In recent days we have seen two of the giants of the Wireless world – Apple and Verizon – respond differently to problems with their smartphone products, resulting in different reactions from consumers and the mainstream and trade media.
Apple has been credited with the speed of its response to problems with the iPhone4’s antenna. But the press conference by Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs has been a source of controversy and unending blogosphere argument. For its part, Verizon has been almost universally lauded for its apologetic and make-good corporate response to display problems with its competing Droid X.
Why the different responses and reactions?
First, Apple has unique cult status as a brand, and Jobs himself is an icon of consumer technology. When he speaks, it’s regarded as a sermon from the Mount and every word and gesture is parsed endlessly. For example, the Washington Post credited Apple with a quick response that research firms say reduced “negative” consumer comments on blogs by 30% within a week of the problem being revealed. But Jobs himself scored lower marks from the Post, trade publications, and from bloggers for his press conference. They appreciated his offer of a free case to fix the problem. However, they also castigated his lengthy attempt to justify the problem by visually illustrating problems with competing brands’ smartphones, his “blame the media” comments, and his characterization of the problem as a “non-issue” despite extensive consumer complaints. (Post article and reader comments: http://bit.ly/9TZe5p)
For its part, Verizon is by-and-large perceived as a corporate entity; by responding quickly and directly to the problem with an announcement offering to replace any defective phone for free, the public reaction was immediate and favorable. Trade magazine PC World’s reaction (http://bit.ly/dk1B0e) to both responses was telling: after describing Verizon’s solution, the writer wrote: “At least not all smartphone manufacturers blame the customer for hardware defects,” followed by a link to an article criticizing the tone of Jobs’ response: http://bit.ly/cLqMus
CommCore regularly advises its clients to consider the messenger as well as the message and the audience when responding to a problem or crisis. While it’s likely that Apple customers might have expected a personal response from Jobs because of his high profile relationship to his Apple brand, it’s clear that every nuance what he said – and how he said it – was subject to far more scrutiny than Verizon’s rapid corporate announcement of an acceptable solution.
What was you reaction to the content and tone of the Apple response, and Steve Jobs’ press conference? How might you apply the Apple and Verizon responses to your communications strategy, or that of your clients?