Will Apple Recover From Antennagate?
You may recall that on June 26, I wrote a Technorati opinion piece entitled “Is The Apple Brand Damaged? iDon’tThinkSo”
Get me rewrite – I now answer the question with iThinkALittle.
Today’s iPhone 4 news conference was unmistakably Apple, everything from the bold defense of its silence to the bashing of the media to the expected loving words for the company’s customers.
What wasn’t expected was for Steve Jobs to lump Apple with everyone else. I thought it was a bad signal when I heard Jobs say, “Dropped bars … this is life in the smartphone industry. … Smartphones are not perfect.”
The iPhone is like every other smartphone? From Steve Jobs?
Since I wrote the last column, Apple has gone quiet while rumors ran rampant and Consumer Reports issued its unflattering review of the iPhone 4. Beyond that, Jobs was accused of being in-the-know on the product deficiency and green-lighting the launch anyway to please shareholders.
Always one to live by its own rules, Apple violated the cardinal crisis management rule. By staying silent, the company allowed the story to be told by others. It’s a classic case of mismanagement at one of the “Moments of Trust”, the critical touchpoints with customers that impact sales and loyalty.
But just how much long-term damage are we talking about here?
The great majority of iPhone 4 owners are Apple loyalists, those who proudly wear their allegiance literally on their sleeves, in their pockets and on their computer desks. Will these iPhone 4 users be so offended by Apple’s missteps that it will abandon Apple, which is working on a three-peat of the Fortune Most Admired Companies’ list? iDontThinkSo.
Apple did take some necessary steps – it just did not communicate them in a timely fashion.
- The company has been pressing the 18 PhD scientists and engineers who work on antenna design in the $100 million testing facilities
- Apple checked with AT&T and found that, purely by numbers, the antenna issue was overblown. Return rates are significantly less for the iPhone 4 than the iPhone 3Gs and fewer than one call in 100 drops, according to Jobs
What the silence did do was to give fuel to the Consumer Reports story and to make Antennagate a national obsession, even bumping BP off the top of the nightly news.
To me the most interesting question coming out of this mess is whether Apple learned anything about crisis management. For any other company, it would be easy to answer yes to the question.
When it comes to Apple, iMNotSoSure.