Written by Canon Wing

I teach entrepreneurs and organizations the proven action steps to stand out within their market, improve the perceived value of their business, and better connect with their audience through naming, branding, storytelling, and communication platforms.

September 2, 2021

Apple CEO Tim Cook Says It’s Back To Work! Branding Mistake or Moneymaker?

Ever since they made it possible for us to put all of our music on one little palm-sized device, Apple has become the brand to emulate. Apple can do no wrong, right? Not quite. Apple can and does make mistakes at times. Just recently, Apple did something so off-brand that it has the potential to actually chip away at this seemingly peerless brand. This is a branding error that all brands can heed and learn from.

An off-brand move by Apple.

Apple had a huge opportunity to be a leader in creating a new work life balance during the pandemic, but sent out an off-brand message. Tim Cook wrote to Apple employees that they would have to return to on-campus working from September. In a video, Apple’s senior VP of retail and people, Deirdre O’Brien said that in-person work is “essential,” that in-person collaborations were essential to the company culture and Apple’s future.

The message was that though video conference calling has narrowed the distance between people, there are still things it simply cannot replicate. This is an odd message to send out, especially from a company that claims to put technology to such great use. Apple puts at the disposal of its users the ability to connect effectively and seamlessly to anyone, anywhere. Now saying that there are things that their own products cannot do or facilitate is odd, to say the least. It is off-brand for certain.

Botched or ‘bout time?

So was this a blunder from Apple? A year and a half is a long enough time. Surely a company should have the option of recalling its employees to work in the interests of profitability? Well yes, but a brand like Apple doesn’t want to be sending out the message that it prioritizes the bottom line over the wellbeing of its employees! The non-consultative way in which the decision was taken is the real issue – and it smacks of a lack of trust.

I would have thought that an internal survey would have been a great way to hear what Apple employees thought – how they would have liked to ‘return’ to work. The psychological transition of going back to physical work spaces can actually be traumatic for some people right now – particularly those who have suffered most during the pandemic. They didn’t have to receive a message that sounded like they weren’t being heard or being given a choice. This at a time when a significant proportion of Americans are saying that they would rather quit than ‘go’ back to work? Not ideal!

This is especially not ideal for a company that prides itself on its painstakingly built company culture. In a sense the company told its people that they have somehow fallen short of expectations, by telling them what to do and how to behave in this unilateral manner. So yes, this is a branding mistake – by Apple no less, because it sends out the message of a trust deficit in its own people.

Whether you’re an established brand or a brave new market presence, there are mistakes that you could watch out for as well. Learn how you can build and consolidate your brand in consonance with your brand values. Watch now to  learn how to avoid damaging your brand and to know more about strengthening your brand.