Apple’s efforts to move from an essential and egalitarian line of products to a brand for the stylishly well-heeled seems to be taking hold in consumers’ minds.
Over the past 12 months, the number of people around the world who believe that Apple is indispensable has dropped sharply, according to FutureBrand’s 2015 global branding index released today.
At the same time, Apple’s overall brand perception jumped from fourth place in the index last year to second place this year, behind number one company Google. Apple’s strong sense of purpose, thought leadership and individualism helped it leapfrog over Microsoft and Disney in the rankings.
While the Apple brand perception is beating out rivals, most people do not see the company’s products as a necessity in their everyday life. Half the respondents in the FutureBrand index rated Apple as indispensible last year, but only 36% did so this year, one of the biggest drops in any brand attribute among the top 10 brands in the survey.
"In the last year, the Apple brand has shifted away from the ubiquitous and democratizing aspects that our study shows Google is still known for," said Tom Adams, global head of strategy at FutureBrand.
In April, Apple introduced the Apple Watch, costing $350 to $10,000, and began positioning itself as a luxury brand.
Part of the shift in consumer mindset also comes from the "Samsung Effect," said Tom Bernthal, CEO of Kelton Global, a brand consultancy. "Samsung continues to create cool alternatives to Apple that are nearly as good in some ways, and better in others." He said the perception of Apple Watch has not helped, either. "The company automatically downloaded the Watch app onto everyone’s iPhone, and for the millions who now have the app, and not the Watch, it’s clearly not a necessity."
Apple and other American tech brands tend to dominate the FutureBrand index — which evaluates PwC’s lineup of the 100 largest global brands by market capitalization — the gap is shrinking. Healthcare brands, such as AbbVie, a biopharmaceutical company that used to be part of Abbott Laboratories, and Chinese brands, such as Tencent, a media, entertainment and internet conglomerate, made significant inroads in brand perception in 2015, Adams said.