Drake: Market dominance leads to loss of brand individuality

Apple Inc.’s gradually growing domination of the technological market is nothing new. MacBook’s, iPods, iPads – it seems every new product the powerhouse company develops is the thing to beat for all its competitors. For as wonderful an option as Apple products may be, they must remain just that – an option, rather than the rule.

Apple is increasingly eclipsing similar products in their field. The company’s success is certainly good for their profit margin. Consumers reap the advantages of a competitive market too. It benefits both the company and customers.

Those slim benefits aside, negative repercussions to the market at large are developing alongside Apple’s progress. If Apple is becoming the name to compare all else against, what happens when there is nothing left but Apple? All of the options consumers once had as a result of a competitive market will slowly disappear as smaller companies fade out.

While it would be wonderful to hope that companies we love would not abuse their market dominance, let’s face it, this is a capitalist economy. Organizations work to increase their profit margin. If they control a given market, they can raise prices exponentially and customers will have no choice but to pay up if there are no other options available.

Legally, of course, monopolies cannot exist, which raises difficulty for Apple itself. In the first place, the government would be forced to deconstruct any monopoly. Secondly, the company might face the very real problem of losing its brand name.

There have been numerous cases in the past where brand names have become so much a household name that they become generic. When a company attempts to sue another group for using its trademark name, it is not a good sign. Usually the original company loses its right to the name in court because it is “too generic.”

The drug maker Bayer was forced to give up its trademark on the name “aspirin” in the ’20s, “escalator” faced the same in 1950, “thermos” in ’63 and “yo-yo” in ’65. Apple’s impressive success could be leading the company down the same road.

The company’s success is a double-edged sword. It wants to increase profits enough to do well but it must not do so well that it risks losing the rights to the very products that are the reason for its achievements.

Consumers, too, must be careful of the difficulties lying within a brand name. Who is to say that the high prices we pay are for the quality of the product, or simply the name emblazoned on it? It is a problem that is not easily addressed, to be sure. With that said, there is something we can do.

There are options available. Just because “everyone” is getting an iPhone or “everyone” says Macs are best does not necessarily make it true. Certainly, Apple makes good products, but they aren’t the best or only choice for everyone. See what else is available; the number of worthwhile products may surprise you.