By George Farris
Before Steve Jobs, there was George Westinghouse.
Westinghouse, who was from Pittsburgh, became a popular figure in the United States when his company was among the first to provide long-distance transmission of electricity. His firm demonstrated its expertise by lighting up a small city in Massachusetts for the first time. In 1893, it supplied electric lights and power to the World’s Fair in Chicago.
From power generation and transmission, Westinghouse moved into building electric railroad engines and introduced continuous-filament tungsten light bulbs. Eventually the company manufactured armaments and went into media and broadcasting.
Westinghouse then became a leader in the design and manufacturing of household electrical products – including radios, televisions and other audio/video equipment – and electric appliances of all kinds, from hair dryers and electric irons to clothes washers and dryers, refrigerators and air conditioning units.
For more than 50 years, Westinghouse was a household name and favored brand. If you asked the average American what Westinghouse made or sold, the last thing he would mention is power generation.
Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ron Wayne founded Apple in April 1976 to develop the Apple I personal computer. It largely remained focused on its computer lines and was very successful initially – then sales dropped. Jobs resigned in 1997 but returned in 2000 and rebuilt Apple’s status by launching the iMac and opening Apple Stores. In January 2007, Jobs renamed the company Apple Inc., reflecting its shifted focus toward consumer electronics. He launched the iPhone to great critical acclaim and financial success.
By the time Jobs resigned (and later died) in 2011, there were 14 Apple products. Now there are more than 27 products available in more than 200 different versions.
Products such as the Apple Watch and AirPod wireless headphones, combined with more versions of the iPhone and surging sales from a growing variety of software services, drove revenue growth and made it the first U.S. company with a value of $1.1 trillion.
George Westinghouse and Steve Jobs were pretty smart guys when it came to technology. And both shined in brand marketing. They built brand quality that allowed them to expand into many different product and service lines.
The founders had lots in common. So did their brands. Both built brand strength by providing clear and obvious differentiation. They made their brands highly relevant. They built brand stature with heavy marketing that created name awareness. Both brands projected quality and innovation that generated influence.
Consumers trusted Westinghouse’s brand, so he was able to sell locomotives and electric appliances under the same name. Likewise, they trust and value Apple and eagerly buy phones from a computer manufacturer.
These two examples of successful brand marketing played out more than 100 years apart. They show that it’s a process worth emulating.
Differentiate your company or organization brand. Make the need and its relevance clear. Create stunning marketing that attracts attention and then strive to stay in the limelight. Use repetition and social media and drive deep into the market with case histories and proof of concept.
Just remember, your brand is your bank account. Build it. Build equity in it. Whether you’re selling stoves, smartphones or industrial products, everything you sell should build brand equity. Because strong brand equity supercharges growth.
George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing, Boardman. Email [email protected].