12.052008

brand as seal of approval

A lot of my friends have been talking about my recent post on the iPhone app, Ocarina.  Over the course of our conversations, I realized that I’d given the Apple brand all the credit for delivering such creativity and joy.

And I’d begun to feel guilty about bestowing such positive praise on Apple for a piece software it didn’t create.  After all, the company that developed and distributes the program, Smule, deserves the credit, right?   Shouldn’t the Ocarina build Smule’s brand equity?  As a brand person, shouldn’t I be more careful about where brand attribution is placed?

But then a friend of mine set me straight.  He explained by saying something like, “There’s an important difference between Google’s Android and Windows-based phones which are becoming more open source.  Being open-source means you get a lot of different people developing programs for these phones and that means the quality of the applications can vary — you never know what you’re going to get.  However with the iPhone, Apple has set it up so that all programs must adhere to their standards and so you know that all the iPhone apps are going to be good.”

So what he is saying is the Apple brand is really serving as editor and quality control here — by endorsing another company’s product, it is building its own brand as an arbitor of what is good.  I found this insight profound — it speaks to the role of a brand as a seal of approval, not just for its own products, but also for all related products.

And this uncovers an important opportunity in today’s marketplace, where we’re seeing more and more companies partner with others to provide add-ons, services, experiences, etc. to supplement their core products.  How can you position your brand so that you get your fair share — if not more — of the credit for the new offerings that arise out of these partnerships?

To take a page out of Apple’s book, it’s about maintaining the same high standards for everything you do, never compromising, never making exceptions — that might make it harder to work with you, but in the end, your brand will benefit.

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  • http://www.portigal.com Steve Portigal

    Today’s full-page newspaper ad for the iPhone was impressive; they showed the phone VERY large so that you could see all the apps that were on the “desktop” – and there were callouts explaining what they each were. It was the first ad I’d seen that really told the story of the “new” iPhone, a product that has all this amazing capability. And Apple was really taking ownership of that idea in the way they put the ad together; check it out in today’s paper!
    http://news.cnet.com/8301-13579_3-10114894-37.html claims to have an image of the ad, but it doesn’t actually appear :(

  • Tim

    You are right on. Apple has done a great job of creating an aura / seal of approval around its products. This is the power of brands done well. And it insulates brands from mistakes and mis-steps. Interestingly, I read a piece recently about Obama and how he is trying to boost his approval numbers before taking office so that he insulates himself from any mis-steps that can happen to any president.

    Anyway, here is a funny spoof on Apple that ran on the Simpsons. It points to the power and grip brand can have on devotees, in a humorous way.

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/46753/the-simpsons-mapple-store

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/46751/the-simpsons-steve-mobs

  • http://deniseleeyohn.com denise lee yohn

    i LOVE the simpsons spots, Tim — thanks for sharing them!

    also, in yesterday’s usa today, smule ceo jeff smith was quoted praising the results of its sales of ocarina, “it’s very encouraging for a small company to get that kind of traction.” so i guess he’s ok with letting apple get the brand credit for his app…

  • http://deniseleeyohn.com/bites Denise Lee Yohn

    more on this issue — see http://www.macworld.com/article/137487/article.html — the piece encourages iPhone app developers not to sit back and think that simply being in the app store is enough — “They need to buy ads and develop a brand identity and establish some sense of continuity for their customers.”

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