Apple iPod: A strong purpose brand (question mark on usability)

Today, I managed to lock my iPod again!!! I thought maybe this is THE END of the iPod! No more Apple iPod playing awesome tunes in my room and car. The poor thing regularly travels with me unprotected, jacketless. And just once in a blue moon, this beautiful thing simply refuses to behave itself. Being the proud owner of a 4th generation hot black iPod for over a year now, this was the first time that I saw this little lock icon on the top of the iPod screen. I tried pulling on a few tricks to make it work but all my endeavours rendered themselves fruitless.

So I called a trusted friend who provides expert solutions in computing matters and more. The advice was obvious (to search in Google) but with a twist (write the entire statement ‘there is a lock icon on my ipod’). So I searched Google to find a way to make the little lock icon disappear and turns out I just had to slide a switch. There is a tiny switch right at the top of the iPod which holds the magic. I had absolutely no idea that I had accidently put the iPod on hold. Now when the iPod is on hold, a patch of red colour shows from underneath the slider, which in normal conditions (that is when it is not on hold) is a hardly visible white colour. If I had seen that red colour, I would have figured that something is not right here… I need to slide this switch back. But I was looking at the screen, not at the top of the iPod. That is not the mental model… looking at the top of the iPod!! Who does that… that too when your iPod is lying on your study table?! There is a sleek ‘HOLD’ engraved on a silver surface by the side of this slider and it is so sleek and subtle that one never remembers that its there. So I am wondering if the problem that I faced today is a usability issue. Well I love iPod because it’s slick and very usable… errrrr… maybe the usability team at Apple just needs to tweak this little problem in the next generation of the iPod.

Well the music is playing now and I am loving it. Being a marketer and an individual who is deeply interested in product innovation and blue ocean strategy, Apple is the company that has it all for me. Revolutionary products that have redefined industry boundaries topped up by award-winning advertising. Oh yes, great leadership as well. Steve Jobs is a true maverick! Out-of-the-box thinking has become somewhat of a cliché in my field of work but Jobs does it beautifully all of the time. In my study of brand communities, I found that Apple enjoys one of the strongest brand communities today…. Evidence of it is the number of blogs and websites dedicated to Apple products by Apple aficionados. People are spreading the word and any marketer would know that nothing works wonders for a product as well as WoM communication. And the product delivers its promise. Remember the launch of the iPhone and people queuing up for days to buy the phone? The excitement of the customers around the launch by itself created media frenzy.

Personally speaking, I find Apple iPod to be quite an amazing companion. For once, people replaced their habit of carrying books around in trains and tubes in the UK with carrying an elegant iPod on the way. Carrying an iPod is considered “cool” and rest assured people will turn around when they see the distinctive white headphones. Now Londoners seldom take a note of anything that a passerby may be doing. Everyone is just too busy to bother with such trivialities. Where no big brands of clothes or accessories get attention, aha, in comes Apple comes with its iPod, and voila!

I owe some of the inspiration behind some rather gruelling projects complete with tight deadlines to the iPod and Tiesto. Playing In Search of Sunrise3 on the iPod makes me focus a 100% on the work that I am trying to get done. It works like a miracle.

Purpose brands: A Likely Cure for Marketing Malpractice

Purpose brands create powerful means of differentiation in the minds of customers as they are tightly associated to the job for which customers hire them. Advertising and WoM communication play a vital role in building awareness for the purpose brands and creating positive and strong brand associations, which result in brand equity. Brand equity is the added value a brand name brings to a product or service besides the functional benefits. Brand equity in case of purpose brands is built when the product does the job and people talk about it. High brand equity implies that customers perceive that the brand is of high quality, have positive and strong associations related to the brand, and are loyal to the brand.

The in-depth interviews conducted in my research revealed that the purpose brands in the selected product categories of Search Engines and Portable Digital Media Players were closely tied to the job for which customers hired these brands, and they were primarily built on WoM communication. The findings of the online questionnaires suggested that the two purpose brands had relatively higher mean scores, and enjoyed significant differences in mean scores in terms of the three core dimensions of brand equity (brand awareness / associations, perceived quality and brand loyalty), compared to the relatively more generic brands. It was concluded that there is a difference in the influence of purpose brands, compared to relatively more generic brands, on brand equity, and the influence seems to be positive.

The purpose brand approach has significant implications for marketing communications. Job-specific brands create meaningful differentiation in the customers’ minds, which could imply that marketers may need to spend less on overall advertising, other than the occasions of creating brand awareness when the product is launched and for reminder advertising. This in turn could improve the profitability of the companies. Purpose brands should be able to create a strong ‘pull’ for a brand and in this event, Internet marketing becomes a powerful tool for information dissemination. The limitations of the research were that the brand selection could be refined to enable selection of more combinations of purpose brands and relatively generic brands, and the sample could include more than just student samples.

Glossary

Advertising

Any paid form of nonpersonal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods, or services by an identified sponsor

Brand awareness

The ability for a buyer to recognize or recall that a brand is a member of a certain product category

Brand associations

Anything linked in memory to a brand

Brand equity

The added value a ‘brand name’ brings to a product or service besides the functional benefits

Brand loyalty

Tendency to be loyal to a brand, which is demonstrated by the intention to buy the brand as a primary choice

Perceived quality

The consumer’s [subjective] judgement about a product’s overall excellence and superiority

Purpose Brand

The brand of a product that is tightly associated with the job for which it is meant to be hired

WoM communication

Oral, person-to-person communication between a perceived non-commercial communicator and a receiver regarding a brand, a product, or a service

Purpose branding

Making a decision about one’s MSc research project is a daunting one. That too when one wants it to act as a foundation for a PhD in the future. Well there I was, sitting in my small and rather pretty room in Guildford, thinking through all the things that ever fascinated me in the world of marketing. And it was an awakening – I thought of the article on Purpose Branding by Christensen et al (2005) published in Harvard Business Review. From there on purpose branding and the holy grail of brand equity, as some may put it, is a passion for me. Much of this blog is dedicated to marketing and a few other things that act as a source of inspiration for those who want their spirit kindled.