Did Apple Just Tip Its Brand Hand?

There were few surprises when Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) unveiled the new iPad earlier this week. One of the subtle ones was that Apple opted not to go with a moniker of "iPad 3," "iPad HD," or "iPad LTE", but instead dubbed it, simply, "the new iPad."

Marketing chief Phil Schiller says they made the decision simply "because we don't want to be predictable." The new tablet's name seems like a minor choice, but Schiller is a marketing and branding genius that's been with the company since 1997, so you know he put some thought into it.

Some branding experts told the WSJ that the name "[communicates] that they are going backwards." Those same experts and other attendees of the iPad event also called the move "confusing."

If you think about it, though, this simplified branding strategy makes sense and is likely here to stay. Resorting to numbering products was a relatively new phenomenon for Apple and started with the iPhone 4 in 2010, which was followed by tacking on an "S" to the updated version last year.

The iPad 2 was the only other iDevice that carried a numerical description, and is also largely why everyone was expecting an "iPad 3." Apple also had used 3G in the second iPhone, for its feature of 3G connectivity, so this new iPad could conceivably have been called "the iPad LTE." Using features and numbers is arguably more confusing, especially as the years go on.

Look at Apple's naming progression so far for the iPhone and iPad:

Generation iPhone iPad
1 iPhone iPad
2 iPhone 3G iPad 2
3 iPhone 3GS (New) iPad
4 iPhone 4  
5 iPhone 4S  

The "new" will inevitably be dropped to just leave "iPad," and despite Schiller's aversion to predictability we might even see this year's sixth-generation iPhone similarly simplified to just "iPhone" instead of "iPhone LTE" or "iPhone 6."

These are the only two product families in which the market was expecting these naming conventions. The iMac is in its twelfth generation, but it's not "the iMac 12." Simplifying iPhone and iPad branding is more sustainable and clearer in the long run, and everyone will just refer to them by generation as with every other product family. There's a reason why advertisers want to build a brand like Apple's.

Brand Finance, a U.K.-based brand valuation consultancy, just released its figures of well-known tech brands, with Apple jumping three spots to take the lead.

Brand Rank 2012 Brand Rank 2011 Brand Brand Value
1 4 Apple $70.6 billion
2 1 Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) $47.5 billion
3 2 Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) $45.8 billion
4 3 IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) $39.1 billion
5 5 Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) $26.7 billion

Source: BrandFinance.com.

With Apple's brand value leading by a healthy margin, I think Cupertino probably knows what it's doing.

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Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple and Amazon.com, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. 

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  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2012, at 7:04 AM, H3D wrote:

    The new iPad couldn't be called LTE because mobile connectivity is an option on an iPad. It isn't on a phone.

    I've got the new iPad LTE but without the LTE option? Now that would be stupid.

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2012, at 12:40 PM, ViewRoyal wrote:

    The word "new" is just an adjective when talking about the current iPad. It is not part of the iPad name.

    If you go to Apple's Web site, you will see a heading that says "The new iPad", with "iPad" in bold to separate it from the first two words.

    This makes a lot of sense. When a new iMac comes out, it is not named "iMac 7" but just "iMac".

    It is logical that the next iPhone will drop the numbering scheme, and just be named "iPhone".

  • Report this Comment On March 10, 2012, at 1:15 PM, FoolSolo wrote:

    iPad 3 would have been less confusing in my opinion. But I really don't think this makes all that much difference either way. A lot of fuss about nothing, must be a slow news day.

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