Earlier this month, Apple announced the arrival of their newest, and highly anticipated, bouncing baby phone… And at that twins! All hail the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Sales quickly skyrocketed and preorders surpassed any other Apple product, a record held previously by the iPhone 5 line of phones (5, 5c and 5s).
This launch comes on the heels of the iWatch announcement (available Spring 2015) and the iOS 8 software update to existing phones and preloaded on the 6 Series. So you would think that this launch that was probably in the planning process for more than a year went smoothly and end of story? Not so much. Enter #bendgate and the removal of the iOS 8.0.1 update.
America is a progressive nation; we are always striving for a better way of doing things, a sleeker design and altogether leaving the Jones in the dust scratching their heads. Apple is the quintessential brand that feeds into that need and gives us an outlet to show some of the most innovative and advanced designs and technologies.
But, as Apple is finding out, you can only push the envelope so far until you run into non-negotiable things. Apple meet physics, physics say hello to Apple. The iPhone 6 in all of its .27 inch thickness and aluminum frame glory, does what any product would do; it bends when pressure is applied to certain areas. BUT, it’s a phone. We drop it, we set it down, and we put it in our pockets… It’s probably the thing most touched on a daily basis. So, much to the new owners’ dismay, if you leave it in your pocket (front or back, according to reports) you may find yourself with a slightly curved iPhone in the matter of hours.
And as a nation, we are nothing if we are not clever; the hashtag #bendgate began trending on most social media platforms. A marketer’s worst nightmare has been realized. Crisis marketing has begun. Videos showing how easily the phone bends when pressure is applied are something that Apple cannot merely ignore. In fact, since it has been brought to light the faulty design Apple stock has fell. To compound that, the iOS 8.0.1 update released effected some user’s call quality and cellular network leading to a recall of the update. Strike two.
So how does Apple market itself out of its trouble? Apple who has prided itself and sold itself on never releasing something until it is 100% ready now finds itself on the other side. Because it is Apple, it probably is not in danger of losing the majority of its fan base; it has a variety of products outside the iPhone. However, this failure sends a subconscious message to consumers and potential consumers. The untouchable Apple is not so untouchable anymore. The marketing they have taken years to craft and perfect is somewhat in shambles.
Do they admit defeat? Recall the phone and issue replacements? Do they ignore the products faults and shift blame to the user? A tactic that former CEO Steve Jobs is all too familiar with.
It would be in Apple’s best interest to reign in the situation fast. It must balance the cost of issuing new phones and potentially scrapping this design against the cost of lost revenue due to decreased confidence from buyers. Which is more deadly for a company? Chances are your company is not on the scale of Apple, so what could you AFFORD to do? This is not a unique situation or one a much smaller company, no matter the industry, couldn’t face. Any one with crisis marketing skills would tell you the answer on what to do is not: NOTHING.
My advice is to restore confidence in your consumers. Nothing is more endearing than admitting gracefully through a well-designed marketing plan that you screwed up, but will make it right. I guarantee Apple has crisis marketing teams that are in place solely for situations like these, and you should too. Things can escalate so quickly in our viral environment that you may not have time to make a comprehensive decision once something has started and time is of the essence. And ultimately, can lead to the demise of a company.