Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Apple Replaces No Fear In Quest For Cool

I was once somewhere in China doing a quality-control audit at a belt factory. What I really remember, other than the bathrooms were really grody (free tip: a great test of a company's - as well as a restaurant's - commitment to quality and quality control can be found in how they maintain their bathrooms), is that they were simultaneously producing belts destined for both Walmart and Louis Vuitton on the same production line (no, I'm not sure if they were legit but the factory was very proud). I'm thinking that those belts cost about the same to produce but the LV ones would probably end up going to retail for, what, maybe 100 times more? Who knows.

At another past company, we would ship product to the Japanese that was identical to what we sold in the United States. The only difference was that they "just" doubled the price of everything we shipped there because "the Japanese will pay anything for the [product]". Note that this was during the boom years in Japan and I'm not sure that pricing model would hold up now. (For another fun business-case analysis, check out my surprisingly popular google referral bagged-drink post.)

Aspirational branding, a goal of product managers everywhere, is when a product or service is priced such that a large percentage of potential buyers cannot currently afford it but hope (aspire) to one day. Think TAG Heuer, Coach, Beats Audio, and so on. Related to this is the way people want to be associated with popular brands by being seen with a certain shoe, purse, or even belt. For years, I've seen this brand love displayed on the back of vehicles via logos like Oakley, No Fear, and Nike. (By the way, I'm also guilty of having "logoed" my car at times.)

Love, love, love this Nike-Renault combo logo I spotted in the neighborhood (and yes, these old Renaults, which are everywhere, deserve a story of their own):

I remember growing up that you'd see lots of audiophile cars stickered with Pioneer/Alpine, Oakley/No Fear for the sporty folks, or even the generic powered-by-[name of automaker]. Sometimes, like in the photo below, the owner will put a bunch of stickers from various brands on the car like it's Formula1 or something. I love the combination - Bennigans???

Here in Colombia, Chinese, Korean, and even some Indian car makers are duking it out in the local car market. In an attempt at true aspirational branding, one Korean company, Ssangyong, even goes so far as to put "Powered [or Licensed] By Mercedes Benz" on the back (right-hand lower corner) of their middle-class-aimed small SUVs:

Probably my favorite though is how I've seen a TON of Apple logos. You probably didn't even notice it on the window of the car above. Here's one on a Chevy Aveo at a local shopping center:

Who'd have ever thought that a funky little California computer company would one day replace No Fear and Oakley, also California companies, in the quest for cool?

It really makes me wonder what the next "it" brand will be. I could imagine one day in the future, the cool folks might have some sort of genetic-modification or implantable-device hologram logo on their driverless cars...

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