Apple Brand Crisis: Apple Announces Briefing to Discuss iPhone 4 Antenna and Signal Issues

iPhone4 antennaI returned to work today after having a couple of days off ill to learn that Apple has called a surprise conference tomorrow (15 July) to discuss the not so healthy iPhone 4! Will Apple take a leaf out of Johnson and Johnson’s book and recall the handset? The iPhone 4 may not exactly be life threatening to consumers but the bad press is certainly killing the Apple brand!

Funnily enough yesterday evening I went to pick up my second iPhone 4 from Orange.  I returned my first one for being faulty. Nothing to do with the signal issue, (although that is pretty bad!  But then again I am on Orange!) but because of its shocking battery life.

This is the first Apple product I have purchased. I own an Apple 2nd generation iPod Nano but I did not purchase this myself.  I did rush out to buy the new iPhone release a couple of weeks ago, partly because I wanted to be cool and hip, and also because I was due an upgrade, so it seemed the natural choice.

The signal issue was first made public on the 24th June when the phone launched, so I knew about the problem surrounding the antenna issue, but this did not put me off selecting the iPhone 4 as my upgrade, and seemingly it did not deter the other million or so people who ventured out to get their hands on the new handset. 1.7 million units were sold in the first 3 days of its release!

The great thing about Apple is that they have built up a real brand and relationship with consumers. Despite hearing all these terrible things about the iPhone 4 we are so accustomed to the positive values of Apple (innovation, quality, ease of use) that most of us have probably dismissed the fact that the tangible product (the phone) is full of faults and have ventured out to buy an iPhone anyway. This is because we trust the brand values associated with the name Apple.

My personal thoughts were exactly that. Sure I thought the negative press was bad, it made me question whether to purchase an iPhone but then I thought, “Hey it’s Apple they are renowned for great innovative technology, so I will ignore the critics and get one anyway –  in the hope that I do not have any problems with it“.

There is no doubt that there is a signal issue with the new iPhone 4, this is both disappointing and disheartening to the millions of customers worldwide who have shown brand loyalty and rushed out to buy one.  The issue was brought to light when the phone first went on sale, and it has taken Apple almost four weeks to realise something needs to be done to address this issue. You only need to search online to see the mass of negative reviews from analysts, consumers and critics. This week consumer reports, which are pivotal to the success of new technology releases, claimed they could not endorse the phone or recommend users buy it because their own tests found a problem with reception.

Should Apple care about the negative PR’s potential to damage its ‘market leader’ reputation?

Personally, I think Apple’s reaction to the consumer uproar has been shocking and is an embarrassing example of reputation management to say the least.

Until now Apple was a brand synonymous with cutting edge technology, innovation, quality, good design and ease of use. I am not sure how long these brand credentials will remain unless we see a positive outcome from the Apple conference tomorrow.

Will all customers be given a free bumper case? Will Apple take a leaf out of Johnson and Johnson’s book and recall the iPhone4? The iPhone 4 may not be killing consumers but the bad press is certainly killing Apple! Or Will Steve Jobs just come up with another ridiculous excuse?

Maybe in years to come the Apple iPhone 4 scenario will become the Exxon classic textbook case of poor crisis/reputation management.

Well I am off to play with my iPhone 4!

Sam Allen

A strategic thinker who ensures that Zeta and all of our clients keep striving forward. A marketing expert addicted to all things digital.