Apple’s Branding Blunder: iCloud


On June 6, 2011, Steve Jobs, emerging briefly from his medical leave, made a rare branding blunder in a product announcement: incorporating “cloud” in its name.

Jobs heralded Apple’s free iCloud service, which allows users to store remotely their music, documents, photos, and apps from their iPhones, iPads, and Macintosh computers.

As I’ve opined previously about cloud computing, using generic vernacular in branding is a major blunder: 1) generic is the antithesis of unique; 2) nobody can define cloud; 3) every vendor under the sun also uses cloud. To wit: Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Elastic Compute Cloud, IBM’s SmartCloud, Dell’s Cloud Computing, Microsoft’s Azure Cloud, and VMWare’s vCloud.

Confused? You should be. Confusion=CO$T. When I hear cloud computing, in addition to its nebulous idiocy, I think of one word: Wikileaks. Putting all your assets online, because it’s the thing to do, is an impetuous, foggy, risky decision — the epitome of groupthink. Does the Sony hacking incident come to mind?

Adding insult to branding injury, by choosing iCloud as product name, Apple has milked all it can from the letter i, which, in a variety of industries, is rapidly becoming as generic as salt.
Nonsense & Water Vapor

As I awoke this morning to my alarm clock, I heard two local radio hosts discussing the iCloud announcement. Inevitably, they asked each other the obvious question: What’s a cloud? Bingo.

Never use words that don’t resonate immediately, and have visceral impact, with the target audience. If you need lots of seminars, interviews, and Powerpoint slides to define and/or explain your offering, something is very wrong.

The Wall Street Journal reported the news with an article entitled “Apple Opens Locker for Songs.” Why locker? Locker is a word everybody understands. Duh.

Watch Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle, struggling to define cloud computing to an audience at the OpenWorld 2010 Conference — presumably pressured by his board to look “cool” and “with it” on Wall Street — one year after telling Ed Zander, former exec of Sun Microsystems and Motorola, that cloud computing is nonsense and water vapor:

Rx from the WhiteNoise Doctor™

Succumbing to peer and media pressure to copy your competitors by incorporating generic buzzwords and vernacular into your brand is a colossal mistake — one that tech firms seem destined and delighted to make. Yet, even the mightiest brander of all, Apple, just made it. That will be a cloud hanging over Cupertino for a long time.


About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.


© 2011 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.


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