“Apple” Branding?

Apple is held up as a pinnacle of branding and marketing genius in the consumer tech space. I’m certainly not going to argue against this, but I’m curious where they are going with some of their brands – there’s certainly a little brand confusion/transition there at the moment.

Note: much of this is from memory, if I’ve gotten something wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments.

Let’s look at some of the brands that Apple currently uses:

  • Mac mini (note the lower case), iMac, Mac Pro, MacBook, MacBook Pro
  • iPod, iPod shuffle, iPod nano
  • iPhone, iSight
  • AirPort
  • Apple TV

Including “Apple” as a symbol1 in the name of Apple TV is a new brand

It’s also worth looking at some of the previous brand names, particularly:

  • PowerMac, PowerBook

The computer lineup used to look like this:

  • PowerBook
  • PowerMac

Then the iMac and iBook were added:

  • PowerMac
  • PowerBook
  • iMac
  • iBook

Everything makes sense here – “Power” for pros, “i” for consumers. Add the iPod and iSight to the mix – both are consumer products so everything still works ok at this point.

The next step is to add the Mac mini into the mix:

  • PowerMac
  • PowerBook
  • iMac
  • iBook
  • Mac mini

This is where things start getting a little more confusing the “Mac” brand is now a third “type” of computer class. However, additional changes start to bring this change into context.

If we look at the current computer names, we’ll see we’re almost back where we were before the iMac:

  • Mac mini
  • Mac Pro (PowerMac)
  • MacBook (iBook)
  • MacBook Pro (PowerBook)
  • iMac (um, iMac)

So all the computers are getting “Mac” branding. Obviously the iMac still sticks out like a sore thumb here, but it does include “Mac” in the name and “iMac” has a lot of brand value, so renaming it to simply “Mac” (which is the name that makes the most sense to me) probably has quite a bit of cost associated with it.

Of course, we still have some other “i” products as well:

  • iPod
  • iPhone
  • iSight
  • iTunes
  • iPhoto
  • iLife
  • iWork

The iPhone is particularly interesting here because it shows Apple plans to continue using the “i” branding for the foreseeable future.

Anyway, the point I was getting to with all of this is addition of “Apple TV” to the mix. As far as I know, this is the first product to use the Apple logo as part of the name, making typesetters’ jobs harder than ever. 🙂

It’s an interesting choice. With the iPod and iTunes doing the same job (playing music and video) on different devices, the name iTV certainly made sense to me.

I could speculate that the name Apple TV signifies a shift away from the “i” naming in the same way that the Mac mini signified a shift away from the “i” naming for media stuff, but I can’t really see them renaming the iPod or iTunes anytime soon.

I could also speculate that they fell back on the crutch I’ve seen so many companies use – they couldn’t think of a good name/brand so they just used the company name, but I can’t really see that flying with Apple’s marketing/branding folks either.

So will we start seeing “Apple” branded stuff alongside the “i” and “Mac” brands? Does it mean anything? Share your own insights and speculation in the comments.

  1. The artist formerly known as Prince anyone? [back]