While retailers are panicking about the lack of footfall to malls and stores, Apple remains unfazed. The brand announced the launch of its new store in Singapore which is said to float on water - yep, you read that right. Located at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), the store is Apple's third retail outlet in Singapore, with its two other stores located along Orchard Road and in Jewel Changi Airport.
The store is Apple's first retail outlet in the world that sits on water. It will provide a 360-degree view of Marina Bay and carries a "stylised logo" which deviates from its clean white minimalist look. The new logo sees a red Apple logo with the lower part replaced by rippling water. The logo is said to reflect the constant, dynamic movement of ideas, passions and the imagination of Singaporeans.
Apple's retail outlets seem to be an essential part of its branding, according to industry players. In a conversation with Marketing, Ambrish Chaudhry, managing strategy director, Singapore, Superunion, said Apple's retail outlets are not only meant to sell its products. Its stores are "well thought-out temples to the brand", and Apple spares no expense when it comes to the details of the stores that fuels its aspiration appeal.
"Apple just seems to get it. That they are one of the largest businesses in the history of mankind and yet feel personal and cult-like is probably the greatest magic act in branding," he added. Commenting on the new logo, Chaudhry noted its slight deviation allows Apple to make a statement as the tech company has always been consistent with its brand assets. Thus when it breaks some of its rules, it has a significant impact. Although unsure how long the new logo will last, Chaudhry said it has already achieved its desired effect by breaking the mould. He added:
The iconic red Apple for now rules the Singapore skyline and claims dominion over its waters. A clear symbol of the company’s intent to stake its claim in the Asian market.
Despite competitors playing catch-up in terms of innovation, Apple still stands out in terms of branding. According to Chaudhry, Apple is an "unparalleled master" of signalling, which is a large part of branding. There are no other brands which have retail outlets that are this much discussed about.
Simon Bell, SEA managing director of Cowan, agreed with Apple's prominent standing when it comes to branding. Bell told Marketing that it is difficult not to use Apple as a benchmark brand when it comes to branding, given that its attention to creating relevant customer touchpoints and signature experiences is second to none.
Apple has also put in a lot of effort to craft and define its hard-working assets, which are chosen assets designed to link a brand with its audience. Beside its logo and customer experience, Apple's physical retail is also "spectacular and immersive". Holding similar sentiments as Chaudhry, Bell said Apple's retail stores is more than a venue to sell its products. The stores make consumers feel like they are "walking into the brand" itself. Bell added that one of the only retailers still attracting audiences on Orchard Road in Apple.
Although the fate of retail outlets still remains unknown during this period of COVID-19, Bell is certain that Apple's new retail concept will succeed during this time. This is because Apple has a tried-and-tested approach that addresses how to sell its products, create an experience and utilise digital systems that silently solve pain-points for its consumers. The attention that its new retail outlet is garnering based on the growing social posts hints at its success, according to Bell.
Weighing in on the conversation about the retail scene, Andrew Crombie, CEO of crombie.design, said Apple's new retail store is a win for both Apple and MBS. Apple gets a great location with incredible identity value at the centre of a city of innovation, while MBS gets a drawcard that will help add customers to its various eateries and stores, which are probably struggling with the decrease in footfall.
Given that rental rates are not low in Singapore as well, Crombie said as a rental proposition, the retail store is expensive for sure. However, as a marketing initiative, it is a bargain as the store will have great global reach and "indelible" leadership impression. Apple can ensure it continues to draw footfall by turning the store into an engaging, innovative and "instagrammable" destinations for Singaporeans and visitors. Additionally, Crombie said it is a "smart move" for Apple to choose MBS as its location.
"Now you can’t take a picture of MBS or the Singapore skyline without making it an Apple advertisement."
This comes a month after Apple said it will be opening its second and largest retail location in Thailand. Named "Apple Central World", the retail outlet will have a first-ever all-glass design, housed under a cantilevered Tree Canopy roof. Once inside, customers can travel between two levels via a spiral staircase that wraps around a timber core, or riding a cylindrical elevator. Customers can enter from the ground or upper level, which provides a direct connection to the Skytrain and the Bangkok’s largest shopping center as well. The outlet also has an outdoor plaza, which offers a place for the community to gather, with benches and large Terminalia trees surrounding the space.
Apple has recently been in the spotlight for its dispute with Epic Games, creator of the game Fortnite. Two weeks ago, Epic Games sued Apple for removing Fortnite from its app store. According to the court filings seen by Marketing, the lawsuits aim to end Apple's "anti-competitive actions". The lawsuit against Apple specified that Epic Games wants to end Apple's "unfair and anti-competitive actions" that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multi-billion dollar markets - the iOS app distribution market and the iOS in-app payment processing market. This comes after Apple dropped Fortnite from its App Store for violating in-app payment guidelines.
Shortly after, major news organisations including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC News, Bloomberg, Associated Press, and The Wall Street Journal joined in on the call to push Apple for more favourable terms on its App Store. A letter to Tim Cook by non-profit international trade association Digital Content Next (DCN) said Apple's "seemingly inviolate store terms", long questioned for favoring Apple’s own services and apps, "may well bend for those who have sufficient power to wield in their negotiations".
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