Is Apple’s image cracking?

I had an interesting conversation this week with a co-worker who owns and adores her iPhone.  She doesn’t just possess it, she has a relationship with it.  When she talks about her phone, she gets excited like a parent proclaiming the genius of a child.

I’m sure you know someone like this.  Perhaps its you! As a communicator and marketer, I dig it.  I applaud Apple for being so committed to their customers and providing products they crave.  I also think it’s totally cool how excited people get about them.  Don’t down them, they’re happy!

Now with regard to my co-worker, as I’ve pointed out, there’s nothing unique about her feelings toward her iPhone. However, something she said stuck with me after the conversation was over.  What she said raised a question in mind I had never thought about when talking to someone about Apple and their products. Normally, these conversations are all the same. In short, we all possess our love and ponder what life would be like without Apple! (I just read that back and it seems so silly but you know you’ve done it!)

But this time around, my-worker took an unexpected shot at Apple when the conversation steered to their latest crisis surrounding iPhones and iPads “secretly” tracking and cataloging users’ movements and how Apple had responded to date. Now, granted, it wasn’t in anger or frustration.  It was more matter of fact. A smile even accompanied the words.

What she said was she wouldn’t be surprised if Apple just chose to ignore it, knowing people will continue to buy their products anyway because, as she stated, “They put crack in these things.”

Now it wasn’t the “crack” comment that caught me, although it’s interesting, too, but it was the first part.  Comments like those are rooted in a lack of trust.

As someone who studies a little social science and takes great interest in public perceptions about, let’s just say, lots of stuff, this raised a question in my mind.  Is Apple getting caught up in the public’s (to include Apple fanatics) general perception that big business is corrupt?  This question led me to other questions.  Is Apple’s image beginning to crack?  Are they becoming crisis weary?

There’s no doubt Apple is a marketing powerhouse. We lift them up as a leading example of how to create and maintain a brand and launch products into the marketplace.  However, according to many PR pros, they suffer in the PR department.  And as many of us PR types know, it isn’t the PR team that’s necessarily to blame, but rather, it’s leadership.

So what do you think? Is the honeymoon ending for Apple’s image? If so, what should they do?

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