How Do Two-Year-Olds Interact With One Another And Express Themselves Apple Crushes FAO’s 150 Years of Branding

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Apple Crushes FAO’s 150 Years of Branding

Social media can be the messenger that drives interactions between people and brands. Product design experts advise brands on how to maintain long-term competitive advantage in a dynamic environment.

A recent Design Management Review (DMR) article discusses authenticity and branding, and Ology’s William Faust and Leigh Householder define brand authenticity. They suggest that a brand should be clear about what it is and what it stands for; the right brand is built from the inside out, not by catering to the latest trend, fad or customer segment. Additionally, best practice branding is achieved through the use of real stories, connections to essential facts, and an appreciation for smart customers.

During a recent visit to the Apple Store at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City, I was amazed to see a line of customers of all ages pouring out of the store onto the Fifth Avenue sidewalk. Customers (some tourists) are just as happy and excited outside the store as they are inside. Inside, visitors explored the store, tried products and purchased some of Apple’s latest tech gadgets.

This appears to be a typical customer scenario for this store, and other store locations across the country have a steady flow of customers.

Next door (15 second walk past the GM building) is the world famous FAO Schwarz toy store (now owned by Toys R Us). Just like Apple is now, FAO. Once a must-see toy store on 57th and Fifth Avenue.

It is known worldwide for its wide range of one-of-a-kind products, including toys, entertainment products, and film and television marketing. Its products reflect the brand’s dedication to quality, which customers have trusted for nearly 150 years, but over the past few years the brand’s image has eroded, with customers seeing the smell of blood in the water.

On this day, like many others throughout the year, FAO is suffering from a loss of customers and a lack of interest in its wares.

I was also surprised by the huge difference in traffic between the Apple store and the FAO store. FAO was relatively deserted, although the streets were packed with tourists looking for air-conditioning and entertainment shops to cool off. Instead, they chose to stand in the long line at Apple that stretched from inside the store to the escalators and then outside to the sidewalk in the 90-degree August sun. It’s like waiting to get into a popular nightclub — new customers aren’t allowed in until everyone else has left. This is not a new product launch day.

Is Apple better at reaching customers through a combination of digital and traditional media with its product launches? Let’s take a closer look at how these companies are doing on social media right now:

apple:

Facebook – 628,516 followers

Twitter (over 50 accounts) – iTunes account has 1,528,755 followers, is following 14, and has 692 tweets

Apple YouTube Channel –

Channel Views: 2,760,784

Total views uploaded: 14,444,703

Joined: June 21, 2005

Subscribers: 82,802

FAO Schwartz

Facebook – 4,779 followers

Twitter – 411 followers, is following 5, and has 11 tweets

YouTube channel:

Channel Views: 5,296

Total upload views: 24,626

Age: 42

Accessed: July 24, 2007 (two years after Apple)

Date last visited: 10 months ago

Subscribers: 53

Video taken by a manager at FAO Schwarz in New York.

Apple appears to have a stronger social media presence, while FAO has a 150-year emotional connection to people of all ages, with a focus on classic toys as well as historic and current film and TV merchandise.FAO was also a powerful brand communicator before the advent of social media marketing, film big cemented its place in the history of toy sales. People of all ages develop psychological attachments to FAO products that go back to their childhood memories. Its PR and social media branding campaigns predate Apple’s.

Is the FAO brand and its associated merchandise irrelevant to today’s entertainment market, or is their media agency not thinking outside the box to connect with their client base? (I also realize that big box stores like Walmart are undercutting FAO’s sales with low prices, even though some of their entertainment offerings and in-store specials are not the same.)

Apple and the FAO (both of which sell entertainment products worldwide) spoke of the central challenge of social media, as defined by Faust and Householder, “creating a social conversation that engages customers while remaining true to the core of the brand.”

But FAO seems to have lost that “something” that Faust and Householder pointed out, that people inside and outside the company can relate to and identify themselves with. Despite FAO’s mismanagement and changes in ownership in recent years, that’s no excuse for ruining a 150-year-old brand because of a lack of good branding and marketing. If money had been the issue, FAO could have hired a few young digital strategists to launch a successful campaign relevant to today’s youth.

People of all ages are interested in Apple’s cool, stylish press buzz, design tech announcements, and media campaigns in support of its products.

Additionally, Apple’s customers are willing to pay more for Apple products (even in a recession) than similar products produced by competitors. Is it that people today prefer to see themselves as cool, savvy, socially up-to-date technology users, in tune with the latest trends and fads?

If so, Apple’s approach goes against the current wisdom of some experts in product design, branding, and sustainability that brands are built from the inside out. Apple doesn’t always follow the latest trends, fads or customer segments, but sometimes that’s because it creates them. Perhaps Apple is the exception to the brand best practice rule, which states, “For a brand to be successful, it should know what it is, what it stands for, and complement it.”

FAO lacks a unified branding, marketing and social media strategy. It was out of touch with its current and potential clients, lacked creativity in its PR outreach, and had no effective social media listening strategy. I do believe its products are relevant to customers today, but evidence of a weak marketing plan can be seen in their in-store traffic levels and their approach to search engine optimization (SEO).

From a (SEO) marketing perspective, FAO has 1,067 external links from other sites (Apple.com has 1,336.191), while FAO’s parent company, Toys R Us, has 6,117 external links to its home page. This means that Toys R Us is considered a stronger authority in the eyes of Google’s search algorithm. If Toys R US can improve their own SEO link strength, they can do the same for FAO. The parent company ranks #1 and #2 on an organic (non-paid) Google broad search (without enclosing the search term “toys” in quotes). FAO appears on the second page of a Google search, and the fourth-to-last page from the top.

One strategy Toys R US can start using is to spend more time on FAO’s SEO organic search strength, which will give their customers better online store visibility. This saves money on those paid (PPC) online ads. Compared to FAO’s other online competitors, Fisher Toys (1st page, No. 1) had 28,285 external links pointing to its page at press time, and eToys (1st page, No. 3) had 842 External links to its page and KB Toys (1st page, 4th) has 42 external links to its page. (All search results were by using the term “toys” in a Google search.) Also, while KB Toys has fewer links to its home page than FAO, it also doesn’t have FAO’s nearly complete Flash content page, which could Interfere with a search engine’s ability to properly index a web page. While there are other SEO strategies that I haven’t discussed, these are some of the more obvious ones at first glance.

FAO’s focus on customer loyalty and product marketing based on its one-of-a-kind unique offerings was no longer enough to create a strong connection with what was once a toy store brand. Consumers today want to engage with brands, and this can be done cost-effectively through digital and social media.

Apple’s PR (word of mouth), social media strategy, traditional marketing and advertising provide a very different consumer experience. It launched numerous products (including the iPod, which proved to be a “game changer”, propelling the company from a computer supplier to an entertainment company. FAO can learn from one of the most innovative companies in the commercial market today. Loyal users Group. In the past ten years, it can be said that Apple has only one new product launch that failed, the Power Mac G4 Cube (which was killed after the first year), and the Mac mini and Apple TV.

Apple positions itself as a company that instantly solves your personal entertainment and business problems; their promotions are tied to a basic human desire (to make life easier) and the desire to be fun and cool even if it costs more. They also said something else important about the core of the brand: Apple is a quick fix. Often this means not only considering what customers want, but also defining what the brand really is. Toys are always fun. But simplicity is fun and authentic.

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