the company. Apple came tops in these three indices.
This naturally prompts the question: is the Coca-Cola Company, one of the world’s most innovative brands, whose products are reportedly consumed at the rate of more than one billion drinks per day, losing its acclaimed winning formula to Apple?
Even though there is no contesting the fact that both Apple and Coca-Cola evoke strong emotional appeal, the current technological revolution seems to have given Apple the upper hand for now in the race for brand dominance, which will become more intense in the next few years, as other techies like Facebook and Amazon, up their game. While the Coca-Cola Company, a beverage manufacturing company, which was established in 1892, has maintained youthful vigour after more than one century, the much younger Apple that was founded in 1976, appears to be a step ahead.
In its 2014 overview of the Best Global Brands, Interbrand also examined three pivotal ages in brand history that have reshaped businesses for the better. These three ages are: the ‘Age of Identity,’ the ‘Age of Value,’ and the ‘Age of Experience.’ Interbrand has identified a new era that it calls the ‘Age of You.’
Frampton added: “Brands that seek to lead in the forthcoming ‘Age of You’ will have to create truly personalised and curated experiences, or what we call ‘Mecosystems,’ around each and every one of us. Such brands will have to rehumanise the data, uncover genuine insights, and deliver against individual wants, needs, and desires.”
He said the consumers’ ability to interact with brands on social media, elicits instant feedback that enables companies to respond faster to complaints or concerns, noting that their reaction will help maintain or improve the reputation of their brands.
Apple has keyed into this concept and is reaping the rewards, says Carl Franklin, author of the bestseller: Why Innovation Fails. Franklin points out that Apple is not successful because it invents new categories of products since MP3 players and tablet computers and smartphones all existed before it got into the game; Apple is successful because it has redefined these products.
He said: “What Apple is good at, is redefining these products and setting the standards for how they should look and feel and how people interact with them. Product design is key to its success. Apple has a team of fantastic designers who are obsessive about making beautiful products that people will go out and buy and in many cases, are prepared to queue for ages to buy on the first day they are released. Most of all, Apple understands that user experience is the most important thing.”
Before the iPod came along, Franklin recalled that it was quite time consuming and complicated to load an MP3 player with music. The iPod, he added, changed all that because its accompanying iTunes software made the whole process so simple. He also noted that Apple found a way to work with the record industry so that music could be sold through the iTunes store for the benefit of everyone, making it the largest seller of music in the US.
Having established the success of the iPod, Franklin said Apple went on to revolutionise the mobile phone industry with its iPhones that are beautiful and easy to use. With the launch of the App store, he observed that Apple also created a whole ecosystem of little programmes produced by other companies that you could load onto the phone, like Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp. He said all of these helped the iPhone become so powerful in what you could do with it.
He added: “What’s clever is that you have all these apps on your phone and you become so dependent on them and so used to having them it actually becomes difficult to let them go. So in a way, Apple is redefining innovation itself by redefining products that are already in the market because it simply does them better and more beautifully than anyone else. It’s not the first, but it is definitely the best.
“Apple’s challenge for the future is to balance being a big company with one that is also highly innovative—and that’s normally a characteristic you’d associate with much smaller companies where there’s a lot of freedom for creative thinking. A lot of big, market-leading companies don’t foster a high culture of innovation and not so fleet of foot that they can change easily when the markets change around them. That’s why when you think of smartphones you think ‘iPhone’ and not ‘Nokia’”
The brain behind the Apple phenomenon is none other than the late Steve Jobs, who reportedly started the company in his parents’ garage when he was 20, with a friend named Steve Wozniak. They worked hard and grew Apple into a $2billion company with over 4,000 employees, in just in 10 years. But the interesting part is that he once got fired from the company he started! Many years later, when he relieved this experience at Stanford University, Jobs said it helped him redefine his focus.
He said: “I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
During the next five years, he started a company named NeXT, and Pixar, which went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, acclaimed the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple later bought NeXT, and Jobs returned to the company he once set up. The rest as they say is now history. As of May 2014, Apple had a market capitalisation of $483billion, with a total workforce of 80,300.
But in all of these, the only constant thing is change. Yesterday it was Coca-Cola. Today, it is Apple. Tomorrow, who will it be?
Tags: apple, author of the senator's car, carl franklin, coca-cola, Fred Mordi, Frederick Mordi, interbrand best global brands 2014, iphone, ipod, jez frampton, jobs standford university commencement address, steve jobs, the age of you, why innovation fails
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