Over the past few weeks, rumors about iPhone 4 recalls have been swirling across the web, due to the antenna's hardware flaws. These rumors began heating up again when Consumer Reports just yesterday denied the iPhone 4 its recommendation rating, because of said hardware issues. And today, Cult of Mac, a respectable Apple blog, did some investigating of its own by reaching out to PR experts on the matter. The theme of the article is that Apple will be inevitably forced to issue a recall on the iPhone 4, if the company cares to avoid its reputation from being tarnished any further. Prof. Seeger, who is chair of the Department of Communication at Wayne State University in Detroit, sums the predicament up well:
Apple lives and dies by its reputation... we pay a premium for its products. We expect them to operate on a premium level. Its very unfortunate, but they will have no choice but to mount a recall.
Chris Lehane, former Clinton White House Master of Disaster, agrees, and explains how Apple has taken the wrong approach to the problem from the start:
"The iPhone 4 reception issue presents a Toyota-style PR crisis for Apple, and the company must respond with a more meaningful fix than a software patch... Apple was under tremendous pressure to respond. They pushed out some information that wasnt really baked... They found themselves in a hole, and they dug a deeper hole..."
Now, although this isn't exactly akin to the Toyota PR crisis, the analogy is striking. But let's remember: this hypothetical recall wouldn't be due to a safety threat, and as such, would not be mandatory. However, according to the experts, if Apple plans to recover from the predicament, it must offer a hardware recall.
And what about the Apple loyalists? Surely they would look past these problems, and maintain brand loyalty, right? Dr. Barton is not so sure.
Its been borderline irresponsible. They are in danger of betraying customers trust and hurting the brand, which is infinitely more valuable than any one product
Dr. Barton is a "former professor at Harvard Business School, Penn State, University of Nevada at Las Vegas and Boston College. He was Vice President of Crisis Management at Motorola from 1995 to 1999."
BoyGeniusReport responded to the Cult of Mac article with some thoughts of their own. They believe that Apple will try to bandage the problem with a software patch, and possibly free "Bumpers", but that will not solve the real problem. They suggest that Apple can decide to go one of two ways, neither of which is ideal:
- Do nothing. Stick with the stance that there is no antenna issue with the iPhone 4, remind users that holding all smartphones a certain way will cause signal degradation, and deal with the impending lawsuits. Refute the concrete evidence and try to ride out the public relations nightmare.
- Do some sort of voluntary recall of the first wave of iPhone 4s. By doing this it would be admitting that, at best, the company was wrong and did not fully understand its own product, or at worst, it lied to its customer base. Deal with the backlash, and still potential lawsuit, and move on.
So, what does everyone think? Will Apple eventually be able to overcome these PR gaffes? Should Apple issue a voluntary recall of the iPhone 4? Let us know.
Source: Cult of Mac, BoyGeniusReport