Talk about riding high. First Fortune Magazine gives Apple the honors in its corporate survey (see “Apple Tops Fortune’s Most Admired Companies List,” 2008-03-05). Now Apple has captured most of the top spots in a brand opinion survey of nearly 2,000 marketing professionals published by the branding company Interbrand. Apple was ranked first in almost all the positive questions, including “What brand can you not live without?” and “What brand, if sent back 100 years, would have the biggest impact on the course of history?” One respondent said, “[Apple is] the only one I can think of that I truly couldn’t replace – in work or in entertainment. With any other brand that I love, there’s some other one I can turn to if it disappeared. But not Apple.”
Apple also captured the top spot in more personal questions, including “What brand would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party?” “Which brand inspires you the most?” and, most tellingly, “If you were to describe yourself as being a brand, what brand would you be?” We can’t all be Apple, but many respondents like to think of themselves as being like Apple: “Because I like to come at things differently. I chose to ‘think different.'”
Joining Apple as brands that ranked highly in the positive questions were Google, Nike, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks. Not all the questions were positive, however, and Apple took second place to Microsoft in “Which brand do you want to argue with?” Lots of Apple aficionados certainly have issues with some of Apple’s actions, but such feelings are useful in that they show that people care. I’d be more worried if I were in Microsoft’s marketing department, since the world’s largest software company placed first in “If you could rebrand any brand, what brand would it be?” Ouch. The comments were blunt as well, running along the lines of “[Microsoft has] gone from innovative and bold to stodgy and a follower. But rebranding is only one step since it really needs a major shift in how it thinks.”
(I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The place where Microsoft could experiment with rebranding in a useful and interesting way is with the Macintosh Business Unit, which would benefit from independence from the overall Microsoft Windows brand, given the way many Mac users see Windows as the competition.)
Somewhat distressingly, the top vote getter for “What brand do you think is truly (going) ‘green’?” was overwhelmingly “None,” with Toyota, BP, The Body Shop, and Honda taking the next four slots. Companies may be talking the talk, but they’re not walking the walk sufficiently for environmental awareness to become associated with their brands.
For more on branding and its importance, particularly related to Apple, check out our three-part series “Branding Apple,” written in 2002 by Simon Spence, then head of research and information technology at brand consultancy Alexander Dunlop Ltd. It’s a bit dated in places, not surprisingly, but still offers a good overview of what branding means to Apple.