Apple and the FBI

Different Thinking about your Brand

Written by:

Dan Gordon

Date: 04.15.16

With Apple, everything begins and ends with the brand. It’s the most important thing to Apple. Just so we’re clear what BRAND means, you want to think of a brand as the personality of the business. My 10 second primer on branding is that as humans we are relationship building machines. We not only build relationships with people but with everything. Little girls feel love for their dollies and big girls feel love for their shoes. Boys have security blankets. Men have midlife crisis sports cars. All these decisions are based on the emotional relationship we build with the things we want. It’s not about the technical details of products. It’s all about the emotional connection.

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As a technology company Apple relies on their brand heavily. They have gone through product launches where the things they have made simply don’t work. The reason that people keep coming back is the same reason that Harley riders tattoo the Harley logo other bodies. Apple customers feel a relationship with Apple. Apple is their friend. Sometimes our friends disappoint us but we don’t stop being their friend.

Now a good brand is a filtering device for your business. It pushes away people who aren’t best suited to be your customers while drawing in – like a magnet – those who do. Apple, more than anything, wants to serve its core and loyal customers. So if we want to consider why Apple is making the choices they are making around this issue, the question we need to ask ourselves first is who are Apple’s customers? Who are the people they are trying to stay connected to the most?

Now we know who they are because Apple has told us. In 1997 they launched their new iMac with the Think Different TV commercial. That commercial starts with pictures of Einstein, Ghandi, and Bob Dylan, and the dialogue narrated by Richard Dreyfus says, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The rebels. The trouble makers.” Now that was pretty bold because at the time Apple was failing as a company and what they essentially said is that if you’re mainstream, we don’t want you as a customers at Apple sort of planted their flag in the ground and said, “We’re going for the people that want to think of themselves as free thinking individuals. The rest of you. We don’t care. Go buy a PC.”

Flash forward to today and now it makes a lot more sense as to why they are making the decisions they are making. Free thinking individuals don’t look at the world as a place where there is death and danger everywhere. They leave that to, you know, people who love Donald Trump. Free thinkers don’t believe that Apple is going to be the go-to technology for terrorists. What free thinkers are MOST concerned about is that the government is going to use this as opportunity, like Bush did with the patriot act, to further invade their privacy and take away their rights. In a way, Apple’s customers are more afraid of their own government than they are about terrorists.

The free thinkers are looking for Apple to protect them. This makes Apple’s choice around not complying with the government  perfectly aligned with their brand.

Apple opening their phone to the FBI would be like Southwest Airlines suddenly offering first class seating or Harley Davidson selling Japanese motorcycles or Disneyland having convicted sex-offenders day at their parks. Mega brands like Apple protect the interests of their core customers because that relationship is the thin little line that keep people coming back. This is what makes people LOVE Apple. It makes them feel safe and protected and like Apple is their friend. It doesn’t bother us that we have to pay Apple to be our friend, we think they are just that good of a friend to us.

Could this backfire? Absolutely. If the iPhone suddenly does become the technology of choice for terrorists Apple with definitely have some ‘splainin’ to do. But for now they are making the 100% right choice.