Last week, while returning to London on the train from a wedding in the country, one of my fellow wedding guests pulled out her brand new iPhone 6 Plus. It looked beautiful and had some great new features that she quickly demonstrated. Not one of us referred to it as the ‘bendy phone’.
Upon landing back in the States the next day, #bendgate was in full force.
So what happened? One video went viral of a user bending their iPhone 6 Plus with his hands the same week several other users posted complaints and videos showing that their phones had bended while in their pockets. By several, Apple reported 9 complaints in total. Some are now arguing that the video was a fake and it was a planned negative attack against Apple.
But due to the power of social, 9 complaints out of millions of users equaled a public relations wildfire.
Slow to respond. Apple did not respond immediately to the growing hype around the bend issue perhaps hoping to wait this out or thinking their corporate brand was strong enough to overcome a few complaints around their new product release. The universe loves to fill a vacuum and fill it, it did. During Apple’s absence from the conversation, the brand identity of the iPhone 6 Plus – and iPhone 6 – was taken over and became the ‘bendy phone’.
No-action statement. Apple did eventually release a statement to the media; however, it focused on explaining the design, structure and testing of the phone. It did not address what actions it would take to ensure that bending was no longer an issue. It acknowledged the problem but it did not provide the next steps to a solution.
Apparent lack of scenario preparation. Apple has a much admired approached to their product releases – they keep the product veiled in secrecy to keep the excitement at its peak. But what they do not seem to be doing is preparing different crisis scenarios on launch or to have a plan of action in place to enable them to respond quickly.
Apple eventually took matters into their own hands and gave tours of its hardware testing facilities to journalists to prove the durability of the iPhone but the damage had been done. If they were quicker to respond, had a plan in place and had opened their doors to journalists early on, they may have been able to mitigate the damage to their brand and image.