There is no doubt that Apple has mastered how to manage its reputation as evidenced by the 2012 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient® (RQ) which ranked Apple as having the highest corporate reputation with the highest score in the history of this 13 year old poll (Hulbert, 2012). Of all the different reputation tools discussed by Hillenbrand and Money, it is my opinion that the Harris RQ poll provides the best overall reflection of the company as it gathers input from a variety of stakeholders including “the general public, customers, employees, suppliers and investors” (Hillenbrand & Money, 2007, p. 262). Building a reputation for your company is not an easy task given the number of stakeholders you have and the varying demands they all have. It was no different for Apple who made a steady climb from the lower end of the RQ poll in 2000 to the top of it in 2012. What’s remarkable about Apple in the 2012 RQ poll is that they dominated in each of the 6 categories tracked by the poll (“The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient® (RQ®)”, 2012):
- Vision & Leadership: 1st place
- Financial Performance: 1st place
- Products & Services: 1st place
- Workplace Environment: 1st place
- Emotional Appeal: 4th place
- Social Responsibility: 2nd place
It is quite notable that even with recent uproars over treatment of contracted manufacturer employee, the reluctant to repatriate $100 billion and the philanthropic-stinginess of Apple, they still ranked 2nd in the Social Responsibility category.
As perfect as the Apple reputation was in early 2012, that reputation has taken a hit in recent months with additional riots at their global manufacturing plants in China, lawsuits against other tablet producers namely Samsung but also due to complaints about the quality of their products after the iPhone 5 was released. There is much reputation to be rebuilt as a result of these issues now facing Apple. Apple’s own consumers are the first to complain about the lawsuits as noted by Forbes writer Hayden Shaughnessy “the reaction against the (Apple) brand is coming from its own fan base. Following the verdict, a significant proportion of comments on the Apple Facebook page, were strong reactions against Apple’s use of the patent laws for what was seen as trivial innovation” (Shaughnessy, 2012). Questions around product quality and innovation have also come to the forefront in recent months after the iPhone 5 was released and the very public problems with SIRI and maps where announced. Additionally, consumers are beginning to ask if innovation has slowed or even stopped at Apple as noticed by Dan Lyons “is this really the best we can expect from an outfit that claims to be the most innovative company in the world? This is the sixth version of the iPhone, and the user interface still looks almost exactly like the original iPhone in 2007. The hardware on the iPhone has been the same for two years, since the iPhone 4 and 4S were virtually identical” (Lyons, 2012). Many believe the Apple customers to be the driving force behind all of Apple’s success as they demand innovative, quality products and will pay just about any price so it’s critical for Apple to reestablish the relationship with this critical stakeholder to ensure the remain at the top of the Harris RQ Poll in 2013.
As a shareholder and a customer I too have begun to question Apple’s reputation and wonder what the 2013 polls will report. Apple’s market cap has dropped significantly in recent months, down $30 billion which will not make any shareholder happy. As a customer, and technologist, I have questions the technological advancements with the iPad and iPhone product lines when newer tablets from Lenovo, Amazon and Google and phones for Samsung offer advanced features for significantly lower prices. However, I will stay a stakeholder with Apple because I feel that they have moral motivation and are really trying to find a better direction under new CEO Tim Cook. It is clear to me that “by developing and practicing virtues, we develop our capacities and natural dispositions to do the right thing in any situation” (de Colle & Warhane, 2007, p. 752) and Apple is a company that knows what the “right thing” they need to do and now just need to continue to “promote an organizational culture that encourages ethical conduct” ” (de Colle & Warhane, 2007, p. 752) which will reestablish their industry leading reputation.
The Harris Poll Reputation Quotient® (RQ®). (2012) Retrieved from http://www.harrisinteractive.com/Products/ReputationQuotient.aspx
Hulbert, M. (2012). We should worry about Apple’s reputation. MarketWatch. Retrieved from http://articles.marketwatch.com/2012-02-17/commentary/31067713_1_fortune-survey-meir-statman-fortune-list
Lyons, D. (2012). Viewpoint: Apple’s iPhone launches no longer excite. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19557497
Shaughnessy, H. (2012). That Apple reputation problem – did it just get even bigger? Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/haydnshaughnessy/2012/10/01/that-apple-reputation-problem-did-it-just-get-even-bigger/