Brand China and Apple’s Image

My last post was about the image of China as a brand and as home to a number of Chinese brands.

Around the same time the New York Times was running a series of articles about the working conditions at some of the largest Chinese manufacturers — companies that are contracted to make products for Apple, Dell, HP, Nike and many other “American” brands.

Made-in-China has carried a stigma for a number of years because the country has been linked to many counterfeit and defective products.  These range from microchips to medicines — and have poisoned people and animals as well as destroyed computers, interrupted communications networks and caused other physical damage.

Now the spotlight is on working conditions in Chinese factories.   Moral outrage at sweatshops is part of American culture.  It made headlines when Wal-Mart locked the cleaning staff in overnight.  We get up in arms when chickens don’t have enough elbow room (or whatever is the chicken equivalent of elbows).  So it should be no surprise when the treatment of workers in China becomes a focal point.

Made-in-China is taking on the image of high tech sweatshops.

And that made-in-China label is very visibly, very publicly tarnishing Apple’s image.  A few days ago it was the NY Time’s big headlines on the human cost of iPads.  Before that it was a Times story on the iPhone.   The NY Times stories have been picked up and amplified across the media.  Here’s Bob Garfield writing in  Bob Garfield on the rot in Apple’s image

Will these revelations slow down the pace of Apple’s sales?  I doubt it.  But it will hurt Apple’s image in several important areas, particularly recruitment of the best and brightest and regulatory scrutiny.

This is an example of why reinventing the marketing model must include corporate image and corporate reputation.  Nike learned it the hard way and is now an exemplar.  The new reality in North America and Europe is that we want to know about the people and values of companies, not just the prices and products.

1 Response to “Brand China and Apple’s Image”

  1. 1 Craig Charney February 16, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Mike Daisey’s remarkable one-man-show on Apple and its working conditions, which is getting a lot of attention and reviews, is also having an impact (and an indication in itself of how made-in-China is affecting the culture).

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