The power of the brand was firmly to the fore this week as labels from the present and past made their presence felt in the mobile world.
Apple Pay has been around for a while, but this week saw its debut in the UK. The ensuing tsunami of opportunistic press releases faced by the staff of Telecoms.com, Business Cloud News, and especially Banking Technology would have drowned lesser hacks.
It seemed like no industry was unmoved by this epoch-defining juncture, with phrases like “paradigm shift”, “moving the needle”, “watershed moment” and even “game changer” occurring with reckless frequency in breathless press releases featuring more exclamation marks than a teenage girl’s diary.
Such is the strength of the Apple brand that entire industries are created by its gravitational field. These aren’t mere accessory makers or even those clever companies that specialise in making things out of white plastic and sticking an ‘i’ before the product name. We’re talking about ecosystems here, such as music publishing or mobile apps, and to that it seems we can now add financial services.
Much of business is about managing risk/reward and the feeling is that if Apple is committed to an area of business then it’s more likely to be a success, not just for Apple but for everyone. As this column has doubtless explored before, Apple is by far the most effective company at bringing technology into the mainstream. It typically doesn’t get involved in a technology until a few other companies have had a go at commercialising it, but then learns from their mistakes and aims to do better, as Nokia and Blackberry found out to their cost in the smartphone market.
The mobile industry has been dabbling with NFC and the ‘mobile wallet’ for years, but hasn’t really got anywhere. Now that Apple has turned up, offering a pretty similar set of technologies and services, the game, we’re told, has changed.
The internet was admirably swift in its tracking of the UK market response to the launch, with this Brandwatch piece especially exhaustive. Meanwhile the Informer wasted little time in paying for a Subway foot-long with an imperious wave of the iPhone, but must confess to feeling a tad self-conscious and even slightly embarrassed in hindsight.
At the other end of the brand exploitation scale lie attempts to wring a few last crumbs of revenue from brands that have seen better days. No sooner did Microsoft do the kindest thing to a phone division that had managed to acquire arthritis, cataracts and senility under its brief stewardship, than the remainder of Nokia felt moved to address rumours of a return to the handset game itself. The only form such a move would take would be if someone else did all the work and then paid Nokia for the right to stick its logo on the resulting product. This would then, presumably, be marketed as a Nokia phone despite the Finnish company having had no input in its design or manufacture.
Perhaps inspired by this, brands form the Informer’s childhood leapt from the shadows to join the recycling frenzy. At the start of the week there was news of a smartphone bearing the livery of 70s/80s personal computer company Commodore. This was promptly followed by the launch of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum Vega, preinstalled with 1,000 blocky 80s games that once seemed so cutting edge.
The highlight, however, was the launch of the Marshall smartphone. Marshall amplifiers are synonymous with rock and metal, so you can see the logic in sticking that brand on a music device, which all phones are now, and promoting it to rock types. The fact that an ability to make amps is in no way an indicator of smartphone aptitude is beside the point and the Informer will be donning a bandana and striped spandex leggings in anticipation of its arrival. In the meantime here’s a gratuitous Spinal Tap clip to get you in the mood.