’s recently-concluded global survey on the influence of brands threw into light plenty of results which pretty much fall within expectations, but also several disparaging ones as well.


TThe Apple Logoaking the runaway lead is, of course without surprise, Apple. The brand has really revolutionized the entire globe and taken the First World by storm with its range of products from their MacBook laptops, to iPods to the iPhones. The brand in itself signifies a modernization of terms – the acrylic white surface characteristic of the brand clearly an indication of the purity of the brand, as well as a presentation of everything modern and futuristic. People literally wait with bated breaths for the overpriced new releases from the company. With its stylish range of products, especially the iPod, the popularity of the brand has grown somewhat exponentially over the past five years or so. From playing second fiddle to Microsoft in the computer market, Apple has found its own niche group, and has clearly used that to expand its reputation and attractiveness, and eventually, its market. Today, the brand signifies a societal status and style which people love to flaunt despite their very own complaints of its generally user-unfriendly features. Founder Steve Jobs really knows how to work his magic around the technological market.  The brand took the lead in 6/10 questions, such as “What brand would you most like to sit next to at a dinner party? Why?” and “What brand, if sent back 100 years, would have the biggest impact on the course of history? How?”.


Microsoft LogoMicrosoft, coming in second in terms of popularity results, has certainly lost its edge and avant-garde appeal to the masses in comparison to Apple. Perhaps as an effort to rebrand its model, the company released Windows Vista, which, in my humble opinion, has modernized the brand to a great extent yet to a rather lukewarm response on the market. I guess it’s probably time for Bill Gates to consider tweaking its marketing strategy a little such as to compete with Apple’s growing popularity.


Google LogoAlso performing well in the poll is leading search engine Google, the revolutionary search engine which has definitely replaced Yahoo as the primary search engine on the Internet. What makes Google tick is probably its simplicity. Visit its homepage, and you’re offered a simple website (certainly a Plain Jane in comparison to its other counterparts such as Yahoo or AltaVista) with merely a textbox and a search button on it, apart from a few other links. Also, the search engine has the ability to upkeep its stand on modern times, and its consumer-centric position really makes it a winner.


However, apart from these runaway organizations apparently taking a large contingency of votes, it was a no-show for various sectors as they perhaps are too commonplace to strike a lasting impression among consumers.


Firstly, the fashion and apparel industry. Despite the myriad of brands setting up stores worldwide following the onset of globalization, it does not really come as a surprise that something so commonplace – clothing – fail to make that large an impact on the poll. This is probably an after-effect of consumer saturation of the market – too many companies and brands crowding the market with similar items which result in a lack of prominence to the crowd. While the logos are certainly different, a Banana Republic shirt can most certainly be mistaken as something from, perhaps, Ben Sherman or Cortefiel. Likewise, Topman, River Island, Zara, FCUK et all also offer comparable items at comparable prices. So do Fossil, Swatch, Therefore, the marketing of the product takes on paramount importance today in leaving vivid impressions in the consumer base. The most successful, in my opinion, of all, actually charted – Nike – with its simplistic yet catchy logo and catchphrase “Just Do It!”. The brand has become synonymous with sports, and certainly is the market leader no matter how popular Adidas and Puma are becoming today. On the contrary, keeping up with the times is certainly important, and that is something stores like Asics have to do to maintain their relevance.


Next, the F&B industry performed rather poorly with the exception of McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Starbucks. These 3 stores are tittered around the globe and transcend languages and continents to reach out to the world. However, there were no signs of Burger King, Subway et al.


It is also somewhat surprising to note that amidst the dominance of Apple and Microsoft, essentially computer system brands, and online sites Google and Facebook, other technological brands did not fare as well. Handphone models such as Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and Motorola all fail to chart in any of the categories. What about technological companies such as Panasonic, Sharp, LG, Sony, Casio etc? Neither did Youtube, which revolutionalised an online video-sharing community, myspace, Blogger, from which the fad for blogging debuted, Skype, the popular global voice messaging and conferencing devise, or Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia with the communal touch.  


While the survey results may not prove to be conclusive, given that the poll size is small (approximately 2,000 in 107 different countries, which means an average of 20 people representing the tastes of a nation), they certainly can act as a milestone of the paradigm shift global trends have taken over the past few years, as well as a benchmark of better things to come in the future.


Coffee Break, Anyone?

February 29, 2008

I read, with absolute interest, of the measures which Starbucks have undertaken to attempt to win back their fair share of the market, and to ward off stiff competition poised by cafe chains McCafe (of McDonald’s) and Dunkin’ Donuts.

On Tuesday evening, US time, all 7,100 Starbucks outlets in the US were shut for 3.5 hours as the coffee giant attempted to retrain its frontline baristas the art of brewing a top-notch cup of expresso, as well as the skills of providing excellent service. (Read the story here). As a reflex action to its 50% dip in share price since 2006, it is expected that drastic measures will be taken. But how effective will these be?

Naturally, the entire scheme of things screams as a strong and loud marketing ploy. Train the workers, and yet not keep this training low-profile. Let the entire nation know that the workers really need, and are undergoing training! Let the consumers know that their interests are being placed ahead of the company’s reputation and any possible losses incurred during the 3.5-hour shutdown of the company.

What a clever PR stunt on the shifted market structure – lost customers will certainly be drawn back to the coffee chain with the promise of better service and coffee (and hopefully, prices as well), in the short term at least. I will be truly surprised if the coffee chain fails to see an increase in revenue in the US in the upcoming months.

But, it remains to be seen if the marketing ploy will work in the long run. It is unknown as to how long the effect of this “training” will last before the black sheep among the baristas get bored with their jobs once again and suffer a relapse into their old frame of mind. After all, it has been proven, via surveys, that this essentially forms the basis of the largely unchangeable mindsets of the iPod workforce generation – that who are unwilling to chip in extra effort than necessary at work but yet expect to reap the same rewards. What incentives will the employees be getting, aside from pride and satisfaction at their job, at being a part of the Starbucks revolution? I suppose, it’d all hinge on the type of carrot the company chooses to dangle in front of their employees.

While the long-term effect may not be tangible as of yet, perhaps this could be an aspect which companies based in Singapore may wish to look into. With largely dipping service standards nationwide, it is perhaps time for the black sheep in the service line to undergo some serious training from their companies, whether they choose to emulate or simulate the techniques used. After all, we’re paying 10% for service charge and 7% for GST. Don’t let local consumers start to get the notion that we’re being unfairly ripped off, ok? The inflation is bad enough.