Once again, Apple has introduced another “must have” product, and this one is just in time for the holiday gift season. Like all Apple products, it’s slick and it’s beautiful, but this one doesn’t require charging. In fact, it’s not electronic! What is it? A hardcover book illustrating 20 years of Apple design, including 450 photographs of Apple products, priced at $300. That’s right: a book.
Strong brands enjoy many advantages, including the ability to stretch and extend (see our recent eBook on Brand Extensions). But not every strong brand is an iconic brand. Douglas Holt, in his book, How Brands Become Icons, asserts that “iconic brands respond to a society’s desires and cultural tensions by drawing on their own unique myths and stories.” Iconic brands tap into our culture, and as such, they appeal to a broad swath of humanity. They stand for something more than their product performance, and for that reason make a higher-level connection with the consumer.
Because they say something important and valuable about us, we want to align ourselves with them. For that reason, iconic brands can become their own revenue streams. Hence, the $300 Apple photo book.
Another example, is Coca-Cola, an undeniably iconic brand. How does the Coke brand have its own revenue stream? The Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, GA, is an entire museum dedicated to the history and heritage of the brand. Inside you will find information on Coke bottling, global distribution, products, and advertising. Lots and lots of advertising. Admission to the museum (including all exhibits and “experiences”) is only $16.00, but you can upgrade to the “VIP Guided Tour” for $28.00.
Harley Davidson is another iconic brand that has a strong revenue stream outside of its core motorcycle product. Whether you ride or not, you can still purchase Harley-branded items ranging from clothing, to home décor, to baby products. They even have a Pink Label Collection of branded items for women, with a percentage of sales donated to help non-profit breast cancer research organizations.
You can’t talk about iconic brands without mentioning Nike. Last year, more than half of Nike’s North American revenue came from products other than footwear. That kind of extendability is a hallmark of an iconic brand. So, it is no surprise that the 2011 redesign of Nike’s Portland, OR, store resulted in what some call a “store museum.” As much space is devoted to Nike history as is devoted to showcasing and selling current products, creating a compelling brand experience for advocates.
So how do you know you have an iconic brand? There is a lot of discussion about the definition of iconic brands and which brands truly are iconic. Ed Burghard in Strengthening Brand America writes: “The five criteria of iconic brands are: relevancy, competitiveness, authenticity, clarity of promise, consistency of communication. The hard work is the proactive management of the brand (including product development) to ensure the five criteria are delivered.” Another key characteristic of iconic brands is leadership. Iconic brands are not afraid to break the rules; in fact, they tend to make new rules. Whether Apple’s groundbreaking 1984 commercial introducing the Mac, or Budweiser’s emotional commercial after the 9/11 attack, iconic brands break the rules to comment on society. They can do that because of the enduring affection and loyalty of their customers.
Not every brand can or should be an iconic brand. However, all brands can learn from iconic brands to build customer loyalty and endurance. And if the brand you manage is already iconic (or at least has a large and devoted following), you might want to start thinking about how you can create new revenue streams by leveraging your customers’ passion and your place in our culture and history.