It’s not what you put into a (digital) communication that matters, it’s what you get out – as Apple knows

Recently I’ve self-diagnosed Jones’ Syndrome – as in ‘keeping up with the J…’. It’s based on my anxiety about becoming an old fart due to my broad lack of interest in the finer detail of the digital world.

I’ve heard myself saying ‘cool’ to anything whether it is good, bad or indifferent. I kick myself when I say it as it must appear very odd to anyone listening. I’m waiting with dread for someone like Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King describing the UK economic outlook as ‘cool’.

Digital language is relatively new and I’m sure many people I meet have swallowed a whole glossary of terms and hide behind the security of knowing I haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. I think this is a bad thing as the people I’m thinking about live in the world of communication. Also I do get concerned when people who operate solely in the digital world tend to sneer at anything else that isn’t, such as television.

As a medium-to-heavy user of the internet I am a big convert to doing things like buying airline tickets, booking hotels, buying music, researching work stuff, basically enhancing things I already do. However I’m not an early adopter of all things new, I’m more cautious about the brand I’m dealing with. I deal with a few solus online brands such as Amazon but the majority are duos – physical brands with a good online presence.

The brand does play an important part in my approach. For example if I want to book a flight I will mostly go to BA first, Virgin second (depends on short versus long haul), and then I might check out one or two alternatives to satisfy myself I’m not paying over the odds for the trip. I believe I have some sort of relationship with BA and Virgin whereas I don’t feel the same with Easyjet or Delta for example. Whether that belief is real or imagined is irrelevant, it’s how I feel. How I feel is the consequence of numerous stimuli over time.

The most valuable brand in the world is Apple according to several different reports recently published. According to BrandZ’ Most Valuable Global Brands 2012, Apple has a brand value of $183m; not the financial value of the business but the value of the brand if it was sold in isolation. BrandZ also has a ‘brand momentum index’ where Apple scores a maximum of 10. This is a value placed on its overall impact as a brand on the world at large. I would suggest Apple has optimised all channels at its disposal to provide the stimulus that creates such a powerful brand influence. From great design to stylish stores to distinctive advertising to great products to on-line dialogue with users. It feels like a lesson in channel optimisation in both broadcast and narrowcast media.

Most importantly the take-out of Apple’s domination as a global brand is its apparent grasp of perfect brand management from the top to the bottom of the business. A visit to an Apple store demonstrates its attention to the detail of embracing its customers. Also Apple seems to smartly train their staff smartly to talk jargon to those who want it and not to those who don’t. They get the notion of ‘horses for courses’ from a customer perspective.

My point is Apple is a technology business but one which designs products and talks to potential users about the end benefit and not the road map of how they got there. The workings in the margin aren’t relevant to someone considering buying an Apple product.

My learned friend Giles Keeble reminds all concerned on any project is that all communication is about response. This is a very important point to bear in mind when clients and agency folk are often more concerned with what to put in to communication. The challenge, often, with digital folk is they are focused on the input and not the output; a consequence, possibly, of the technical challenge of building content.

I try to urge all concerned to focus on the end result on any project irrespective of the specialists involved. It’s about creating a joined-up presentation of a brand. Jargon can get in the way – therefore I must stop trying to appear modern by saying ‘cool’.

Jolly good will do for now.

This post first appeared on paul-simons.co.uk.

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About Paul Simons

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Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.