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5by5 | The Critical Path #7: Genericized Trademarks

5by5 | The Critical Path #7: Genericized Trademarks.

Episode #7 • September 21, 2011 at 12:00pm

Horace and Dan look at brand theory and decide it should not be left to the experts. Also, we ask what jobs products are hired to do and tie that to the meaning imparted in the brand and visual imagery associated with it.

  • http://www.informationworkshop.org Mark Hernandez

    With regard to branding, for those who find the subject fascinating as I do, I would invite you to read my article “Assessing the Intangibles of Apple’s Success.” at…

    http://informationworkshop.org/2011/08/01/assessing-the-intangibles-of-apples-success/

    … because in the middle of it under the heading “Branding” there’s an imbedded video of Patrick Hanlon describing the seven elements of successful branding. It’s a short, fun, informative and must-see video.

    The rest of the article highlights many of the other things that branding blends into and is part and parcel of. Branding is messy, and it must be studied, of course.

    Also, thanks for the Clay Christensen reference! That article is here…

    http://hbr.org/product/integrating-around-the-job-to-be-done-module-note/an/611004-PDF-ENG

  • http://eyeburn.info eyeburn

    “That’s what the blog is for [...] some community involvement in solving these puzzles.”

    Perfect.

  • Les S

    Here’s a podcast from the NPR program “This American Life” and what’s in Coke:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/427/original-recipe

    From what I remember in this podcast the cocaine aspect of the recipe is actually addressed and there’s a company in NJ that removes the “cocaine” from the coca leaf for Coke:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepan_Company

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      My comment was that Coca Cola *used to have* cocaine.

      From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca_cola#Coca_.E2.80.94_cocaine

      “Coca-Cola did once contain an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass, but in 1903 it was removed.[26] Coca-Cola still contains coca flavoring”

  • http://twitter.com/bennomatic bennomatic

    I like the new logo. It’s got a hint of an ‘A’ for Asymco, but with the backwards-facing “play” pointer inside a circle, it captures the idea of looking to history to gain knowledge and understanding about how to interpret the data of recent market activity and apply it to coming market cycles.

  • James

    That was a really interesting anecdote about the flag that you mentioned (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t listened yet).

    Another interesting thing about Apple’s branding – have you ever noticed that the storefronts only display the logo? They never actually display the text “Apple” or “Apple Store” anywhere. I can’t think of many (any?) other retail stores that do this (not counting stores whose logos are stylized text versions of their names).

  • Anonymous

    I have always found the big cat branding of OSX versions interesting and very clever. Numbering is dull and difficult to inject any expectation or anticipation. After 7 will come 8. I am not enthused. After Lion will come Lynx? Or Caracal? Or Ocelot? Already, the next Apple OSs have a feel, a persona, a lineage, but not one pre-defined, but can be guessed at or speculated about.

    It will be intetesting to see if Apple abandon the numbering of iOS. Or rather, will iOS 5 be marketed in a way similar to Lion. Lion is hardly ever referred to as 10.7.

    iOS Wolf or IOS Coyote perhaps?

  • Boyd Waters

    Great show! Branding: I worked at an “ad agency” for a year. Really it was more of a “brand curator”: teams assigned full-time to each client, lead consultants that did ad campaigns, industrial design, and more. They designed Starbucks cafés, some mall brands. Just as Apple treats each retail location as a creative work that tells the story of their brand.

  • http://twitter.com/GreenMtGuy Scott

    I always enjoy your articles and podcasts/radio shows, but I found the discussion about Brands to be particularly thought provoking. I think your comment about people picking a product because they’re hiring it for a job (which may or may not be what the company designed it for, e.g. Android phones) is spot on and something that differentiates Apple from other companies.

    Someone who does a really good job of explaining the whole “brand” management issue is Simon Sinek. He phrases it as “the why” being the most important thing, and that people and companies that know what their reason for exisiting/sharing are and can articulate that succeed in ways that others cannot. Apple knows and communicates what they believe in, and is why they have such a strong brand. Motorola or Dell do no such thing, and so their products are purchased because they are cheap or have certain specs, and are dropped just as quickly because they have no meaningful brand (other than being cheap), and so they have the boom and bust cycles we’ve observed over the past two decades.

    You can check out Simon’s videos and blogs at http://www.startwithwhy.com/About.aspx?n=1

    • James

      The “hiring it for a job” comment is a great explanation of why Apple always emphasizes features over specs. People don’t shop for smartphones based on how much RAM they have – they buy a smartphone because of what they can DO with it. Note how Apple doesn’t even publicly advertise how RAM the iPhone 4 has.

  • http://twitter.com/GreenMtGuy Scott

    I always enjoy your articles and podcasts/radio shows, but I found the discussion about Brands to be particularly thought provoking. I think your comment about people picking a product because they’re hiring it for a job (which may or may not be what the company designed it for, e.g. Android phones) is spot on and something that differentiates Apple from other companies.

