Thursday, March 31, 2011

You Will With Apple

Imagining a future that leverages the benefits of innovative technology is not a dream reserved solely for Millennials. The Baby Boom Generation helped stretch our imaginations about what was possible. A company called AT&T, in an effort to reposition its brand to be more innovative and to appeal to a younger demographic for its loyalty, launched an aggressive campaign in the early 1990s called, "You Will."

The repositioning placed heavy emphasis on technology's influence on mobility and flexibility, and it blurred the lines between work and family lives. Today, that is our reality. In the course of a regular business day, we bounce in and out of different worlds, depending on the phone call, email, text or Twitter interruption. Work, marriage, kids, school, and new opportunities clamor for our attention. Technology got us to this place and technology will be our savior.

AT&T's attempt to be the iconic innovator worked well in its advertising campaign long ago, but failed miserably in the marketplace because the company could not deliver fast enough on the expectation it created. However, Apple is standing in the gap quite well as today's innovative brand. The, "You Will," concept works well with Apple, because it creates a vision for reinvention at a time when we need it most. And because we "need" it, we will buy it. We seem to be buying it from Apple more because it delivers to our needs with creativity and style.

Just when I began to detest Apple (see my earlier blog post, One Bad Apple), I now covet its products all the more.

The new iPad 2 made its Austin debut during the recent SXSW Interactive. For a few days, downtown Austin hosted an Apple retail outlet, and the destination felt like you were in Manhattan. The iPad 2 in AnyTown, USA, was the center of the world, and the world was filled with promise when the new product hit the market. The promise of Apple is that you will be able to do more than you can imagine with its products, and the company creatively carves out a companion-like relationship between you and its brand.

Scale creates intimacy with its products. The iPhone slips into my hip pocket nicely. I can feel it. My daughter's key ring is attached to mini-purse just big enough for the iPhone or an iPod Touch. Like a little puppy, the new iPad 2 sits easily on your lap. Owners caress it with care. It's personal. At the same time, iPad owners willingly share their tablet. It's a bragging right. "Oh, you don't have one? I do. Try mine. It's cool."

Color plays into the brand prominence of Apple, and it enhances the customer experience. Again, it's personal, not generic. The personal relationship with the iPad 2 is more than skin deep. More than 65,000 applications are available via Apple to expand your imagination about what you can do, if you will. It’s like a marriage that never gets old -- always exploring, revealing new possibilities, always serving with creativity. Apps like, FaceTime eliminate distance. Touch-edit features with iMovie and creative music mixing with GarageBand open your eyes to what you never thought possible. Apple's brand is transformational, and its brand essence spills over to complementary product lines.

Get ready for sleek, creative iPad 2 covers to help personalize the Apple product further with distinction. The launch price for the newest Apple product makes it approachable. And, although the world was not clamoring for a newer version of the iPad, Apple saw the need for it nonetheless. Estimates indicate a strong consumer demand. Bringing forth the new iPad 2 is like opening a new Starbucks. The new kid on the block gratifies the thirsty and market demand grows.

Of the estimated 24.1 million tablets expected to sell in the U.S. this year, 20 million could be branded with the iconic Apple. That is an impressive market share, but one day soon the pool is going to attract more swimmers, and the real olympians will survive. This is the pool of technology and the future. "And the company that will bring it to you," is not AT&T. Today it's Apple.

Monday, March 21, 2011

SXSW 24/7

Flights into Austin Bergstrom International Airport always seem full. The Texas Capital City always attracts a crowd, and unlike passengers flying into Newark, airline passengers heading into Austin always appear like happy campers. It's not Disney World, but Austin comes close, especially when you compare the fun factor. Just ask one of the thousands of SXSW happy campers who are back at work this week. Most likely their story of Austin and SXSW will be a lasting memory. It's the kind of memory that any chamber of commerce dreams of for its city. It's the kind of memory that lures people to move here, not just visit here. However, these are the memories residents create here every day.

Austin is no longer the sleepy college town where hippies hang and politicians periodically hover. The energy level is high, always. And energy attracts energy. The University of Texas, Concordia University, Austin Community College and St. Edward's University all generate an energy of intellect. Countless coffee shops churn out creative works by a covey of entrepreneurs collaborating behind their laptops. Artistic expressions don the walls of museums and informal galleries, and music fills the air from a random corner, a footbridge over Lady Bird Lake or from atop a rooftop lounge downtown. These are the daily habits of a city I call home. And one of the fun periods to tap into the city's rich brew is when so many residents flee it.

As Austin locals turned their homes into short-term hotels and escaped for a spring break, visitors poured into Waterloo like a tsunami and flooded our restaurants, our trailer vendors, and our streets with a carefree feeling that makes Austin a magical place. And for the locals who stuck around, the show was practically free. No hotel fees. No HomeAway rental expenses. No airline tickets. No real hassle.

A strategic drop off point put me and my high school- and college-age kids into the thick of all things SXSW. Free music, free drink, free food samples and a free-flowing crowd made for great entertainment. It was an instant flashback to college and a time when living in Austin was affordable. The abundance of music was compelling. I could not keep myself from dancing freely in the streets, much to the embarrassment of my offspring who wished I was elsewhere for this March madness. They would say, some things are best kept at home.

Our Downtown Austin Alliance could not have ordered better weather, and the SXSW organizers pulled together an incredible array of talent. A National Public Radio crew from New York was on the scene at Auditorium Shores for a live simulcast. The Big Apple was getting a taste of the real fruit, and the NPR crew was thrilled to be here because Austin was delivering on its promise of being a fun city, a creative city, a city of collaboration and cause to celebrate.

The City of Austin's brand profile is very high right now. Mickey Mouse should consider being a rock star.