Posts Tagged ‘Brand’

Is Apple Cooling or Transitioning to a Techno-Luxury House of Brands?

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

Blog graphicThe recent announcement that Apple is acquiring Beats Electronics for its streaming audio and electronics capabilities has caused consternation on Wall Street in terms of whether this is an indication that Apple’s renowned ability to innovate in-house is cooling and that the company is beginning to stall.

Most of the attention around the Beats acquisition has focused on its streaming capability and whether it offers as good a service as Spotify or Pandora. The potential that this joint team brings for developing future offerings in the broader entertainment landscape, including video, should not be ignored.

Other key benefits for Apple include Beats’ wealth of aggregate knowledge of the entertainment, music and electronics industries, as well as its connection with the youth culture – something that many other companies seek to emulate. Beats is considered to be a relatively strong U.S. brand with a youth flavor and one that, when attached to Apple and its global market presence and subscriber base, could infuse a stronger linkage with their younger purchasers, further extending their cool image and status.

At the heart of this transaction, however, is the issue of “the innovation divide”, where larger process driven companies are not always as flexible and in tune with the rapidly changing technologies and consumer demands that startups seem to easily tap into. This is why we have seen Facebook acquiring WhatsApp and Oculus. as well as Google acquiring Nest.

The real challenge faced when executing such acquisitions is being able to blend the cultures and mindsets of the new company with the dominant corporate culture that prevails. This may seem easy but the reality is that the founders and creative thought leaders who drive the acquired company usually leave fairly quickly. What can Apple do to prevent this happening and also create a mechanism and process for future acquisition and expansion going forward? The key may be keeping them as independent operations and brands supported by the power of the Apple global logistics, branding and design machine.

Are there other reasons that Apple should be considering this broader transformation? At the recent DLD NYC Conference, Scott Galloway identified that technology is a terrible business to be in because: “If you don’t reinvent it every year, your stock gets hammered”. He stated that “you want to be in a business that leads with your heart not your head, as it results in irrational wants and needs which in turn lead to larger margins”; he believes that the investment community has recognized this, giving Cartier as an example of having a larger market cap than Deutsche Telecom. Galloway identified that “the best neighborhood in the world is luxury” and although, in his opinion, Apple is the best house brand in the world, it’s in a bad neighborhood which can be a “terrible stock strategy”. He believes that Apple needs to transition its business into the luxury neighborhood in order to become a great iconic luxury brand and, in so doing, become the first trillion dollar market cap company. There seems to be strong evidence that Apple has already initiated this transformation with the appointments of Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry, and Paul DeNeve, former CEO of Yves Saint Laurent, into key positions within its organization.

The possibility is that the acquisition of Beats could be Apple’s fledgling step to creating not just a single luxury brand but a house of brands, similar to LVMH, with multiple appeal points for a broader global audience, rather than limiting their offering to a single brand or a single technology. The creation of a new techno-luxury house of brands supports Apple’s quest to become the first trillion dollar market cap company, and the company’s transformative strategy indicates a return to its historic reputation for unpredictability!

Steve Bell, President, KeySo Global LLC

Is it live or is it Memorex?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

In 1971 Memorex launched its “shattering glass” advertisements, followed up by a series of television commercials featuring Ella Fitzgerald singing a note that shattered a glass while being recorded to a Memorex audio cassette. The tape was played back and the recording also broke the glass, asking “Is it live or is it Memorex?”

Who remembers those ads from an era as far behind us as the Walkman – and why should they matter to us today? If you remember the ads and the company and are reading this blog then you are young at heart and smart enough to know that you need to understand the significance of digital transformation on your business. This story is important for the following 3 reasons:

  1.  Memorex no longer exists – it was started 1961 as a high tech computer storage company, branched into consumer products and after being acquired and broken up, was put into bankruptcy in 1996.
  2. The technologies (audio & video tapes) it was promoting have ceased to be relevant.
  3. Finally, and most importantly, the brand name and power of the message still have value. The brand was acquired by Imation of Taiwan and is used on accessories for iPods, Blueray and flash drives to evoke that sense of authenticity for quality playback.

While companies come and go and technologies fade, the value of a brand and the authenticity are more critical in a digital world than ever before. It is harder than ever today to determine what is live, what is real or fake, who are friends and who are not. Is the Facebook friend a real friend, one who would do for you what you need a friend to do? Is the company you “like” on Facebook a legitimate organization that understands what makes you tick, what really matters in your life? And perhaps most importantly, is trust possible in today’s Digital Life?

