Social media can be the messenger that drives people and brands to interact. Product design specialists provide input into how brands can maintain a long-term competitive advantage in a dynamic environment.
A recent article in Design Management Review (DMR) discussed authenticity and brands, and William Faust and Leigh Householder at Ology defined brand authenticity. They suggested that a brand should be clear about what it is and what it stands for; proper branding is built from the inside out rather than pandering to the latest trends, fad, or customer segment. Also, best practices branding is accomplished by using a real story, a connection to a fundamental truth, and an appreciation of one's smart customers.
On a recent visit to the Apple Store at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City, I was surprised to see the line of customers of all ages spilling out of the store onto the Fifth Avenue sidewalk. Customers (some tourists) were as happy and excited outside the store as were those inside. While inside, visitors explored the store, trying out the products and purchasing some of Apple's latest technology offerings.
This appears to be a typical customer scenario at this store, and other store locations across the country experience a steady flow of customers as well.
Next door (a 15-second walk past the GM building) is the world-famous FAO Schwartz toy store (now owned by Toys “R” Us). Like Apple is now, FAO. was once a must-see toy store at 57th and Fifth Avenue.
It was world-renowned for its assortment of one-of-a-kind, unique products including toys, entertainment products, and film and TV merchandising. Its products reflected the brand's dedication to the quality that its customers had come to trust for nearly 150 years, but over the past several years the brand's image has eroded, and customers seen to smell blood in the water.
On this particular day, as on many others throughout the year, FAO was suffering from customer attrition and lack of interest in its merchandise.
What also surprised me was the dramatic difference in foot traffic between the Apple and FAO stores. FAO was relatively empty, even though the streets were swarming with tourists looking for an air conditioned and entertaining store to cool off in. Instead they chose to stand on Apple’s long line, which extended from within the store, up the escalator, and outside to the sidewalk in the hot August 90-degree sun. It was like waiting to get into a popular night club—new customers were not allowed in until others left. And this was not an new product release day.