Is Apple’s attempt to distance itself from China brand spin or brand craft

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Apple’s ‘Made in China’ Brand Messaging
Maybe I’m a little late to the party, but on the weekend I notices for the first time the small print on the back of my iPhone 6 which says: ‘Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China’. I was struck by the extent to which Apple carefully craft every layer of their brand. Sure, I’m an apple fan – they share more of the 1440 minutes of my day than any other brand – but there’s no denying they also work very hard at gaining that engagement and loyalty.

Where and how brands manufacture their products has become an important part of how consumers feel about them, and specifically how well they match or run counter to a customer’s personal value set. Like most of the world’s major manufacturers, Apple utilizes the economic benefits of China to ensure they remain price competitive (although the success of their brand has almost created a category of one with the accompanying premium price advantages) and keep the margins strong. For every large brand manufacturing in China, there inevitably will be some degree of negative association whether through news stories of employment conditions, low wages, human rights violations, etc. And although most of these negatives occur by way of association, that association drives perception, and in branding, perception is reality.

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Hence my interest in Apple’s clever, little spin on their manufacturing relationship with China. ‘Designed in California’ is a carefully crafted brand message. It says; “We are proud of our heritage”, “American’s get paid (good wages we assume) to create these phones”, “We are not just American and proud – we’re Californian and proud”, and “Design is really important and will never be outsourced”. The ‘Assembled in China’ is an even more interesting piece of brand message crafting – as much for what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say; “Manufactured in China” which suggest an attempt to distance the brand from any negative associations. After all, how difficult could it be to assemble a phone – surely those workers would be treated better than their poor neighbors manufacturing the galaxy.

Does anyone really mind about this little bit of brand spin? Probably not in the big picture, especially given the high degree of loyalty Apple have built over many years of design and product innovation. But in a world where brand authenticity (read transparency) is increasingly highly valued, standing for something and then walking the talk is the ultimate brand statement.

Dave Ansett
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more at…
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