There are aspects of human nature that will always supercede the advances of technology – an understanding of right and wrong, good morals, spirituality, the courage to defend one’s family and loved ones, and to help and care for those who are in need. These are the values that define us and do not go away. And this is why brands that we have established an emotional and values-based connection with have such longevity and resonance with us.

Companies and individuals alike both face an interesting dilemma in today’s fast paced Digital World. Do we opt to embrace or ignore new technologies and the changes they bring about? The harsh reality is that ignoring change does not keep things the same!

On a corporate level, ignoring change can lead to disenfranchisement of the brand promise. A classic example of loss and recovery is Apple which owned simplicity with the Mac, lost it in the mid 90’s, only to rediscover it again when Steve Jobs returned and ushered in the iPod.

On a human level, it can hobble our ability to teach our children how to manage time, create expectations, earn respect and create trust by following through using new technologies and mediums, and building on the common values we share. Through the actions we take on a personal level and the brands we chose to validate, we define who we are, and how the world will evolve.

So in the Digital World “is it live or is it Memorex?” translates to authenticity and trust being the critical components of success! As we embrace change, build companies and continue to create more enabling technologies, we must not lose sight of those values that define us as humans. We must use the opportunities presented globally by Digital World technologies to bring health, happiness and the joy of living into the real world.

Organizations will need to change and adapt in order to ensure that their products remain authentic to their brands, and society as a whole will need to adapt to ensure that it remains true to its core values, and rewards those companies and brands that best understand and serve it.

If you’re interested in learning how your business can remain relevant and authentic in the emerging Digital World, we at KeySo Global can show you how. Contact us at, +1-847-478-1633 or visit our website

Steve Bell & Steve Benton, KeySo Global

Can your business be WikiLeaks proof?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

The recent release of embarrassing U.S Government State Department cables by WikiLeaks and selected news media have been followed avidly by mainstream media. Now Forbes magazine has published a scoop interview in London with Julian Assange, the leader of the organization behind the leaks. In this interview Julian identifies that his next focus, for what he describes as Mega Leaks, will be big business. WikiLeaks is no stranger to exposing corporate wrong doing, as shown by the revelations about the collapse of Iceland’s Kaupthing Bank and the funneling of money to the proprietors and companies that they owned, or the Swiss Bank Julius Baer’s offshore tax activities. In Julian Assange’s words “WikiLeaks means it’s easier to run a good business and harder to run a bad business and all CEO’s should be encouraged by this.”
In today’s interconnected world of increased social networking, democracy of information is becoming the new standard. The concept of trust and brand become very critical to a company’s reputation in social media. As an example, the take away from the whole BP Gulf of Mexico issue is “walk the talk”. Despite BP’s best, and in some cases desperate, efforts in social media to contain the situation its focus on its brand image of being green and “beyond petroleum” was never matched by its actions or its commitments; it became hooked on its own brand myth. Environmental groups point out in the blogosphere that BP spent more on branding than renewable energy resources. Now the question of safety protocol violations, after three of the largest oil-related accidents in the past five years, means that BP’s management’s integrity is at severe risk, especially if there are any WikiLeaks.
As a result of the above, C suite executives may have been concerned about the impact of social media and what messages were being broadcast about their business into the digital world. WikiLeaks, however, has just upped the ante on the game completely! With several of our clients, one major problem area that we have identified is that they are not integrating social media as a unified element into their overall business structure and strategy. Brand messages and activity in the real world, online and via other media channels have to be consistent. Dialogues with consumers and business partners have to reflect the culture of the company, the strategic direction and positioning that management is trying to establish. For this to occur it is necessary that employees see a congruency between internal dialogues, external messages and actions taken. Without this congruency, the possibility for misalignment of intent, message and action increases. With the media driven awareness of the prevalence of secure and anonymous WikiLeaks drop boxes and of an organization committed to investigating and exposing unethical, dishonest or inconsistent actions, the opportunity for disgruntled or frustrated whistle blowing employees to ensure democracy of information just exploded exponentially.
In reality, no organization is WikiLeaks proof, despite the best promises of IT and cyber security companies. Today more openly accessible data is being generated within organizations so that it has become impossible to effectively contain and secure it. The best possible line of defense is to maintain consistently open and ethical behavior. CEO’s and boards should give serious consideration to their company’s digital footprint in terms of what their family and friends would think if its behaviors were to become public knowledge tomorrow… because they will!