Feb 10

The case of the missing monikers

Do you know this thing?No one denies the power of brands. We silly humans are just happier buying from “the better brand.” That’s why companies like Archos struggle to get noticed in the shadow of stronger brands like HP. And a brand like Apple can more easily venture into new markets with such fanfare.

Some companies have sub-brands that are as just as powerful as the master brand. For example, iPod is as big a deal for customers as Apple. While Vostro is but a distant echo of Dell.

There are endless ways to build a brand or sub-brand. One old favorite is to stick the word right in your customer’s face. Put it on the product where people have to stare at it every day. Interesting to note, though, that some of the stronger sub-brands don’t even bother.

iMac is a good example. For all of Apple’s design elegance, this baby had long touted the super-sized “iMac” on its backside, big enough to be seen from a block away. Now it’s gone altogether. All we get is an Apple logo under the front bezel. Still fairly jumbo, but no iMac word. Yet no one overlooks the fact that Apple sells iMacs.

In fact, you don’t see a product name on any of Apple’s desktop computers, from Mac mini to Mac Pro. Just a logo. Is that because Apple is actively shifting us to think of Apple first, and the sub-brand second? Or simply because the sub-brand has become so powerful, it doesn’t need to be so flagrant anymore? Once you figure that out, you can start wondering why MacBook, iPod and iPhone are clearly labeled by both product name and Apple logo.

Obviously, the way you adorn your products reflects an overall strategy. It says something about how you wish your customers to think of you — but it also demonstrates how you think of your customers. If you respect them enough, you’ll treat them to a little simplicity.

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  • Tom

    Notice that the desktop line doesn’t label the sub-brand. This is probably because you’re only advertising to the people in that home or office, who obviously already own the product. While all their mobile devices clearly state the sub-brand name on the back aimed away from the user, so everyone around the user, no matter where they are, can see what device their using.

    For a minimalist branding strategy, this is the logical way to do it.

  • T

    On mobile products, it might serve as marketing. Who has seen my iMac? Me, my girlfriend, and friends and family who come visit us. And who has seen my 3G? Several hundreds of people.

    Otoh, they’re much more likely to have seen the gui or the Apple logo than the tiny “iPhone” on the back…

  • JamesS

    I’m often surprised at how seldom reviewers mention the lack of branding on the front of some of Apple’s products, a trait that is quite unusual in electronic products.

    The iPhone, iPod, and iPad, for example, have no branding printed on the front.

    I think it’s due to Steve Job’s desire for elegant, minimalist design. On a small product like an iPhone, why clutter up the front with a logo? One on the back is sufficient, and won’t be a distraction to the user.

  • Scott

    This was a great post to ponder. I stare everyday at an iMac connected to an external HP monitor. On the front of the iMac is the black Apple logo surrounded by aluminum. On the HP monitor, you have the HP logo along with the model number and buttons and icons to go with the buttons. I really hadn’t even thought about the fact that the iMac is missing any kind of sub-branding until you brought it up. Then I think back to my Performa days and the model number scribed on the beige plastic along with the “PowerPC” logo. It’s amazing how far Apple has come. Even their stores, nothing on the marque except the Apple logo to tell you it’s an Apple Store. That truly is brand recognition.

  • Taxi

    On the laptops the sub-brand is on the bezel of the monitor. But the laptops tend to look very much alike, especially if you’re not familiar with them.

    On the other hand, all the desktop/server gear is very much iconic in it’s own right. There’s no way you could confuse an iMac, a PowerMac or a Mac Mini (or an Xserve for that matter).


  • WindozeKiller

    Apple designs works of art. While it is ok to sign your work (Apple Logo), there is no need to incorporate the title of the piece (product name) into the artwork.

    In my opinion, the most beautiful computer ever designed was the “Quicksilver” G4 (http://images.apple.com/support/_images/hero_powermacg4.jpg) note: NOT the MDD monstrosity (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f5/Apple_PowerMac_G4_M8570_MDD_front.jpg/600px-Apple_PowerMac_G4_M8570_MDD_front.jpg) It looks like even Apple won’t put a picture of that thing on its web site. A close second is the current 27″ iMac. This may leapfrog the Quicksilver in my mind if I actually get one soon.

    The current G5/intel PowerMac design gets my vote for the most beautiful computer on the INSIDE. Years later, it is still breathtaking and unparalleled in the industry.

    Contrast this with the truly ugly computers produced by HP and the other box pushers. I always berate the Sheeple who bought those things for leaving the “warning label” stickers on them. Would you drive your new care for years and leave those stickers on the window that list the specifications? Why would you leave “Intel inside” and “Windows Vista” stickers on your PeeCee? Especially when it has ironically been downgraded to XP!

    Seriously, I’ve seen these things with tattered edges, half on, and filthy, yet the user is too dumb to know they were supposed to come off after purchase. I guess if they were smart enough to know that, they would have bought a Mac.

  • This conversation makes me grit my teeth cause I don’t think you guys ‘get’ brands and branding at all.

    But what really is mystifying is that nobody seems to understand that the line between words and pictures is fuzzy.

    The Apple logo is as much a word as a picture. They’ve done a brilliant job of making it so. As far as the sub-brand discussions – IMHO they’re not brands they’re products – all from one brilliant company that stands for one thing in everything it does.

    How many sub-brands you can cram on the head of a pin is totally immaterial.