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What I learned from Apple about protecting your brand

In early 2010, I was blessed with an opportunity at work to visit the Cupertino campus of one of my favorite technology companies in the world – Apple. The trip was very productive for our company, and fun for me personally. One of my favorite parts of the visit was our stop at the Apple store on campus.

Our employee guide from Apple shared that the store in Cupertino is the only location in the world where you can purchase legitimate Apple apparel and non-tech products (coffee mugs, hats, etc.) Thinking back to all the times I’ve visited my local Apple store, I realized this was true. I’ve never seen an Apple hoodie or backpack or keychain.

Because it was so exclusive, my coworkers and I filled our arms to the max with merchandise to bring home for our family and friends. I purchased a stainless steel travel mug for Mark. He’s a PC guy, but it was a cool mug, so I was sure he’d forgive me.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I’m taking the mug out of the dish drainer and notice the logo is coming off and the rim of the mug is starting to disintegrate.

I’m disappointed; I expect more from an Apple product. Suddenly, it occurs to me why they don’t sell non-tech merchandise in every store, online, worldwide. It would hurt their brand.

People associate Apple with high quality products. Yet here I am, someone who is inappropriately dedicated to (and possibly a little obsessed with) Apple products, and I’m annoyed my 2 year old mug is falling apart. My first instinct is to assume it is due to the poor quality of the mug, nevermind the fact most of my travel mugs don’t make it more than a couple years anyway.

I have no doubt Apple could make tons of money selling this merchandise, but they don’t. Aside from not wanting to dilute their organization’s core focus on technology, I think it is a safe bet to assume not selling these promotional products is a calculated decision to protect their brand’s “high quality” image.

I know this wasn’t always the case.

What opportunities have you turned down/avoided in order to protect your brand?


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