The Apple phone unlocking issue hit the Republican debate last night, with candidate Marco Rubio accusing the technology company of putting branding before patriotism.
“They think it hurts their brand,” Rubio said. “Well, let me tell you, their brand is not superior to the United States of America.”
It seems the presidential candidates have a mistaken idea of what a brand really is. Branding isn’t just marketing — advertising, email marketing, etc. Branding is about everything that your company and product are about.
You express your brand through all of your formal communications, yes. But the design of your store, the demeanor of the person at the call center, the expertise of the kid behind the counter — not to mention what your top executives say in unguarded moments — all combine to make up your brand. If there is dissonance between elements, people notice, and it affects your business.
So Apple standing up to the U.S. government isn’t about a trifling attempt to protect its “image.” It’s really about Apple doing what it, as a company, believes to be the right thing. The right thing for its business, yes. But also the right thing for the country and its people.
Others may disagree, but I hate the idea of people diminishing the importance of Apple’s stance by dismissing it as mere branding. If you want to put it in those terms, one might say that the U.S. is hurting its own brand by chipping away at the personal freedoms that it purports to be protecting.