Apple's Burberry hire: Another lesson in brand strategy

Jeff Brown, Special to
Angela Ahrendts
Simon Dawson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.


At first, Apple's hiring of Burberry CEO Angela Ahrendts is a bit of a head scratcher. A clothing executive moving to a tech firm? But there's a lesson here for other companies: Your quick description of your outfit may not really match its true image with the public.

Yes, Apple's a tech firm. But, perhaps more importantly, it's also a luxury brand. And the definition of luxury has evolved over time, with young, affluent consumers now focused on performance and design, not traditional "status badges," logos or storied history. So if your electronic gadgets have become fashion statements, hire an executive who understands fashion.

Lots of companies cling to their "core" values and skills, but they overdo it at their peril as the marketplace evolves.


"When looked at through the prism of the fast-changing luxury industry, Ahrendts is the perfect hire. That's because Apple has become a luxury brand first and a technology company second."
CNBC's Robert Frank

"This generation of nouveau riche is shunning 'conspicuous consumption' in favor of brands that represent quality, aesthetics and authenticity. These attributes, along with uniqueness, integrity, design and performance, represent today's 'prestige' for these high-end consumers."
— Advertising industry veteran Tim Arnold, in Advertising Age

BlackBerry's mass text


Most companies try to put their best foot forward, but troubled BlackBerry is going the extra mile. The Canadian has published an open letter in 30 news outlets assuring customers their mobile devices will keep working.

After losing much of its market share to Apple and Android smartphones, BlackBerry has announced massive layoffs and is on the auction block. Some analysts think the company will be broken up and sold piecemeal.


"We want customers to know that they can continue to count on us—we are here to stay. ... [Restructuring] will make us financially stronger, and we want to get that message directly to our customers."
—Frank Boulben, BlackBerry's chief marketing officer

"I don't think anybody's surprised that blackberry has continued to have disappointing sales and disappointing revenue and earnings quarter after quarter. I don't know anyone that's bullish on BlackBerry technology."
—Michael Chasen, CEO of SocialRadar

More taper talk


Those murmurs about a longer-than-expected delay in Fed tapering keep getting louder, suggesting a prolonged low-rate policy could continue to support stocks. The Dallas Fed president who has criticized those asset purchases now says a cutback is unlikely at this month's FOMC meeting, and hedge fund titan David Tepper says tapering might not begin until after next March or June.


"My personal opinion is that [tapering this fall is] not in play. This is just too tender a moment."
—Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas

"They're not tapering for a long time now... So that's definitely sort of going to be a push-up to markets."
—David Tepper, president of Appaloosa Management

401(k) sense


Looking for a relatively low-cost way to boost your employees' job satisfaction? One option: offer clearer, more thorough information to help them better manage their 401(k)s. A survey by Charles Schwab found that 52 percent of workers are not clear on their 401(k) options and that 57 percent wish it were easier to make investment decisions.

Unfortunately, only about half of eligible employees participate in their plans, suggesting that many don't credit the boss for offering this valuable benefit.

Many employers are making things easier by offering target-date funds, which automatically divide contributions among stocks and bonds depending on the worker's age. Schwab says 79 percent of 401(k) participants have access to professional advice provided by their employer, either online, by phone or in person.


"Most people view it as the same thing as cleaning out a toilet bowl. They just don't want to deal with it."
—Certified financial planner Geri Pell, on workers' management of 401(k)s.

By Jeff Brown, Special to