Wednesday, March 28

Branding Power: The Bank Of Apple, Part 1 of 2

Two years ago, there was a little-read post that speculated what might happen if Apple opened a banking or credit card division. Most of the speculation centered on Near-Field Contactless (NFC) technologies, which would enable payments to be made with a phone; no cards, inserts, or swipes.

This year is a little different. Strategic and research consultancy KAE in cooperation with online pollster Toluna didn't focus on whether or not Apple could open a banking division based on technology but rather the willingness of customers to bank with Apple. Ten percent of the public, almost half of all Apple customers would.

The real value of a brand is elevated trust.

Some people never go further than the latest valuation of a brand — Apple is valued at $39.3 billion — to determine its worth. But with the simplest of surveys, KAE demonstrates what brand value really means.

The reason people would bank with Apple, a field in which it has never operated before (unless you make the connection that shopping carts are close), is the high level of trust. Sixty-six percent, in fact, said that their trust in the brand would sell them alone. More than half said they expect Apple would make banking easier and more reliable. Many wouldn't expect the company to open brick and mortar banks.

"Apple would face no capital constraints in building a deposits base. With a proven ability to cross-sell additional products, along with the highest sales per square foot of any retailer and affluent customer base, it wouldn't take long for Apple to become one of the most profitable banks in recent times," said David Rankin of KAE. "Once the power of the Apple brand and its options for growth are understood, it tends to prompt one of three responses from financial institutions: accelerated invention, defensive benchmarking, or blissful avoidance."

In recent years, especially with disruptive innovations that include iTunes, phones, tablets, and even the near perfect prospect of iBooks (there are a couple more advents the company needs to kick publishing out of the ball park), Apple has consistently demonstrated it can reinvent how industries are perceived, elevate expectations within those industries, and then either meet expectations or even exceed them.

A logo alone is not what modern branding is about.

In looking at communication trends among top performing brands, there has been one standout among those brands like Apple and Google racing to the top and unseating some of those that held the reins for a long time. These companies in particular are less interested in managing their reputations and more interested in managing their character.

How can that be? For companies, character isn't merely an assignment of an individual's trait to a group. It's really a manifestation of corporate culture — the company's ability to do what it says it will do with some exceptionalism at every level of customer contact — product/service-to-person, person-to-person, public perception-to-person.

That's not to say that all things will be perfect. Apple, much like Google, has its share of detractors and sometimes questionable decisions. But mostly, it consistently delivers on every point of contact — at least as good as it says it will (which is often more important than being number one in every category). Any company can do it, assuming they choose to. We'll take a look at the steps on Friday.
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