Apple has just announced their brand new products in what they call their “Spring Forward” event. I’ve been waiting for this launch because I want to give my 2012 MacBookPro 15″ Retina to my mom and upgrade to the latest and greatest. But now I’m not so sure. In fact, I’m confused — and it all has to do with product differentiation and brand positioning.

[Tweet “Anyone else confused about the new #MacBookPro?”]

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Brand positioning is a?shortcut for consumers; if this, then that

There’s a reason that brand positioning exists — they are short cuts for consumers. To me, a solid brand position has a clear “if this, then that” relationship to consumer wants and needs. Let me give you an example:

  • If you want the same burger wherever you go — then you go to McDonalds
  • If you want it delivered overnight – then choose FedEx

Pretty simple, right. A clear “if this, then that” relationship makes buying decisions fast and easy. When you’re purchasing a high-dollar, complex product like a computer, this kind of brand distinction becomes even MORE important because the brand becomes a short cut for a specified level of performance or certain features. And when you start messing with that, you get confused consumers.

[Tweet “Brand positioning is a shortcut for consumers; if this, then that”#MacBookPro”]

When I decided to purchase my 2012 MacBookPro (my first Mac) I had to do a little research. First I decided on what was important to me; lots of RAM, lots of storage, speed and battery life. I wanted an AIR, because it was super thin and easy to carry around, but I couldn’t get it with lots of RAM. Long story short, I chose a MacBookPro because it had more RAM, more storage, was thinner than the previous MacBook and had ok battery life. There have to be tradeoffs and I made them.

But here’s what happened. After that buying process I thought I understood the whole Apple branding scheme and I came up with the following “if this, then that” schema:

  • If you want RAM, speed and storage – more power for WORK, choose a MacBookPro
  • If you want thinness, lightness, portability, battery life, choose Air

Now, I’m confused.

Apple blurred the lines between their products – now what?

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But now with the introduction of the new MacBookPro that’s hitting the streets in April — these lines are blurred and confusing. My “if this, then that” rules come up with different choices — and these choices now go completely against the positioning that Apple has advertised for these products in the past.

[Tweet “Has #Apple blurred the lines between products? #MacBookPro”]

Let me refresh your memory. Here is?the 2008 Apple Air advertisement — remember this?! WOW!

http://youtu.be/jLrW5SKusn0

What did you get from this — THIN, LIGHT, COOL – I want one — but can I run my business from an Apple Air? ?That’s up to you. A lot of us decided not to. But we get it – it’s super thin, it’s super light, it’s super portable and you can work anywhere. Got it. See how clear the “if this, then that” connection is?

Now watch this one —

When you look at this one, they are focusing on how thin it is, the screen resolution, etc. The ad ends with the phrase “for the Pro in all of us”. I heard this as “it’s the same super powerful computer only thinner with higher quality graphics and more battery power.

Once again — my “if this, then that” is totally satisfied.

But what about this NEW and IMPROVED MacBookPro?

When I heard the words, MacBookPro – I INSTANTLY assumed it had the same power, the same HD quality camera, same speed, same RAM — same EVERYTHING only it’s even thinner, even longer battery life — positioned as — “For those of you that pined for an AIR but needed more — here you go” — NOT

I assumed these things because in my head, this is what the MacBookPro product promised, this is what I purchased and if I were to upgrade, this is what I would want. And the price tag? ?Yeah, it’s completely out of control – BUT, if I’m going to get everything I want and then some — I’m fine with it.

I’m sad, disappointed and confused.

Is launching new products more important than brand distinction?

I’m curious about this. I’m not saying that the new MacBookPro isn’t astounding and amazing. As always, a ridiculous amount of innovation went into this new product. The product manager side of me says “Whaaa”? If you’re an Apple fan, follower and aficionado, enlighten me on how this works — are they going to get rid of the Air? Are they going to merge the brands into one? It seems like it to me.

I’m all ears.

How to make SURE you don’t suffer from brand blur

I know — none of us us Apple and we don’t have multi-million dollar marketing budgets to explain the difference.This is the primary reason you do NOT want this to happen to you.

  1. Be super clear about your brand in the following areas:
    • Customers: If this happens to you, then choose my brand because (how your brand eradicates the problem)
    • Products: If you want this kind of performance, choose this product.
  2. Products, like market segments, should be mutually exclusive: Design your products around customer wants. Specific levels of wants go with specific products — don’t intersect them or you will get confusion and customers will not choose ANYTHING.
  3. Create clear choice categories between product brands and positions: Think price, performance, quality as a simple example. You can break out levels inside of these areas for each brand and each product name will have a clear differentiation between every other product. Think Lexus – vs – Focus. These are both brands of cars, but they address different customer wants — and very clearly. If you’re shopping for luxury, you won’t suddenly purchase a Focus.

Don’t be fooled, big brands often make stupid mistakes. The difference between them and you is that they can afford it.