Examining the Apple Stylus (and Four More Big Brand U-Turns)

Former Apple chief Steve Jobs famously denounced the stylus as a sign that "you're dead" in technology terms. Barely five years later, at its event yesterday, the company unveiled the Apple Pencil to go with its new iPad Pro, hardly camouflaging a reversal that sees the world's biggest brand following the likes of Microsoft and Samsung. It's a big brand u-turn, given the stature of Steve Jobs even four years after he passed away, but it isn't without precedent -- not by a long shot! Apple isn't alone, though. Over the years, plenty of brands have failed to live up to lofty expectations or former glories, leaving room for all brand managers to learn from the error of their ways.   Apple Event with iPhone

4 Big Brand U-Turns from the Modern Era

Brands make mistakes. Even with the biggest budgets and some of the smartest marketers in the world, there's still a human behind every brand decision, and humans are fallible. Here are four examples of that to give Apple some respite over its new stylu... sorry, "Pencil."

1. New Coke, New Problem

Coca-Cola's "reformulated" beverage from the mid-eighties is now the go-to example of marketing mistakes, to the extent that it feels somewhat cliched to use it. It arises undoubtedly because the brand has gone from strength to strength since then, making it more of a compelling tale. The fact that Coca-Cola actually chose to tell the real story of New Coke on their company blog should tell you all you need to know about its importance as a lesson in brand loyalty.

2. Xerox Fights Being a Byword for Copying

Most brands fight to become a household name; Xerox chose to fight against it. "Can you Xerox this 100 times for me?" was a common synonym for copying as the brand gained prominence in offices around the country, but the company behind the famous photocopiers tried to steer people away from the term, for fear that... it would become too well known?? The desire to fight brand awareness was not widely understood and, given the drive away from paper in a digital world, could be a problem that they would love to have as the need for photocopiers fades away. Gap logo change

3. Gap Backtracks on a Bad Logo

Outcry was swift and severe when Gap announced a new logo that moved substantially away from its traditional white on blue background (see above). The clothing company had already made the decision and most brands would stay the course nowadays, but with social media a growing powerhouse for public outcry and negative publicity at every turn, Gap quickly turned back to the visual its customers know and trust.  

4. Chevy Places Consistency Above Customers

Similar to Xerox, it could be hard to understand how the C-suite at Chevrolet tried to fight the familiar consumer shorthand of "Chevy." Perhaps concerned that it would dilute the carmaker's brand recognition, executives circulated a memo to reinforce the correct name of Chevrolet over its more buddy-buddy nickname. Customer and media reaction was swift to side with the latter and parent company GM was equally quick to sweep the stuffy corporate stance under the rug of history. The fact that you'll hear "Chevy" more often than not nowadays is testament to the fact that your brand fans usually know best.   Which big brand fails jump to mind when you consider classic u-turns? Let us know on our Facebook page and perhaps we'll add them to a future post (with credit, of course!)

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