How recognizable is your brand? At a glance, can you distinguish it from a knock-off? More importantly, can your consumers?
Recently, in Kunming China, multiple counterfeit “Apple” stores emerged. These businesses were self-indulgent and not licensed or initiated by Apple. We all know piracy is rampant in China as evidenced by how effortlessly one can obtain Adobe Creative Suite Bundles for pennies on the dollar. It takes true audacity however, to open illicit “Apple” businesses in the heart of China.
In late July several of these fake Apple stores opened their doors. Designed with wood, metal and glass materials including the patented Apple staircases, the casual buyers easily mistook the businesses as authentic Apple flagship stores selling iPhones, MacBooks, iMacs, iPads, etc.
How to tell the difference? The disparity was in the details. In contrast to the classic back lit Apple logo, the signage of the fake stores included the words “Apple Store.” The wood, metal and glass lured the “Apple seekers” to believe the illusion, but to the trained (and loyal) eye, the materials were sub-par. Further still was the absence of employees badge information save for the Apple logos.
The whole scam was deceitful enough to fool many customers until a blogger blew the whistle following a visit to one of the stores. Pursuant to that, You Tube videos were posted and within days the scandal was featured on the national news and Apple had its lawyers fixed on the perpetrators.
While this situation is extreme, it does beg a number of questions: Could your brand identity be compromised by an imposter? Is your corporate identity distinguishable across the globe? Who do you count on to affirm that your guiding principles and criteria are adhered to? Can your customers easily differentiate your brand from imitators and remain brand loyal?
Not all consumers are as loyal as Apple’s. It’s a testament to the priority they place on their brand. Having defined a Visual Strategy for their brand, and invested heavily in ensuring that this Strategy is employed consistently across all of their Global markets, their consumers are able to distinguish a “real” Apple brand initiative from an imposter. And, they care enough to blow the whistle. It’s a great lesson for all Global brands.
Would you be able to distinguish a real Apple store from an imposter?