What's in a name?

What's in a name?

Brand recognition is the holy grail for marketing types. Having your product become synonymous with its genre guarantees freeflowing income for decades. Witness the plight of tissue manufacturers, whose products, regardless of quality, will be considered a type of Kleenex. Ditto Band-Aids. Ditto Xerox.

In last week's editorial, Don Kennedy bemoaned the plight of Apple Computer, that has squandered enormous brand recognition through poor marketing and an arrogant attitude to partners and customers alike. One great irony of Apple's story is that it is still one of the most recognised brands in the world, up there with Coca-Cola, Nike and Kelloggs. Outside of Microsoft and maybe IBM, no other technology company comes close.

Some have suggested that the way for Apple to escape its bogeys is to remake itself: dump the Mac, sell NCs, Newtons, toasters or any damn electronic thing, just plonk a six-coloured logo on it. For those people, I have two words to ponder: New Coke. That's what happens when a company tries to play its brand as a trump, and ignores its core product.

Instead, Apple is trying to restore the positive recognition its brand used to carry. Both on TV and in print, it has embarked on a campaign to associate Apple with historically influential people and geniuses, so that its customers will feel that they, too, might be influential geniuses. Heroic personages ranging from Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi to John Lennon and Richard Branson are flashed up in turn, while Richard Dreyfuss solemnly tells us that what these people had in common was their ability to "think different" (Apple's grammar, not mine), and that Apple's customers are much the same.

The ad does not aim to demonstrate the power of Apple's technology, but the creativity of its customers. Its implication is that the impressive array of influential people paraded across your screen are the kind of people who prefer the Mac's user interface, and therefore that people who prefer the Mac are the type who change the world. Its intention, in short, is to give you a warm GUI feeling.

Think differently

Apple hasn't committed to using the TV ad locally, although MD Steve Vamos told me the print ads may well appear shortly. The thrust of Apple's local marketing is the AppleCentres. Again the emphasis of the advertising is not on the com- puters or their performance, but on the name, and on what a cool place an AppleCentre, any AppleCentre, is to shop.

Full marks for the idea, and for finally realising that the brand is an asset worth spending money on. The task now is to reverse the association in customers' minds between Apple and failure, between Mac and irrelevance. Thinking differently is only the first step.

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