Look to customers not competitors to build your brand

There was an interesting interview with Tony Fadell in the Daily Telegraph last week. Tony Fadell is the inventor of the iPod and although the interview is meant to focus on his patest invention – smart thermostats – the conversation keeps coming back to his time at Apple.

You can read the full interview here

What I found most interesting was Apple’s approach to doing business. Tony Fadell talks about branding in a refreshing, relevant way. He says, ““If you’re a company focused on competitors,” he says, “you’ll be a follower. And you’ll talk to the media about all sorts of stuff. But if you’re a company focused on the consumer you’ll talk about the products that you’ve got and how to get the most out of them.”

This is so, so true. In the customer economy, if you spend all your time looking at what your competitors are doing and then try to replicate it, you are always going to be playing catchup.

But more importantly, this is the wrong place to look because companies don’t define brands anymore, customers do. And also, loyalty is a lot harder to earn and certainly isn’t earned by a traditional, corporate driven positioning strategy.

Apple talks about it’s products but more importantly, it lets consumers talk about its products and you need to build an environment where consumers can talk about your brand. Don’t be afraid to be talked about because it is already happening anyway.

In the social economies of Asia, giving consumers platforms or building communities for them to discuss your brand allows you to track the conversations and get involved when need be.

Critically it allows you to identify and engage with influential consumers, those people other consumers listen to. Because brands need to understand that in the customer economy, success will be determined by relationships not transactions. An automotive dealer doesn’t sell cars, they build relationships with people looking to make their lives more interesting, exciting or easier.

As that relationship evolves and solutions provided, they seek introductions to others who may also join the family by buying the product. This requires an investment in the product and also in the relationships. But the investment in the product can be determined by the needs of the customers.

Take a leaf out of the Apple book and look to your customers not your competitors to build your brand.

8 reasons why the iPad will fail

Apple owns some of the finest brands on the planet. And I’m an Apple loyalist and brand ambassador. I bought the green iMac when it first arrived in Malaysia. Even though there wasn’t any software to run on it and because it wasn’t compatible with anything else it required multiple peripherals. And even though it spent more time being fixed than it did on my desk and despite the fact that the keyboard was awkward and the mouse hopeless, I loved it and I’ve never had anything else since.

I now have macs in my home and at the office. Every morning when I walk into the office I catch my breath as I look at the sleek lines and brilliant screen of my top of the line iMac.

Every member of my family has an iPod and my two older kids have macbooks. I even convinced my luddite wife to switch from PCs to macs and her company now has 10 of them. Baes on my recommendations, at least one friend bought macs for his event management firm.

I’ve seen the stock I once owned soar over 5,000% from the price I sold it at.

And even though I know that Apple is making margins of over 40% on some of the products I own, I buy them because they are cutting edge in terms of design and functionality, are easy to use and have great features. And because the experience I have with my sales agent is brilliant and he’ll come to my house at nine o’clock at night to help me troubleshoot. At every touchpoint, it’s a great brand.

So you’ll never hear me say a bad word about a mac product. But I think the iPad is a mistake. And here are 8 reasons why:

1) It doesn’t have a camera or a webcam. If the iPod can have a camera, why can’t the iPad? A webcam would also have made sense.
2) The touch screen on the iPod is temperamental so if it’s the same with the iPad, users will need an external keyboard. Reading through the information, users will have to buy a separate keyboard that costs US$75 and can’t use any of their existing Apple keyboards.
3) The iPad doesn’t have any USB ports or card slots so I’m not sure how users are supposed to transfer documents from other devices. There is an iPod connector feature that means users will have to buy another adapter.
4) The iPad doesn’t have Adobe flash which means that any web pages that have applications, videos or advertisements on them will have large blank areas. You read that correctly, users can’t watch video on websites. If true, what are the implications for the travel industry?
5) The iPad doesn’t allow more than one programme to run at a time. So users can’t be working on a document in word and have a video downloading on youtube at the same time.
6) The iPad is not HD ready so watching movies will not be the experience it should be.
7) It can’t be used as a phone.
8) Apple will be able to remotely disable applications.

Before the launch of the iPad The Wall Street Journal wrote: ‘The last time there was this much excitement about a tablet, it had some commandments written on it.’ Apple leapt on that and included it in there marketing collateral at the launch.

Personally, whilst it won’t affect Apple’s position as one of the finest brands on the planet, I don’t think the iPad will fly. Only time will tell if I am right. What do you think?