Apple was anointed the world’s most valuable brand yesterday, according to the folks who know how to calculate such things. The headline said that they surpassed Google, who had a four-year run in the top spot. It’s easy for us to conclude that the technology torch has been passed–that Apple is the new tech leader. But as much as we like to crown winners and losers, it’s not all that helpful. What marketers need to think about is not how successful Apple is, but how powerful it is.
The questions about how powerful these companies are have been with us for a long time. Many people were asking questions about Google’s power not too long ago. I wrote an article four years ago about Google’s supposed power, where I debated our expectations that the tech torch that passes from one company to another (from IBM to Microsoft to Google and now to Apple?) continues to burn as brightly.
Each time we anoint a new leader, we think that their leadership conveys the same power as the old leader. But the truth is that each one has had less power than the one before. IBM ruled all of technology. Microsoft had software. Google had search. Apple has what? Music?
Don’t get me wrong. Apple is a fantastic company and I applaud every innovation that it has bestowed on us. And I begrudge Apple none of its success. All I question is our constant attempts to crown a new king of the hill. At a certain point, it lacks meaning, and I think we’re past that point.
Marketers can safely ignore companies being the next big tech company. Some people I know have been arguing for months that Google is no longer king of the tech hill. The only problem is that they are arguing that the new king is not Apple, but Facebook. If anything can illustrate how fragmented the technology business has become, that’s probably it.
Marketers can safely ignore all this breathless horse race reporting. Here is what you need to know. If you are selling Windows software, you better be watching Microsoft. If you are in Internet marketing, especially search marketing, you better keep an eye on Google. In social media, sure, watch Facebook, and Twitter and Google, too. And if you are in the music business and probably the publishing business, you’d better pay attention to Apple.
If you are in the high-tech gadget business, you probably need to watch all of them. But not too many of you are.
For the rest of us, let’s stop sitting in the stands watching the high tech horse race and start paying more attention to the races we are running with our own competitors. The outcome of that race matters to us a lot. Apple vs. Google? Not so much.