all change at apple

Apple has taken over from Coca-Cola to become the most valuable brand in the world, according the annual ‘Best Global Brands’ report from Interbrand. Coca Cola (the reigning company for 13 years) is now in third place, behind Google. I expect all readers of this blog will register little surprise at this news.

After all, every so often, a company changes our lives, not just with its products, but with its ethos and there’s no doubt that Apple is very much the poster child of the marketing community right now. It’s worth taking a moment to consider the revolution that the brand has brought about in customer service and store design. After all, brands like this change our behaviour: how we buy, how we communicate with each other, even whether we speak with each other. Currently the biggest brand in the world, Apple has reinvented stores and created a genuinely new experience for shoppers, attracting more than a billion shoppers since the stores launched in 2001 and driving US profits of $3million per store, per quarter. Apple’s stores are designed in a very specific way, featuring large, “kitchen style” tables, which allow customers to trial as many products as they like and get to know how they work. So successful has the design been that it has been copied (illegally) in China with fake Apple stores and also adapted by Samsung in Canada.

Store employees are trained to be experts in the products, meaning that no question is too big or too small. Apple also employs roving sellers who allow customers to pay through their iTunes account on an iPad, anywhere in the store. This removes the potential for large queues and makes the overall experience more personal. In addition, it is another opportunity to showcase what the technology can do. Now Apple is hiring Angela Ahrendts, who was until today the CEO of Burberry. She is a ground-breaking thinker, having overseen a very successful revolution of the Burberry brand.  At Apple she will lead the retail and online stores effort and be responsible for the strategic direction, expansion and operations, which will further enrich the consumer experience on and offline. So are we to expect a revolution at Apple?

Angela is the second fashion CEO Apple has poached in a matter of months. Paul Deneve, former CEO and President of Yves-Saint Laurent, was hired back in July. At the time, there was much speculation as to why Deneve, who led YSL’s retail expansion, was not joining to spearhead Apple’s retail efforts, but rather as a vice president in charge of “special projects.” Apple followed up Deneve with the August hire of Enrique Atienza, a senior vice president at Levi’s, who now leads Apple’s US retail efforts. Apple says it is thrilled that they have the ex-Burberry boss on board as she shares their passion for innovation and customer experience. It will be interesting to see what ideas the ex-fashion industry ‘big guns’ will graft onto the Apple tree.

Clearly there is a very clear agenda for how Apple conducts its business, so much so that books have even been written about ‘The Apple Way’.  Maybe we are to see an expansion of the brand into related areas? Fashion? Accessories? With a brand this strong it could almost be all things to all men, thanks to the commonly held belief that what underpins most purchases are the twin concepts of trust and respect for a brand – Apple of course has these by the shedload. So, with huge monetary success and an almost evangelistic customer base, where will the triumvirate lead the brand? We predict product range extensions and a morphing of the physical Apple store into something hugely exciting and truly unique. Let’s wait and see…..

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