Will the Apple Brand Take a Hit for it's Poorly Performing iPhone 4? Not in the Long Term.
Steve Jobs has shown how a true leader can step up to an issue and use the dialogue to keep his brand strong. While a difficult situation, Jobs showed the world that Apple values its brand in the long term, and will do what it takes to maintain the loyalty of its franchise. As CNET reported, “…Jobs grits teeth, solves the iPhone 4 ‘crisis’.”
While Apple has been on an amazing roll over the past few years, Jobs has not lost sight of the importance of the amazingly strong relationship his brand has with its consumers. By admitting that there were problems with the iPhone 4, and providing at least some type of solution, I believe he has held on to his franchise and they will stay loyal.
On a functional level, Apple and its competitors are defined by the way they lead and embrace new technologies. Thus, every new product carries with it the burden of providing a true technological advance… one that consumers can easily recognize and adopt. The blistering pace of Apple innovations has propelled it to be the leader it should be. Under Jobs, the company has constantly redefined how technology intersects with consumers, and makes the user experience seamless and enjoyable. Previously hard-core PC users are converting in droves, and as long as the Apple products deliver a superior experience, this should continue.
But what Apple did, through Jobs press conference discussing the problems with the iPhone 4, is indicate to their loyal franchise that they value the relationship more than the technology. In other words, Apple would rather tell it like it is than try to pull a fast one and deny, or at least obfuscate, the problems. So what the announcement signaled was a far more profound cornerstone of the Apple brand. It’s about the relationship.
It’s clear that the media jumped all over the potential problems of the new product, and to some degree Jobs was forced to come forward. But he did, and that speaks volumes about the importance of a brand and it’s dialogue with its franchise.
Sure, Apple with take some more short-term hits, but what Jobs has done for the long term health of the Apple brand is far more important. Never lose sight of the brand’s relationship with its important audiences. It is the hardest thing to develop, and the easiest to lose.