Reverse branding happens when a customer brands an entrepreneur. This branding creates the extreme differentiation that is critical in a social media era. Social media creates great amounts of information. The information created is perfect information. This great scale of information creates a great many products. This is the dilemma that a modern social marketer now has to face. How is a brand created that differentiates a product from all the other products in that product space? The answer to that is that the customer and not the entrepreneur create the brand. This is a role reversal that often happens in modern social media marketing. It is a new paradigm in brand marketing. In a social media era, brands are created by customers. This is an interesting concept.
A product that has reshaped modern society is the iPhone. With the iPhone, a person can possess a computer and put it in their pocket book. The iPhone was created by brand reversal. Customers and telecommunication companies believed in Steve Jobs. It was who Steve brought the two together to create this historic product. It was the trust and confidence that people had in Steve Jobs, and that alone, that created the iPhone.
Steve understood that a Smartphone had to be created. In 2002, people used a lot of gadgets at once for their digital needs. People had to have a phone. A PDA was used for computing. The PDA’s of 2002 were clunky instruments. For music, people had their iPod. Steve’s vision was to design a one product for all. To be marketable, this product had to be special. This new product had to visually elegant. It had to be a technological game-changer.
Steve observed something. Telecommunication companies were beating themselves up over price. The wireless phone had become a commodity. By this time in 2002, wireless had reached almost the saturation point. Competition among telecommunication companies was not over new customers—there weren’t any more. It was competition over stealing each other’s existing companies. The only way to do that was to create programs in which customers had to pay less for minutes. Steve knew that the market had repositioned itself. Steve understood that the only way that telecommunication companies could make a profit and become a successful brand would be to create interesting and attractive digital applications on the headsets of phones.
Steve didn’t want Apple to spend the money to create a smart phone. Apple had the applications and technology for a telecommunication company to create a brand. Steve understood that the entire paradigm of the telecommunications business had changed. Steve understood that voice, making phone calls, was no longer the profit driver of the phone business. The brand now revolved around having a platform to make calls, watch movies, get news, text your friends in real time, listen to music, and play games. For a telecommunications executive whose whole career revolved around providing a voice service, the new paradigm made no sense. When your whole life revolves around a product, it is almost impossible to understand that you’re market has repositioned itself. This is the dilemma that Steve Jobs faced.
To create the world class smart phone brand that Steve wanted to do, he had to convince a major executive, a first-class phone guy, that the world had changed. Steve was able to do this. He was able to convince Stan Sigman of Cingular Wireless to relinquish all power of design and product development to Apple. This is the story of the creation of the iPhone.
Reverse branding created the iPhone. Stan had a brand for Steve Jobs. Stan believed that Steve knew how to create elegant technology that would translate into a mega brand or Cingular. Stan rejected all other technologists and listened only to Steve. In a sense, to be consistent with the definition of brand reversal, Stan created the brand for the I Phone. Steve created the product.
Stan Sigman bet that Steve Jobs had the correct technology to create the Smartphone. The bet was made; the iPhone was created, using Apple technology and ATT networks. iPhone took off, and the rest is history. The iPhone has become one of the pre-eminent brands in American marketing history. The iPhone is the pre-eminent brand in phones because people have branded Steve Jobs. People feel that if Steve Jobs has designed a product, the product must be incredible. This is how brand reversal works.