On June 6th., Apple announced a free service called iCloud that allows users to seamlessly connect and syncronizing their content with any iPod, iPad, iPhone, or Mac device. According to the company's press release, iCloud is intended to reduce the difficulty of managing digital content:
“Today it is a real hassle and very frustrating to keep all your information and content up-to-date across all your devices,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “iCloud keeps your important information and content up to date across all your devices. All of this happens automatically and wirelessly, and because it’s integrated into our apps you don’t even need to think about it—it all just works.”
iCloud is the second service to carry the "i" sub-brand designation (the first being iTunes.) and now joins a product line-up that includes i-branded products including the iPod, iPad, iPhone, and iMac. Apple's success with these products and services is reflected in the increase of the company's stock (see below graph that compares Apple price shown in green versus the NASDAQ shown in red from 2006 to the present)
Financial success of Apple's i-products notwithstanding, I believe Apple's creation of the "i" sub-brand was unnecessary. Sub-brands make sense for businesses that want to extend into new consumer segments that don't resonate completely with the master brand. For example, Disney created the "Disney Touchstone" brand to extend their business into movies that were more edgy than their traditional PG fare. Likewise, Hallmark created the Shoebox brand for cards to appeal to an audience that wanted more irreverent messages.
The same can't be said of Apple's decision; the company's master brand attributes are the same as those for it's "i" sub-brand products. Specifically, those attributes include:
- People-power over technology
- Exceptional user-experience/awesome interfaces
- Superior customer service.
Given how savvy Apple generally is about it's marketing, it's tempting to seek a more reasoned explanation for the creation of the "i" sub-brand. For example, one might believe that Apple intends to re-enter the business market and is preparing for this by sub-branding all the consumer products with the i-brand designation. Ostensibly, the business products would carry a new sub-brand to appeal to those new users.
Unfortunately, this theory falls apart when one looks carefully at Apple's product line; one would expect Apple to have changed the names of all its consumer brands including the Mac Mini, MacBook and Apple TV to reflect this intention.
As unsatisfying as it may seem, I don't think there's really much of a strategy at work here and the most logical explanation for the "i" sub-brand is that Apple simply fell into a naming convention after the development of the iPod.
If true, then all of Apple's products could have just as effectively been sold under the Apple master brand. For example, the iTunes Store could have, and should have, been named the Apple Music Store.
If you have a different opinion, please post a comment to this blog.