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Apple, the FBI and Your CEO – What You Need to Know

In Branding News by DistilityLeave a Comment

With the release of iOS 8 in September 2014, Apple’s privacy systems became largely unhackable. Even by Cupertino itself. User privacy was so protected that, when it came to matters of law enforcement, Apple could only help authorities when presented with a device at Apple headquarters.

After the San Bernardino massacre last December that left 14 dead, that’s been challenged. Here’s a quick summary of what’s happened to date:

  • Shooter Syed Farook’s iCloud password was mistakenly reset by law enforcement officials
  • Apple was left with no conventional way to help authorities
  • The FBI wants Apple to invent a method to breach its own privacy security and has invoked a law from 1789 to force them to comply
  • Apple is refusing, on the grounds that creating a backdoor in its security controls is an enormous threat to the privacy of customers

What Would A Good CEO Do?

There are two types of CEOs and marketers. Those that see brand strategy as a marketing function, and the minority who, like Apple CEO Tim Cook, see brand as the big idea that directs marketing, operations and finance. In other words, the business. Which will you be?

Brand Is Business

At its best, Apple has embodied the latter: brand as business, not just marketing. It’s the reason why the firm refuses to crack its own privacy features, even at the behest of the FBI. In fact, Cook’s belief that privacy is a basic right is an explicit part of the brand.

He made this clear in 2013, stating on the corporate website that Apple does not see its customers as products. This is a direct dig at Google and Facebook, whose billions in revenue and valuations are built on the sale of consumer web behavior via the operating system, browser or app.

So yes, the refusal to cede to FBI demands is controversial. It opens Apple up to accusations of brand opportunism. But when it comes down to it, Cook is simply a CEO proving the brand strategy. And good brand strategy is good for business.

Privacy: Another Unique Selling Position for Apple

As Google and Microsoft OS devices continue to improve and challenge Apple, privacy is a brand position the Cupertino tech giant can dominate. Plus, it’s a position that aligns Apple with the consumer, while Google, Facebook and Microsoft are visibly beholden to business.

We mentioned it above, but it’s really worth a second look. Google brings in $300 billion per year selling consumer search and psychographic information to businesses. Facebook is . . . well . . . Facebook. And the Microsoft OS dominates the business world. What’s more, the US Department of Defence just announced that it will soon standardize all of its computers to Microsoft Windows 10. And Windows 10 has been described by many as a privacy nightmare. (How’s that for a near perfect inversion of Apple’s position?)

Brand Strategy Builds Loyalty

For a new generation of users who don’t want to be products, and who are looking for a brand that is willing to fight for privacy, Apple is the brand to trust.

Ask Yourself

  • Can you articulate your brand strategy? Your promise? Your brand position? Your values?
  • Does your firm know them? And live them?
  • Are they directing your business, like they do for Tim Cook? Or are they just cosmetic?

Define your brand strategy in a day with the Distility Brand Strategy Workflow.