Did Apple Just Tip Its Brand Hand?

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There were few surprises when Apple (NAS: AAPL) unveiled the new iPad earlier this week. One of the subtle ones was that Apple opted not to go with a moniker of "iPad 3," "iPad HD," or "iPad LTE", but instead dubbed it, simply, "the new iPad."

Marketing chief Phil Schiller says they made the decision simply "because we don't want to be predictable." The new tablet's name seems like a minor choice, but Schiller is a marketing and branding genius that's been with the company since 1997, so you know he put some thought into it.

Some branding experts told the WSJ that the name "[communicates] that they are going backwards." Those same experts and other attendees of the iPad event also called the move "confusing."

If you think about it, though, this simplified branding strategy makes sense and is likely here to stay. Resorting to numbering products was a relatively new phenomenon for Apple and started with the iPhone 4 in 2010, which was followed by tacking on an "S" to the updated version last year.

The iPad 2 was the only other iDevice that carried a numerical description, and is also largely why everyone was expecting an "iPad 3." Apple also had used 3G in the second iPhone, for its feature of 3G connectivity, so this new iPad could conceivably have been called "the iPad LTE." Using features and numbers is arguably more confusing, especially as the years go on.

Look at Apple's naming progression so far for the iPhone and iPad:

GenerationiPhoneiPad
1iPhoneiPad
2iPhone 3GiPad 2
3iPhone 3GS(New) iPad
4iPhone 4 
5iPhone 4S 

The "new" will inevitably be dropped to just leave "iPad," and despite Schiller's aversion to predictability we might even see this year's sixth-generation iPhone similarly simplified to just "iPhone" instead of "iPhone LTE" or "iPhone 6."

These are the only two product families in which the market was expecting these naming conventions. The iMac is in its twelfth generation, but it's not "the iMac 12." Simplifying iPhone and iPad branding is more sustainable and clearer in the long run, and everyone will just refer to them by generation as with every other product family. There's a reason why advertisers want to build a brand like Apple's.

Brand Finance, a U.K.-based brand valuation consultancy, just released its figures of well-known tech brands, with Apple jumping three spots to take the lead.

Brand Rank 2012Brand Rank 2011BrandBrand Value
14Apple$70.6 billion
21Google (NAS: GOOG) $47.5 billion
32Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) $45.8 billion
43IBM (NYS: IBM) $39.1 billion
55Amazon.com (NAS: AMZN) $26.7 billion

Source: BrandFinance.com.

With Apple's brand value leading by a healthy margin, I think Cupertino probably knows what it's doing.

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At the time this article was published Fool contributorEvan Niuowns shares of Apple and Amazon.com, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned.Click hereto see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, Amazon.com, and Google.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Google, Apple, Amazon.com, and Microsoft; creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft; and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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