Branding Blunder-Creative Technology’s Mistakes

Recently I was interviewed by Marketing Magazine, a local magazine in

Singapore that keeps close tabs on the marketing strategies companies of

all sizes use to reach out to their consumers. I thought that this is

an excellent case study of how important positioning, branding and

marketing are for your business.

For their feature story on Branding, the magazine asked for my comments

on Creative Technology’s (renowned for its sound card and MP3 players,

and most recently for its legal tussle with Apple) branding efforts.

While I’m a fan of Creative, I have to say that their branding leaves

much to be desired. In particular, comparing the arch rivals of Creative

Tech’s MP3 players vs. Apple’s iPod, it is easy to see where Creative’s

branding efforts had gone wrong. Below is a simple comparison of its

rival’s branding moves.


(A marketing and branding savvy company)

1. Understands the target market–young people want to be hip and cool.

So they created a hip and cool positioning for iPod.

2. Very sleek and minimalist cover design–enhancing the hip and cool


3. Great ultra hip and cool TV ad, using black dancing silhouettes (all

the better to contrast with Apple’s corporate white) against a colorful

background + hit song of the moment ‘Hey Mama soundtrack performed by

one of the hottest groups, the Black Eyed Peas.

4. Very focused in the beginning, starting with only one color, one

model: The white iPod. This makes it very recognizable and easy to brand.

5. Special edition signed by U2 (very hip and cool band).

6. Featured in many hip TV shows.

Creative Tech

(A tech focused company)

1. Don’t understand their consumers’ desires, preferring to focus on

product features, etc (appealing to logic, instead of emotions) and with

no strong positioning.

2. Tacky cover designs. Responding to iPod’s sleek design, they asked

their own engineers to design their new cover design! Huge mistake!

Naming their products ‘Zen’ doesn’t mean that they will inherit the Zen


3. Bizarre TV ads that consumers can’t relate to: one series of ad went

along the lines of ‘something you really need’ and ‘Panda Rhapsody’, an

ad using a panda bear listening to its MP3 player.

4. Unfocused and fragmented: Zen Jukebox, Zen Nano, Zen Touch, MuVo

Slim, MuVo TX.. etc (confusing consumers with too many choices)

5. Special edition signed by Creative Technology’s CEO Sim Wong Hoo…


6. Almost non-existent.

While Creative Technology first came up with MP3 players, they lost out

their pioneer status advantage due to incompetent branding and

marketing strategies. Apple has always been an innovative company when it comes

to technology. But more important than that, it has always been a

company that is close to their consumers, understanding their desires.

On the other hand, Creative has no strong retail experience. Its

earlier massive success, the SoundBlaster, was a technological breakthrough,

but it was not really a retail consumer product. Most people who buy

computers don’t know whether the soundcard inside their CPU is a

SoundBlaster or not. Of course, there are those who demand technological

excellence and insist on having the SoundBlaster. Unfortunately, they form

the minority.

Sadly for a hip product such as an MP3 player, Creative chose to take

the same approach–focusing on technology only, instead of combining it

with a massive branding and marketing campaign. It is important to note

that Creative’s MP3 players have received many awards and critical

acclaims. BUT it sorely lacked the ‘street cred’, the approval from the

target market. How many times did you hear someone say “I really want to

get the Zen / MuVo / Jukebox”? You don’t hear much of that because they

all want an iPod.

That is why Apple’s iPod holds near to 90% market share. Just take a

look at the TV ads from both rivals and you’ll understand what I mean by

Apple understanding the consumer’s mind, while Creative missed it


So the next time you think that by focusing only on delivering the best

product, you will be guaranteed success, think again. Creating powerful

positioning, branding and marketing strategies for your business can

make a HUGE difference!