The brand is the experience and the experience is the brand

Apple has become the world’s #1 brand. Garrett Stokes [creative director at catalysto] talks about how the soaring value of a brand is based, not on products or visual identities, but on consumer’s experiences. The Apple brand has an estimated value of $153 billion … Apple’s total tangible assets are half that. The brand is far and away Apple’s most valuable asset. What are you doing to protect and grow your most important asset; your Brand?

Successful brands are much more than design; they are experiences built up in peoples hearts and minds, built through all the interactions that people have with a company, its service, its products, its visual identity, everything – building over time into The Brand. The brand is the sum of all the sensations that people have felt and continue to feel when interacting with a brand in any of its manifestations.

According to brand consultancy Millward Brown, Apple has replaced Google as the most valuable brand in the world. This number one ranking is not based on factories, stock or intellectual property it is based on intangible assets. Intangible assets can be defined as identifiable non-monetary assets that cannot be seen, touched or physically measured, which are created through time and/or effort and that are identifiable as a separate asset to those that can be measured and counted – they are The Brand. The Apple brand is number one in this ranking because its intangible assets put Apple in an overwhelmingly powerful position compared to its competitors. The Apple Brand Experience has no peers. Ask anyone who owns an Apple device. The Apple visual identity is an integral and inseparable element in the Apple Brand. Everyone recognizes the Apple with the bite missing and the single leaf above and everyone knows what it means technical excellence, the pinnacle of innovation, beauty, efficiency, Apple fans believe that this brand adds prestige to them personally.

Apple currently dominates the phone and tablet market and it does so through a combination of excellent product design – development – delivery, exceptional marketing strategy, relentlessly consistent brand building and the recruitment of a vast army of Prosumers creating and consuming its iPhone applications. The Apple Visual Identity has become ubiquitous and the product marketing is modeled on the marketing of luxury brands. Now the Apple Brand is valued at $153 billion … that’s not the company valuation it’s the value of the Brand. And (almost) anyone who wants an Apple can have an Apple.

Porsche is also a successful prestige brand. Of the ‘supercar’ brands only the Porsche brand is present in this top 100 (in 66th position). It is not just a successful visual identity, not just a successful product, not just expectations satisfied, it is all these and more. In the Porsche Brand lexicon the word disappointment does not exist but the word Wow does. This brand is definitively about the experience. For those who own a Porsche, the brand is the driving experience, the speed, power, reliability, history, exclusivity and the desirability.

For those who don’t own a Porsche (but would like to) their experience of the brand is respect, desire, awe, appreciation, and perhaps envy. For those who make Porsche cars their experience is teamwork, history, duty to the past, beating the competition, the achievement of excellence (or, where possible, the achievement of perfection) and for those who maintain and repair Porsche’s their experience of what Porsche is begins with respect for engineering and mechanical perfection, craftsmanship, intelligence, build quality … for the shareholders it is the experience of flawless corporate performance and secure financial returns. The Porsche brand is a series of different interactions and a series of experiences and sensations, many of which are true to more than one stakeholder group. Some are intense experiences and some are almost unnoticed. Porsche is not the highest ranked car Brand in the world despite the fact that no other marque matches Porsche’s profitability per car sold.

On the other hand, according to the Millward Brown ranking of the BP Brand Value (based on intangible assets), allowing your brand to become tarnished has the opposite effect: BP has not changed the products or marketing that helped it achieve 34th position in 2010 but it has dropped 30 places to 64 in the 2011 ranking – with a 27% decrease in value, now put at 7.3bn. This collapse follows the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the inept handling of the environmental and other issues and the departure of the chief executive Tony Hayward – proof, if it were needed, that brands are experiences built up in peoples hearts and minds. The public’s experience of BP in 2010 was awful and the results catastrophic, for everyone. Although the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 workers, curiously it was the environmental damage and the continuous reporting (not the deaths) that resulted in the public outcry and repulsion.

Eternal vigilance is the price of a successful brand.

[ written for the blog]

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