How will Apple’s shifting business model impact the Apple brand strategy? Great question!
On March 28, 2019, Apple announced its plans for news distribution, content creation and distribution, and money distribution (vis a vis a new credit card). These announcements are the latest signs of the company’s shift from a device to a content strategy. Does that business strategy require a new brand strategy? No, I don’t think so.
Focusing on storytelling as a core function is quite relevant and competitively differentiated for the Apple brand.
To explain why, let’s remind ourselves of the Apple brand promise: “Make a dent in the universe by challenging the status quo and thinking differently. We believe equally in art and technology.”
Theirs omits the specifics of what they do and how, as all good brand promises should. In fact, these announcements demonstrate why brand promises should be about “the why” and nothing else. Because there is no mention of computers, phones, devices, or anything physical, their new strategy is, still, in-line with the brand strategy.
By using its Apple TV app, Apple TV Channels, Arcade, News+, and TV+, they are definitely challenging the status quo. Furthermore, they are quite literally delivering on the “We believe equally in art and technology” portion of the Apple brand promise.
However, does that mean that they’re executing the new business strategy in line with the brand strategy? Not necessarily.
Let’s take a look at the most and least on-brand elements of what they’re doing.
Overall. The common thread that weaves throughout all of these announcements is their impact on user experiences interacting with entertainment, news, and, arguably, even with money—something that is part of the Apple brand DNA. I’m probably not alone when I say that I sometimes spend just as much time picking out a movie to stream as I do watching the movie itself. If the Apple TV app or Apple TV+ can spare me that torture, sign me up.
Positioning. One of the first parts of these announcements that I noticed was their positioning of their new content: “The most creative minds in TV and film tell the kinds of stories only they can.” And with the new Arcade offering, “Where storytelling and design are pushed further than ever before.” Yes, the content and games of their competitors all tell stories and use technology, however, focusing on storytelling as a core function is quite relevant and competitively differentiated for the Apple brand.
Visual and Verbal. It’s no surprise that the Apple team has launched these new initiatives with a tight connection to the Apple brand identity design. That might seem like a given, but not all major tech players have that discipline. (That’s ok, Google. You have other attributes.)
Apple is late to this party. Very late. Innovation isn’t innovative if it’s not new, and much of what Apple has announced isn’t that new.
Timing. Apple is late to this party. Very late. Innovation isn’t innovative if it’s not new and much of what Apple has announced isn’t that new. Although it’s taken a backseat to newcomers Alexa and Google Home, Siri, was at least the first of its kind.
Degree. My former colleague Neal Clasper pointed out to me that in comparison to Google’s recent Stadia announcement, what Apple is doing isn’t all that innovative. If they really wanted to demonstrate innovation in, say, the news category, they could crack the code behind the distribution of fake news.
Omission. The announcement was big on new offerings, but light on specifics, most notably pricing and availability. The user experience starts with the announcement, folks. Not when you get around to it.
Creativity. Apple certainly hasn’t challenged the status quo with its naming approach. Amazon has channels. Why does Apple? And, a plus sign? Let’s do some more challenging, shall we?
Whether or not this shift away from devices to content and services is a smart one or not remains to be seen. And, quite frankly, I’m not nearly as qualified to make that assessment as are others. However, for the most part, I do think that the way they are executing it is, more than not, true to the Apple brand.