AT&T = iBrand killer?

Photo courtesy of just2me.com

Photo courtesy of just2me.com

I have had a love/hate relationship with my iPhone.  Most of the time it is the as billed “Jesus phone” and other times it is well, NOT the “Jesus phone.” On the days I am frustrated with the device/service, it makes me doubt the machine that is Apple.  A past mantra/marketing campaign of theirs claimed- “It just works.”  Well Steve in this case, it doesn’t just work.  Not the iPhone….well I should say, not AT&T.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the device.  It has the easiest mobile operating system to use, best browser that can view entire webpages on the screen, seemingly billions of apps in their app store and the 32gb version can hold multiple hours of songs/videos/contacts, etc.  However, the simplest tasks like making a call or opening one of the apps can be a nightmare after one of their OS upgrades (see this example and this one).

After having a dropped call for the umpteenth time, I wondered if AT&T’s poor service would affect Apple’s brand image.

On one hand, the first answer is an obvious “yes.” If a consumer’s first experience with the Apple brand is with the iPhone and they have a negative experience, the chances of them buying another Apple product are slim.  This is especially critical as the price point for the iPhone is a lot lower than an iMac or Macbook, which have much higher profit margins.  The risk here is the Apple and Mac brands becoming stale because of these negative experiences with the phone and consumers may end up not viewing Apple as a symbol of quality, but as just another computer brand.

On the other hand, the strength of Apple’s pre-existing brand equity coupled with its constant marketing blitz (I’ve seen at least 3-4 commercials since I’ve started this entry) for the iPhone have overcome any hit they have taken from AT&T’s lack of reliability.  Also, Apple/Mac users are incredibly loyal and it would take a gross misstep by the company for them to go to another product rather than sticking with their favorite computers and iPods.

There have been rumors of the iPhone being available on the Verizon network in the future.  I think this could only help the Apple brand if there were competition between cellular service providers for the iPhone.  It could only help improve service reliability, increase loyalty to the iPhone and Apple, and increase revenues for all companies involved.

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3 Comments

  1. I think even a strong brand like Apple can stand only so much dissonance between expectations and reality before it begins to suffer. The real question is whether the problems are widespread enough to seriously damage them.

    I think the ads Verizon is running now showing a far stronger 3G footprint than AT&T are brilliant. I’ve been thinking of switching to an iPhone, and that comparison gave me pause.

    Roger

  2. Thanks for the reply Roger- I agree on both points. With the recent price reductions of the MacBook Pro, it should really help increase sales for Apple. With the additional units sold comes an increase in the amount of people experiencing the Mac/Apple brand and having high expectations. If Apple starts too churn out “too many” units, will they be able to maintain the same quality consumers are used to or will quality start to decline?

    Also, I saw an interesting article mentioning AT&T was suing Verizon over the map ads. Very interesting…here’s a link- http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20091103-715399.html

  3. Impressive take. From who do ya get your Apple news? 😛

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