The big question isn’t whether the Nexus One is a superior product to the iPhone – but whether Google can cause a shift in the market in the face of such a strong brand? Whether you run a small business trying to launch a new product or you are the MD of a major corporation, the "one hard question" is: how can you compete with the dominant brand in the market?
When Google decided to launch the Nexus One, it made a conscious decision to take on one of the world’s best-loved brands in its own backyard – the might of Apple. A pretty brave move when you consider some of the other big brands – from Nokia to Sony – which have failed to loosen Apple’s grip on the mobile market. Quite simply, the iPhone has been one of the great success stories of the 21st century. Thousands queued from Tokyo to New York just to be able to pre-order the high-tech gadget that looked more like a mini TV than a phone. Challenging this sort of market dominance was never going to be easy – although it’s worth remembering it isn’t an unprecedented situation. Look at at how Virgin took on British Airways, for example. Virgin soon became the transatlantic airline of choice thanks to its fantastic in-flight service. It offered more than just a "taxi service", giving passengers an experience and added bonuses such as pre-movie ice-cream, a bar to sit at and chat with your mates, bacon butties and a lounge that is better than most hotels. This is all part of the service (not an extra) and demonstrates a "generosity" of spirit. BA may have been the leader, but generous it has never been. What makes Virgin different is it was created by retail/consumer thinking rather than by accountants and operations.
We love "generous" brands – we absorb them, they become a part of our lifestyle and, most importantly, we trust them and become advocates for them.
Google, so far, has shown itself to be a "generous" brand with the Nexus One. The question now is whether Google’s brand is strong enough to crawl out of the ether world and become a physical brand that will win our hearts.
Mark Artus is CEO of 1HQ, a European branding agency that works with clients including Heinz, Unilever and Nestle.
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