Building powerful, valuable brands makes money. Building powerful, valuable brands generates opportunities for leverage across customer needs and problems. Building powerful, valuable brands must be the goal of every brand leader.
Case in point: Apple.
Do you pay attention to the yearly surveys listing the most valuable brands in the world? Do you think it matters which brands are the most valuable brands? So, what if Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon are always the top four brands, should I care?
If you are a marketer or a manufacturer, yes, you should care. Being one of the world’s most powerful, valuable brands matters. Your brand may be affected by the power of a leading, valuable brand.
The 2020 Forbes Most Valuable Brands survey listed Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon as the top four most valuable brands; Toyota at number 7 was the first automotive brand on the list. Kantar’s BrandZ top 100 Most Valuable Brands (2022) listed Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon as the top four most valuable brands. Interbrand’s 2021 survey listed Apple as number one and Toyota at number 7.
Do you think that General Motors or Ford or even Tesla care that Apple is always the most valuable brand, aside from the ego-kick-in-the-butt? After all, many new vehicles arrive with Apple technology, Carplay, inside. So, it is a selling point to have Apple be so valuable; it can raise the price of the vehicle. Besides, Apple makes phones, tablets, watches and other software. Apple has a virtual app store that can make or break an offering. It has brick and mortar stores that sell its products with the famed Genius Bar.
Right now, for General Motors, Ford, Stellantis, Audi, Volkswagen and many other car manufacturers, the brand to care about is Tesla. Every one of the big global brands wants to out-Tesla Tesla.
Maybe these Tesla chasers need to make a strategic change. Perhaps, they should ask Siri.
According to Bloomberg, the street.com and 9to5mac.com and other business observers, the latest Strategic Vision (a research-based consultancy) automotive survey among 200,000 new vehicle owners included Apple on its list of 45 brands. The data show that 26% of these new vehicle owners would “definitely consider” purchasing an Apple vehicle in the future. Toyota came in first for “definitely consider” (at 38%) followed by Honda (at 32%). “Apple is the 3rd highest brand consideration with 26% of customers stating they would “definitely consider” an Apple vehicle in the future,” said Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision.
Even more interesting were the data for “I love it” – when asked about the quality of a potential Apple car. Apple was number 1 in terms of quality impression at 24%. Toyota came in with 15% and Honda with 13%. “What should be concerning to others is that Apple generates a greater amount of Love than any other automotive company, double that of strong brands like Honda, Toyota and Tesla,” Mr. Edwards added.
Tesla may be the darling of all EV’s, but car buyers are aware of Tesla’s quality issues. When it came to “definitely consider,” Tesla came in number 4 at 20%. But, its quality impression was at 11%, well below Apple’s 24%. And, according to Strategic Vision’s data, more than 50% of Tesla owners indicated they would definitely consider an Apple vehicle in the future.
Commenting on this data, Bloomberg Hyperdrive writer David Welch pointed out that Apple is a software company as well as a hardware company. Where many car companies are frustrated with software glitches, Apple could easily rise above these types of issues. “(Tim) Cook (Apple’s CEO) employs legions of coders capable of developing the brains a modern electric vehicle needs to manage battery power and navigate traffic.”
Automotive software glitches create serious setbacks, embarrassments and safety concerns. In July 2022, the CEO of Volkswagen Group was fired due to software development issues delaying the launch of the prestigious new Porsche, Audi and Bentley EVs. General Motors’ Cruise self-driving robotaxis have been recalled due to software issues. The software was not correctly predicting the direction of oncoming vehicles causing a serious accident.
Mr. Welch also points out that although Apple does not have a factory, its strategic partner Foxconn just bought an assembly plant from General Motors that is big enough “… to make 400,000 vehicles a year.” Foxconn already has its own EV venture that already has 10,00 pre-orders. And, even though, its initial Apple Car initiative, project Titan, has been disbanded, one analyst believes Apple has not given up on an EV vehicle by sometime soon after 2025. Or, other options are a purchase of an existing EV startup such as Aurora Innovation Inc. whose CEO recently saw a purchase by Apple or Microsoft as one way to survive.
Assuming Tim Cook greenlights a vehicle, and assuming that the coders and factory all fall into place, Apple would be operating from an incredible advantage. Those most valuable brand ratings are not just for investors, analysts and the financial community. Those most valuable brand ratings also reflect consumer perceptions. This is because these most valuable ratings usually include a series of customer-centric elements, not just financial elements. For example, ratings are gathered across elements such as familiarity, regard (esteem), relevance, uniqueness, performance and trust.
A brand’s power is based on its distinctive identity, its familiarity, its special (relevant and differentiated) promise and its perception that it is an authoritative source including quality, leadership and trustworthiness. All of these combine to create value. The whole point of brand management is to profitably create and grow enduring customer-perceived value for the brand(s).
Powerful, valuable brands make money The goal must be to become the identity that is the most familiar, highest quality, leading, most trustworthy source of a relevant, differentiated promised experience. A powerful valuable brand is a preferred brand. A preferred brand has loyal customers who are willing to pay more even when their second choice brand is less expensive. The Apple iPhone 14 is the latest example.
As Mr. Edwards of Strategic Vision stated, “Of course, what Apple ultimately presents in terms of styling, powertrain, product and other key features will finally determine the level of interest generated among car shoppers. However, their (Apple’s) brand awareness and reputation provide a formidable platform that automotive manufacturers should brace themselves for accordingly.”
Apple has spent decades building its brand into a global behemoth of authority and specialness. Customers have flocked to Apple’s product offerings not just because of their beauty and usefulness but because of the brand’s quality and trustworthiness. Apple’s reputation is stellar. All of these elements give Apple the leeway to cross over into categories outside of phones, tablets, computers, laptops and entertainment. Perhaps cars are a future step.
The Tesla chasers need to think about the power of the Apple brand now and how that power can vault a vehicle to become number one. When, even hypothetically, customers say they are more interested in an Apple EV than a Tesla EV, everyone needs to take notice.
As Apple shows us, building a powerful, valuable brand allows leverage across categories. Building a powerful valuable brand is an ongoing, every day activity that rewards customers and other stakeholders in the present and in the future.