Apple’s Stumble into Fall Demonstrates the Double-Edged Sword of Brand Attachment
Apple’s Fall season has been less-than-stellar from a social sentiment perspective, and social media channels have been lit up with everything from rants about U2 to competitor ad campaigns. This is bad news for Apple, of course, but it’s also good news: if people didn’t care, they wouldn’t bother talking about it. Apple’s rocky September has illustrated, very clearly, the double-edged sword that is brand attachment: when people are emotional about a brand, they’re going to react with the same amount of vigor whether they’re delighted or disappointed.
I’ve been doing some social listening with our social monitoring tool to see what folks have been saying about Apple this month. We saw their Live Stream fail during their big product unveil in early September, leading to the #LiveStreamFail tweetfest, and giving rival Samsung a chance to newsjack the event with a pretty clever video. Then we Apple consumers were all treated to a free U2 album that was loaded right into our iTunes catalogue, which ended up creating a noisy backlash that still has folks complaining about it on social media channels.
Now, the fact that Apple is facing this sort of consumer reaction in finding a way for the music industry to open a new revenue channel while at the same time giving users what they’ve theoretically been wanting since the Napster (read: free music) is another article. Suffice it to say that Apple has endured a firestorm of customer criticism over that marketing tactic, proving the old marketing adage that people really don’t value free stuff – especially if they didn’t ask for that free stuff.
As of this week, Apple has another big issue with iOS 8 – namely, that the update it released for a New York minute to fix the bugginess that folks have been complaining about for the last week caused even more bugginess.
But by far the most visual backlash on social channels has come with what’s being dubbed #bendgate, stemming from reports that the new iPhone 6 bends from normal use (like being stowed in pockets).
Apple has yet to comment on #bendgate, leaving the conversation at this point to the peanut gallery – and Apple competitors. BlackBerry’s CEO John Chen made a backhanded joke at Apple’s expense while unveiling their new smartphone, saying “I challenge you to bend the Passport.” LG went a step further, posting this to Twitter:
Even KitKat got in on the act:
One bright note in Apple’s month: it did just win “Coolest Brand in Britain” for the 3rd year in a row. And that, right there, says it all: when you’ve fostered the sort of brand attachment that Apple has, and most especially when your brand is the cool kid, you can expect that your missteps will be trumpeted and lampooned creatively across social media channels by folks who expected better and/or hoped for worse. Social media is a dialogue discipline, after all. In the case of #bendgate, Apple has thus far chosen to let that conversation go on without its participation (though it’d be interesting to know how many of the imagery poking fun at Apple was made on a Mac) .
Whether the “silence is golden” tactic will work with #bendgate has yet to be seen… but we’ll keep listening.