Apple topped the 2012 UK Coolbrands list recently. Something of a cliche, it’s hard not to wonder exactly how the analysts came to this conclusion. Again.
The fact members of the Smoking Gun PR team have been unable to get through to their mobile provider this week, thanks to the iPhone 5 launch, is testament to how much Mac products are still loved. But if something is owned by everyone, or at least one of their neighbours, can it still be seen in such reverence?
The company Steve Jobs founded provides a great case study, irrespective of any list. Back in 1984 the firm commissioned none other than Prometheus director Ridley Scott to create an advert doubling up as a public manifesto. “1984 will not be 1984”- the message referencing George Orwell’s book, and how Apple would not be like other corporations, apparently standing for free thinking individuals.
A couple of close calls with bankruptcy later and this image was well maintained through the late-1990s. The launch of the inimitable iMac, available in different colours, at a time when desktops had all the sex appeal of Bill Gates in drag, proved this point- with the aid of a (British) designer, functional technology and style had been combined to create something truly appealing, and effective.
There’s no denying that by cornering the cool-professional market Apple created a legacy of prestige that would soon attract interest from the mainstream. Skip forward a decade or so and in August it was confirmed the company had become the world’s most valuable, and most valuable of all time. But what is the effect of this on the image?
A flattering story for ‘cool brands’, published last year in The Independent, generated a micro-furore. The public cited everything from Chinese slave labour to ‘sheep like fans’ in diatribes against the planet’s favourite technology firm, suggesting all things white are no longer seen as wonderful. But people still want what the firm makes, despite the criticism of its cult-like following, poor environmental record and scandalous production trail.
So the answer to the quandary- what makes the Coolbrand list cool?- might not be found in what’s sold, but in what’s told. A quick glance down the rest of the leaderboard in question sees a host of other names that come with immediately identifiable images. Bang & Olufsen, Mercedes-Benz, and Aston Martin all made the grade, and share one thing in common (if not more) with Apple.
By creating a unique identity, and ignoring standard approaches to stand out from their competitors, these companies have built brands that transcend fashion and fad. In this instance they tell stories that compel consumers to buy, or at least have aspirations along those lines. More universally, in business terms, none will be confused for others in their industries. Unarguably shrewd, from a marketing perspective this goes at least some way to proving any cool credentials.