    Someone who does a really good job of explaining the whole “brand” management issue is Simon Sinek. He phrases it as “the why” being the most important thing, and that people and companies that know what their reason for exisiting/sharing are and can articulate that succeed in ways that others cannot. Apple knows and communicates what they believe in, and is why they have such a strong brand. Motorola or Dell do no such thing, and so their products are purchased because they are cheap or have certain specs, and are dropped just as quickly because they have no meaningful brand (other than being cheap), and so they have the boom and bust cycles we’ve observed over the past two decades.

    You can check out Simon’s videos and blogs at http://www.startwithwhy.com/About.aspx?n=1

  • Kenneth Chin-Purcell

    HP has been an interesting story of brand destruction, the process of which reveals how a customer (myself) thought of their brand. Back in the pre-computer days of RPN calculators and lab bench equipment HP was a strong brand, and part of that brand relationship was a training of the customer in how to approach the product. HP signaled a kind of engineering purity, something that was *not* obvious how to use at first but would be a rewarding tool with practice. HP products often had an beautiful logic to them that was fun to discover.

    Of course later on their computer and printer divisions (e.g. installing HP printer software) did violence to that earlier brand image, and lately I do not have a good idea what “HP” as a brand stands for.

    Human – technology interaction is complex, choices need to be made, and some of what a strong tech brand communicates is their approach, or covenant, between user and machine. Customers care about the brand’s covenant because it lays the groundwork for how to approach the product. I think companies with strong covenants are Apple, Adobe, Nikon, Amazon Web Services. A little weaker are Microsoft, Sony – I’m sure everyone’s own list would be different.

    • Davel

      I think hp is very confused.

      I was listening to a cnbc interview with the chair and CEO of hp.

      The chairman was asked about the pc division and he said it is not going away.

      But just recently your CEO said hp was no longer making PC’s.

      The company has no idea who it is or what it wants to be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jsugai Jonathan Sugai

    Great podcast. I agree with the observations of how Apple thinks & feels its way in the creation of its products, marketing & strategy. Intuition while not tangible and probably the hardest to duplicate in terms of process (love the comment on parenting), is definitely the “X” factor in two competitors’ execution & results. The company or brand that has a better emotional & feel of its product, and how it aligns with the market is more likely to create successful results.

    Time and time again I observe how Macs & iOS customers LOVE their products where as Windows/Android “have or use” their products.

    Our civilization is shifting towards utilizing our “feelings / emotions / sixth sense” again. Brands that realize & understand this are more likely to succeed. Brands that do not, are likely to struggle.

  • http://twitter.com/K_J_Designs Keith James Designs

    This was one of the best podcasts I have ever heard. It’s definitely one of those shows you want to make sure all of your clients and partners listen to.

  • http://michaelkdawson.com/ TrendRida

    Great show as always. As I was listening to your show I kept thinking about the concept of an “elevator pitch” – a two minute summary of the value proposition of the company or product. I would think that companies that struggle with branding also struggle with articulating the value of the company. Yahoo is a prime example.

    I’m in the process of reading a book, “The Two Second Advantage” by the founder of Tibco Software. He has taken a complex topic Business Intelligence software and created a very easy to understand “elevator pitch” that appears to be paying dividends based on their earnings reports. The pitch is “The Two-Second Advantage is based on a powerful principle – a little bit of the right information ahead of time is more valuable than piles of information too late.”

    If you haven’t read the book I suggest you take a look.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Very good point. If you don’t know the job your product is hired to do then you don’t know how to tell someone what that is. Think of your answer to a question of “So, what do you do?” Most people have a one line answer to that question but when asked what they company does it gets complicated.

    • http://www.asymco.com Horace Dediu

      Very good point. If you don’t know the job your product is hired to do then you don’t know how to tell someone what that is. Think of your answer to a question of “So, what do you do?” Most people have a one line answer to that question but when asked what they company does it gets complicated.

  • Davel

    This is a very interesting discussion.

    Thank you.

    Also I like your new symbol. Much better than the old one.

  • http://twitter.com/ggirton George Girton

    Horace, there are a couple of lines of thinking about branding that I want to bring to your attention.

    One, exemplified in Ricci and Volkman’s book Momentum, is that tech-branding is a little bit different from other branding questions. One aspect of the way a company’s brands are perceived is not so much the “job they are given” for the present (using here the term ‘job’ in the way you used it in your podcast #7), but they way you see the brand as satisfying your needs in the future.

    There are 2 other main points in Momentum, but I think this one is the most salient in understanding why HP had to fire Leo Apotheker.

    The other line of thinking I wanted to bring to your attention is that brands fill entirely different roles in a vast matrix of different ways they can be successful, depending on how they tell their story or, less actively, how their story comes to be heard.

    This line, more anthropological, is best exemplified by an essay of John Sherry’s in a compendium of the Kellogg school of business, entitled Kellogg on Branding. I really think it’s better for you to obtain & study this yourself than for me to try to characterize it.

    So there — that’s all my branding secrets revealed ;-)