Just a couple of days ago, Apple launched iPad Pro and a very new gadget with it, the Apple Pencil.
The product has been welcomed with open arms and is very likely to be another commercial success for the company.
Apple Pencil however, along with Apple Watch, missed out on something else
But before getting into that, let’s ask another big and relevant question.
Why do big companies hardly launch completely new brands?
The answer is in any one of the two following reasons.
Firstly, it’s difficult to communicate and establish a new brand/ brand name. Difficult means two things here, expensive and time consuming.
For Apple, however, it’s not that difficult.
Because Apple is probably the strongest brand in the world right now. The amount of PR and Word of Mouth it gets is parallel to none. The entire world’s spotlight is currently on them.
No other company is enjoying as much attention from the consumers and media. Every time Apple launches a product, the news of it immediately goes viral. Millions of tweets, social media shares and online articles help Apple in spreading the word (Even this article is doing the same). Launching a product has become relatively less expensive for them because of the large number of PR they get and free word of mouth their product generates. Similarly, it also takes less time for them to communicate the news of any change because of the “virality” of the company’s products. They are in fact in the best position to launch new brands.
If that is the case, why didn’t they choose to launch new brands for Apple Watch or Apple Pencils (rather than going for brand extension)? It’s probably because of this other reason.
It’s easier to capitalize on the strength of an existing brand name. Using the strong brand name is safer because it will result in some immediate sales. That is why established companies often use their existing brand names in new products. For example, Unilever launched Pond’s Men in the face wash category. That product is definitely going to generate sales in the shorter term. But in the longer term, it might cause the brand to lose the feminine side of its personality and eventually hurt the brand.
Apple’s scenario isn’t like Pond’s Men. Apple Pencil or Apple Watch doesn’t hurt the brand in any way. But these products could’ve strengthened the image of Apple. If we again look at another example from Unilever we will see that the company doesn’t use the Unilever name on Clear, Sunsilk, Dove or any other shampoo they market (It’s not Unilever Clear or Unilever Dove). All of these three brands have very strong reputation and when people learn that they are from the same company, their respect for and trust in Unilever grows.
And that is the opportunity Apple missed.
Which of the following brand name do you think is stronger?
|Apple Smartphone / Apple Phone||iPhone|
|Apple Watch||Pluto (Not a real name, just an example)|
What did the word iPod mean before Apple launched the product? Probably nothing. But now it has become the generic word for portable high-capacity music players. Same thing happened with the word iPad. iPhone and Macbook were different as they didn’t try to become generic names. Rather they had created their own distinguished identity and developed strong brand images. But what about Apple Watch and Apple Pencil? Are they going to have similarly strong brand images?
Because the names aren’t right for that kind of success.
These names are too long and generic. Length of the name is important because a brand needs a nickname which the users would fondly use and make popular. Apple Watch has three syllables and Apple Pencil has four. Popular nicknames for brands usually have less than three syllables; good examples are Nike, Coke, McD. So if a user want to make the name smaller, she can take the Apple name out of it. But then what she will have left is just a generic word; watch or pencil. And Generic words hardly work as brand nicknames.
Apple Watch is already being called the iWatch; a term which Apple can’t legally claim because another company had trademarked it. So the company is stuck with a nickname it can’t use. However, What Apple could’ve done was take control of that situation by inventing a new name for their smartwatch.
What if Apple had called the watch something completely different, like “Pluto”. People would’ve initially questioned the logic behind choosing such an out of context name. But eventually, a group of people would’ve started supporting it proudly by saying that “I got myself a Pluto” and the name would’ve caught on. And if the name became popular, users would’ve started using it as a generic word, like “Apple’s Pluto is awesome, but X Company has also launched their Pluto. Which Pluto is better?” When a brand name becomes the generic term to describe a cateogry including competitors’ products, who do you think benefits the most? Who benefited the most when Sony’s Walkman became the generic term? Wasn’t it Sony?
Similarly, Apple had the opportunity to own the generic term in smart watch category. But sadly they didn’t try.
They could’ve done the same thing with Apple Pencil. But as they haven’t, they have also missed out on the opportunity to create a nickname for this product. It’s now up to the users to decide what they want to call it. They might call it the iPencil , or they might even start calling it Apple’s Stylus.
Or some other company might come and introduce a name that would become the generic term in this category.