WSJ on How the iPod Crushed Creative's Nomad: Branding

The Wall Street Journal has published a piece reminding us that Apple isnit always the innovator when it comes to products. In an article called "When Being First Doesnit Make You No. 1," Chris Prystay explains how Singapore-based Creativeis Nomad player was among the first hard drive music players to market, but that it failed to catch fire because of the firmis poor marketing tactics.

More generally, the article explores the power of marketing the name of a firm or product rather than the usefulness of the product itself. The tactic is called "branding," and it is a strategy at which Apple excels, which serves as the basis for comparison in the Journalis article. From the article:

In business, though, being first doesnit always make you No. 1. Creative is best-known for its Sound Blaster audio cards for personal computers, a product category it pioneered and continues to dominate. But itis still a niche player; annual sales are a tenth of Appleis.

[...]

And so -- as often happens with innovative Asian manufacturers -- the Creative MP3 player has been a modest hit, while the iPod became a global sensation.Apple ran marketing rings around Creative even in its own backyard. For iPodis Singapore launch in late 2001, Apple plastered the city-stateis main shopping district with funky posters and ran a hip ad blitz in movie theaters. Creativeis response finally came last month, when it began sponsoring a childrenis TV show and running its first-ever televised ad campaign. But the ads ran only in Singapore.

"Thereis been a big shift in our business, and right now, our biggest challenge is marketing," concedes Creativeis founder and chief executive, Sim Wong Hoo. "But Iim stingy. I donit want to waste money unless I know itis going to work."

There is much more in full article, which we recommend as a good read (subscription required).