The 183 Billion-Dollar Brand
May 23, 2012 5:00 AM PT
Apple was named the most valuable brand in the world in a study released Tuesday by research agency Millward Brown. It's the second year in a row the tech giant took the crown.
The company raised its brand value over the past year by 19 percent to a US$182.9 billion, Millward Brown reported. IBM, Google and Microsoft were among the top five, with McDonald's the only non-tech brand to take a spot among the leaders. The worldwide fascination with the technology industry -- and Apple's ability to connect with a particular group of tech lovers -- is helping to drive Apple's brand valuation higher, according to Mario Simon, managing director of Millward Brown.
"There's a focus on intangible ideas in the tech industry right now, like self-expression and the ability to really create something unique," he told MacNewsWorld. "And Apple really has a cohesive strategy in terms of communication and product development in capturing the essence of this generation, and the need to transcend the tangible and place value on the intangible, where most brand value resides today."
Apple's communication strategy revolves around convincing consumers that the possibilities to create something unique on an Apple product -- a personalized iTunes playlist or a Garage Band tune, for instance -- are endless, said Simon. The way Apple positions itself, its customers aren't buying into a traditional market segment, they're buying into a lifestyle.
"Because the brand stands for something bigger, it can transcend a lot of traditional segmentation," said Simon. "Apple doesn't define itself as a cellphone market, or a tablet market, or a personal computing market. People who have a Mac computer don't think of it as a personal laptop, same with the iPad, and in the software and music spaces. Because of the curation of that intangibility, Apple is able to extend beyond products and across products and typical consumer segments."
But while that level of innovation is making Apple one of the world's most valuable companies in the world right now, it could add to negative pressure on it as well, he said. Apple draws worldwide attention each time it unveils a new product -- and sometimes even when it isn't launching a new product -- which Simon said trains consumers to expect the very best from the company, and nothing less.
"With every unveiling, consumers are waiting for the next visionary product, and we expect significant new specs but also a big improvement on the ability to self-express," said Simon.
Keeping up with that level of perfection -- not just from a hardware point of view but also within a tech industry in which competitors such as Google, Samsung, Facebook and other young and ambitious companies are looking to outsmart Apple -- is going to be a continued challenge, said Simon.
"Apple has to be extremely vigilant," he said. "It needs to engage employees and engineers and not be lost in a sea of incremental innovations," he said. "It's easy for a company that's growing that well to think it knows better. That's a risk. Apple needs to be in touch through consumer research and understanding. That insight will be very valuable for Apple as it continuously refines its products."
Apple didn't respond to our requests for comment.
Meanwhile, in Cupertino ...
In its hometown, Apple revealed more information about its construction plans to its Cupertino neighbors this week, mailing residents a brochure about its design for a massive new campus.
The building, often informally referred to as the "spaceship" campus because of its circular design, will cover 2.8 million square feet. It will be covered in solar panels and will serve as working space for as many as 13,000 people. As part of its effort to win support for the new campus, Apple hoped to get residents on board early by sharing detailed brochures with community members, according to 9to5 Mac.
"It is good practice for the corporation to be open about its plans and share them with the community," Zenia Kotval, professor of urban and regional planning at the School of Planning Design and Construction at Michigan State University, told MacNewsWorld. "There is no obligation on their part to do so. However, by doing this they are making a good faith effort to include the community in their planning activities."
The company is emphasizing its sustainable building efforts and LEED certification, which is especially important since the campus will be set in a relatively small suburban area, where the traffic and environmental impact must be considered.
"I'm not surprised that they would be emphasizing the LEED certified practices," Rachel Weinberger, assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania, told MacNewsWorld. "Partly it's the hip thing to do -- even if it's also the right thing to do. Partly too, I would guess, they are trying to woo back people who will have become disenchanted with the news of their labor practices in China."
The campus will host, among other things, a fitness center and a restaurant. It won't be open to the general public. Apple intends to break ground on the center as soon as Cupertino gives the thumbs up, which it hopes will be later this year, and it could occupy the space as soon as 2015.