Apple Music launches today, taking on major players like Spotify, and a continuing love affair with the Apple brand spells undoubted success. So how does the power of such a formidable brand strategy translate into uniquely outstanding content marketing?
As the prophet Natalie Imbruglia once said, I’m torn. Apple Music launches today to rival Spotify’s and Tidal’s music streaming services. Which is annoying, because I was about to catch up with the rest of the world and sign up to Spotify Premium; Spotify just emailed me a voucher for two months of free subscription (normally £9.99 per month). I’ve since found out that Apple Music offers three free months (normally same price).
My musician friends swear by Spotify; I’ve just been a bit of a cheapskate in getting round to signing up. Now I’m thinking I might just scrap those plans and stick with Apple. I mean I did just get a new iPhone 6.
I know, right? That’s me, doing it, iPhone 6-owning and out there, pushing boundaries, all edgy and stuff. It makes sense that my music streaming is Apple-based seeing as, bar that pointless watch, I’m completely Apple’d up now. Through no fault of my own.
Well, OK it is totally my fault. I became an Apple-ite quite some time ago and frankly I don’t want to switch. I have no need to; it all works fine and I’ve got used to it. I was over the moon when Southerly made the switch too and gave us all shiny new MacBooks. Now I have an Apple every day, work, rest and play.
The differentiator is one’s emotional attachment to the brand.
I like all the smooth, brushed metal gear; feels good when I touch it. I also forgive Apple’s numerous, well-documented transgressions. I mean I got an iPhone 6, for pity’s sake. You know, the phone that famously bends in your pocket? Like, right now, every day I go without buying some sort of protective cover feels like the hanging sword of Damocles.
Which brings me to my slightly drawn out point – the power of branding and what it means in the digital world today.
An experience between the consumer and the company.
Brands drive businesses
Last week Southerly heard expert insights from branding guru Dr Paul Temporal, lecturer at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School. His take-home message was that businesses don’t drive their brands any longer; it’s the brands that drive businesses.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple popped up quite a few times. It’s a prime example of a company driven by its brand. Not because of the iconic logo; not because of the iconic adverts; not because of the iconic design of its six or so products and not because of its PR team. These all help, sure, but a brand is much more.
A brand is a relationship. The brand is the customer experience.
Emotion eclipses rational
A brand is an emotional experience between the consumer and the company, and with that in mind it’s easy to see how branding and marketing – and content marketing particularly – share common ground. One cannot strictly be without the other and a great brand super-charges the potential of its marketing power. Building relationships with your clients and customers is the most crucial element of content marketing success.
As I mentioned, a key marker of a strong brand is forgiveness. True brand ambassadors will swear (sometimes blindly) by their brand. Apple has been so successful a brand because I, like billions of others, am so emotionally attached to it, I’m willing to forgive the company almost implicitly.
I’m not particularly proud of saying that, by the way, but I’m nevertheless fascinated by the fact that I’m fully aware I think that way. I tend to think of myself as pretty savvy – I’m acutely aware of being marketed at to the point of distraction (comes with the territory) and yet still I’m willing to go along with it in Apple’s case (and Coca Cola’s, and Nike’s, and Sainsbury’s, and H&M’s, and… I swear, I’m not a label guy).
Apple displays brand power on an almost unprecedented scale.
The other day I visited the recent Professor Tim Hunt debacle, with the view that companies (or in this case, universities) in the digital marketing age are dealing with a different type of bottom line these days; they’re scared of putting out messages and content that could potentially affect their reputational bottom line.
And in the context of Apple’s brand power we see clearly where trust and reputation feed directly into the monetary bottom line; Apple’s market capitalisation outshines even the energy industry’s biggest players (and by a considerable margin – around $300 million more). The brand has lifted the company to a stage where the trolls and negativity online just don’t matter. Bad press doesn’t matter. The brand supersedes all of that.
Trust and reputation feed directly into the monetary bottom line.
I’m not saying this is invariably a good thing, but it’s worth keeping in mind when thinking about your own brand and how you plan content marketing that leverages its power.
Emotion eclipses rationality. To trigger an emotional connection through your marketing is what differentiates you from your competitors. In a rational world, Apple makes technology – it makes computers, smartphones, tablets and mp3 players (for now). As do a number of other companies. The differentiator is one’s emotional attachment to the brand.
Craft content with emotion
To translate that emotional attachment into your content and communications, it’s essential to think about what your brand means to your customers. Emotionally. It’s not what you do, it’s about their experience of you: how they see your face and hear your voice. I wrote another blog recently that said tone of voice is a key differentiator in content marketing, and tone of voice is absolutely governed by emotion. Your tone inspires feeling.
Outstanding content marketing not only deals with what people know about you, or what you’d like them to know about you as a company; it’s marked by how they feel about you.
Apple nailed that. And so, now I have an iPhone 6 and will probably install Apple Music, and with it I’ll feel like my life is complete. Well, save for that constant impending doom of breaking my precious phone.
If only there was a product that avoids me having to get the phone out in the first place. I don’t know, like an armband or something.