Apple’s Marketing Strategy in the Wake of Recent Court Order

At this point, most of us have heard about the dispute between Apple and the United States Justice Department regarding development of software that can defeat the security features on the iPhone.  However, this post will not discuss any of the legal, ethical, or political implications of this matter, but will instead simply and objectively look at the potential marketing implications of this dispute, which has not been highlighted as much in the media.  While not as widely discussed in the media, the marketing component was recently discussed in a variety of news articles.

The premise of the marketing implications that Apple may face is largely based on public opinion.  The point has been made that complying with the order would raise concerns about privacy.  The defendant, Apple, argues that complying with the court order requiring them to develop software that can create what they are calling a “backdoor” into their devices, could compromise all of their devices.  The prosecution, the United States Justice Department, is arguing that Apples resistance to following the court order is “based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy,” and in turn its reputation.  In potentially undermining their reputation and associated aspects, Apple is concerned about how it may impact their marketing.

Apple’s concern is that these actions would potentially have a negative impact on consumer trust, and in turn, their marketing strategy.  It is argued by the prosecution that Apple is concerned with their appearance if they potentially compromised privacy and security.  The defense argues that Apple has incorporated privacy and security into their brand, and it is something that many customers have come to rely on.  The prosecution goes on to report that Apple is more concerned with their image than what the law, through the judge’s order, is requiring them to do.

There is another point that has been addressed in relation to this matter.  Apple has made very few public comments on this matter.  The prosecution points out that Apple has not indicated that they do not have the technical capability to handle the task, or that doing so would be an excessive burden on the company.  The only comment from Apple on this particular point was an acknowledgement that they do have the technical ability to complete the task.  This is important because there is a potential of Apple hurting their reputation with the appearance of not having the technical know-how to complete the task.  However, the statements of both the prosecution and the defense dispel the potential negative impacts of this premise.

What do you think about the potential marketing outcomes for Apple in this situation?

Is just the fact that Apple is generating this much attention having positive or negative marketing impacts for them?

How could Apple spin cooperation with the United States Justice Department in a positive light for their marketing?


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5 Responses to Apple’s Marketing Strategy in the Wake of Recent Court Order

  1. Colin says:

    Hi Douglas,

    Really great timely piece. I think that, as you mention, this could be either a positive or a negative marketing tactic because it’s all a matter of opinion. As far as I’ve seen over the past week or so, people are standing strong beside Apple in order to defend what our country stands for, but this circumstance offers an interesting predicament; is it worth sacrificing our personal freedom for the safety and security of the United States of America?

    I do think that Apple is relishing in this recent news item and are enjoying the attention — why else would they have published the open letter on their website? Only time will tell if that was an effective decision.

  2. Alli Kartachak says:

    Hi Douglas – thanks so much for this great blog post!

    This situation is very interesting because I believe the outcome will set the precedent for many other issues down the line concerning the intersection of technology, privacy and security in our nation and the world. I believe Apple is smart to be cautious here as it could become a pandora’s box type scenario. The American public, the government and Silicon Valley all have their eyes on this to see what enfolds in the weeks and months to come. I read a NYT article the other day that said the government has been looking for an opportunity for years to gain access to smart devices. The incident involving the terrorists in San Bernardino was a convenient way to gain the support of the American public to pressure Apple to open the backdoor as it was framed as a national security measure. I agree with the other blogger that Apple is relishing in the recent news and is aware it has the power to determine how these types of predicaments will be handled in the future.

  3. Karen says:

    I think that the attention generated from the situation has largely been positive for Apple. The position that Apple has taken in terms of the situation puts them on the side of their consumer as they are looking to protect consumer privacy and security which is part of what consumers by into when using their products. This shows Apple’s commitment to their consumers and how they are willing to fight for their consumer’s rights even in a situation as important as this related to national security.

  4. Chen-Chih says:

    Great post Douglass,
    I actually used this case in my other class to spur a similar discussion. From a PR standpoint, Apple is doing an outstanding job of making them seem like the victim and ensuring that whatever the outcome, the culprit will be the US government, not Apple. They are effectively shifting blame. I like this strategy. And while I think it is a strategy from some angles, I actually feel that Apple is being genuine in their concerns and with their letter and personally it makes me like and support them even more. I’m all for fighting terrorism but in this case I think protecting privacy rights and personal liberties is of more importance especially because I highly doubt the terrorist has some magical list that will lead to the capture of other terrorists. Anyway, great post.

  5. Rhonda says:

    Hi Douglas,

    Nice blog. I think the marketing team and the apple lawyers will work this problem out with the government. Whatever publicity that is gained from the government poking around with the IPhone, I think the Apple PR team will figure out how to spin the info in a positive light. I think in the beginning it might be rough for Apple, but they won’t lose any noticeable sales. But in the end they will come out smelling like a rose. Why? Because millions of consumers love this cellphone!