An iPhone By Any Other Name Would Sell as Well
In my post this morning, I speculated that it might be interesting to get the opinions of some branding experts regarding the Cisco lawsuit and if it could affect the name, brand and possible success of the iPhone (or whatever Apple ends up calling it). I decided it might be fun to actually contact some experts and find out, and much to my delight, several responded to my queries.
Rob Frankel, who is author of the book, The Revenge of Brand X: How to build a Big Time Brand on the web or anywhere else, thinks that the fact Apple dropped the 'i' designation when naming Apple TV has very little to do with how it plans to position the iPhone or the overall Apple brand. "Remember, products are proof of a brand's promise, they're not brands unto themselves. Identity is just a small part of branding. Actually, a very small part of branding," Frankel says.
Frankel adds that Apple, of course, doesn't own the i-designation (as Cisco can certainly attest). "Fact is that "i-anything" is not really owned by anyone. Just like "e-anything" isn't owned by anyone, per se. All those prefixes do is connote some sort of digital connectivity, not any particular brand. That's why everyone, including Apple, jumps on the "i" and "e" bandwagon. It has a quick transmission of concept."
Giannina Granata Silverman, who runs Rocket Ranch Design and Advertising in Seattle, says she never felt the i-naming strategy was all that original, but because of the success of the iPod, Apple may be trying to extend the naming strategy to the phone. "The i-Pod was so enormously successful that the brand caché is enormous. By naming their new product 'i-Phone' they are extending the existing brand equity to the new product, which is smart."
David Meerman Scott, author of the book, Cashing in with Content: How innovative marketers use digital information to turn browsers into buyers, (and fellow EContent Contributing Editor) points out that the iPhone doesn't have to be linked to the iPod or the i-designation to succeed. "In my opinion, the name iPhone is not required for this launch. Apple Phone could work." He points out that "PowerBook is also a great Apple name and it does not have an "i" in front. "
Meerman Scott believes the Apple symbol is far more powerful than i-whatever."The Apple logo, both as one color (like the thing that lights up on a notebook case) and the color version is just terrific. They've been smart to keep that for 20 plus years and not change it like so many companies do," Meerman Scott says.
Frankel thinks the iPhone will succeed no matter what Apple calls it. "Apple has a strong (although badly articulated) brand appeal," he says, and he jokes, "They could probably call it the 'Bin Laden' phone and it would still sell!" (I think he's right on that one.).
He shoots down the assertion that Apple might have purposely set up the name for a deliberate fight with Cisco, indicating that Apple doesn't need additional legal distractions right now in light of the SEC investigation. "Nobody at this level has the imagination, nerve or skill to pull off the 'let's fake them out' tactics that smaller, more risk-taking companies do. At Apple and Cisco's level, they take pretty straight shots and avoid risk as much as possible."
Granata Silverman agrees saying "Nobody likes a lawsuit, and I doubt there was any deliberate attempt to cash in on someone else's IP." Frankel believes Apple is extremely savvy when it makes such moves in spite of its "cool" reputation. "They happen to be extremely good at making themselves appear to be cavalier and renegade. But you don't build a debt-free, cash rich, billion dollar enterprise by shooting from the hip."
These experts believe that the iPhone will sell regardless of what Apple calls it, and whether or not they win this fight with Cisco. In this case, Apple's (brand) reputation and the very real desire of the consumer masses trumps a name any time.