Intentionally or not, every brand ends up representing certain qualities. If you follow the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, you can only be known for one thing, and only thing, in people’s minds. Either you’re the easiest, the fastest, the cheapest, the most luxurious, or whatever, it’s one and only one thing. Although I believe this to be true in most cases, I don’t think it’s universal to all brands. For example I believe Apple is known for two things. Apple is of course known for its innovative products like the iPhone/iTouch. But more than that, Apple is also known “to just work”.
What do I mean by “to just work”? A common belief about Apple is that their stuff just works. And right out of the box! You don’t need to spend time fixing it. You don’t have to worry about viruses. You don’t have to worry about spyware. You don’t have to worry about your computer crashing. If you buy a peripheral for your Apple computer it works. It just WORKS!
Even Apple is capitalizing on this belief. We’re all familiar with the Apple commercials with the cool hip guy talking to the older, larger, and more corporate guy discussing Apple versus Windows. And of course there’s my favorite with the Windows guy repeating himself over and over about how he’s been error free for nearly a week.
The thing to note is not whether or not this is true, but rather that it’s perceived that way by the public. It’s a common belief. You can’t argue that fact. You can argue whether or not it’s true, but you can’t argue that it’s a common belief.
Many people are buying Apple’s just to avoid dealing with issues they face on their Windows systems. Of course the issues won’t disappear, well maybe for a bit, but with time as they neglect to upgrade their machines, connect them without firewall/routers, install all kinds of crapware, the issues will come back. But ignoring that fact, the common belief out there is that Apple computers just work, and that they’re immune to all these issues. And Apple hasn’t been shy to leverage this belief.
Unfortunately however all is not rosy. With their latest release of the iPhone/iTouch software, version 2.0 (and even the recent 2.0.1 upgrade), they’ve introduced a very buggy and unstable operating system. I personally own an iTouch and upgraded mine from version 1.0 to version 2.0. I can tell you that before the upgrade I maybe rebooted once or twice in total, which is great. On the same hardware, since upgrading to version 2.0 (and 2.0.1), I can’t remember a single day I haven’t had to reboot! Wow! It’s not the hardware, it’s the operating system.
I’m by far not the only one, lots and lots of people are complaining. It’s starting to be refered to as the “White Apple Logo Screen of Death.” There are issues of random reboots. Extremely long synch ups. Network connections being dropped. Battery lives being sucked incredibly fast. Very slow UI response times at random intervals (up to ten’s of seconds where the system is locked). Complete “bricking” of the machine where you need to reset it to factory defaults which takes the better part of a day! The system completely corrupting almost every time you select “Upgrade All” for your installed apps. You name it, it’s all happening. And that’s nothing compared to the outcry from the developers!
Which leads us back to our initial question, the title of this post: What’s the value of your brand’s credibility? In other words, for a brand that’s known to “just work”, what’s going to be effect of releasing a very unstable system riddled with bugs. It will greatly affect it’s credibility, and hence it will affect its revenues. The question is how much?
Luckily for Apple they’ve got a lot of brand power when it comes to just working. This release definitely didn’t just work. There are already people comparing Apple’s latest 2.0/2.0.1 iPhone/iTouch OS to a Microsoft OS release. I can’t imagine what will happen if they call version 2.1 a service pack?. But I’m getting off topic. The question is how much will it harm their credibility of just working?
In the tech community you can generally get away with one, maybe two if you’re very lucky, bad releases assuming you’ve previously been consistently good. But you better fix those bad versions very quickly. The longer it takes to release version 2.1, the bigger the hit on their credibility.
But worse yet, Apple’s “can do no wrong” credibility has definitely been hurt. “It just works” is no longer true. They pushed out a product way before it was ready for mainstream. The common theme in the online community is that version 2.0 was barely Beta worthy.
I believe they may just get away with it this time. But they’ve just played their only “Get out of Jail Free” card which means version 3.0 had better be good. Not only that, but the upcoming 2.1 update had also better offer a significant improvement in stability otherwise there will be a lot of backlash from the community. The belief that Apple’s products “just work” will no longer hold true. And that will affect them across the board. Not just for the iPhone/iTouch, but with all their products!!!
Remember many people are buying Apple computers because they’re perceived to just work. Again, whether or not this is true doesn’t matter, the perception and reputation is there in the minds of the average consumer. And if Apple loses this, then the perceived advantage Apple has over Windows will quickly erode. It will alter the OS war in a very significant way.
Branding is important. It lets people know what you or your company is all about. Branding is what differentiates you. It’s what builds loyalty. It’s what ultimately creates your evangelists. It’s defines you in the minds of other people. If you destroy the essence of who or what you are expect there to be dire consequences. Branding takes a lifetime to build and only seconds to destroy!