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Experts Predict iPhone 4 Recall, Needed To Save Apple's "Brand Image"?

July 14, 2010

Following Consumer Reports' recent announcement stating the site "can't recommend" the iPhone 4 due to the phone's infamous antenna issues, several crisis communication experts told Cult of Mac that an iPhone 4 product recall is "inevitable." So far the issue has received outright denial in an email from the desk of Steve Jobs. We also received admission from Apple in a statement, and finally independent, third-party confirmation given by Consumer Reports. Interestingly, Apple then went on to remove all mentions of this news on its support forums in a ridiculous attempt to suppress what most of us already knew. However, as of yet they haven't taken firm, effective action - and have simply fanned the flames of the PR fire by further publicizing the news of the iPhone 4's confirmed hardware issue. And, according to Dr. Larry Barton, a crisis communication expert, the company has made a big mistake:
"Apple needs to put this fire out now. There has to be a military-like response to this issue. And we have not seen this kind of urgency. They are in danger of betraying customers’ trust and hurting the brand, which is infinitely more valuable than any one product."
Dr. Barton calls for a PR statement response from Apple, or for the company to announce a permanent hardware fix. If it doesn't do that soon, Apple risks further tainting its already-tarnished name. Another expert in crisis communication who spoke with Cult of Mac, Professor Matthew Seeger, has plainly stated that Apple will recall the iPhone, agreeing that the company's "brand image" is of paramount importance:
"Apple will be forced to do a recall of this product. It’s critically important. The brand image is the most important thing Apple has. This is potentially devastating."
However, whether a product recall is a realistic possibility still remains to be seen. Can you imagine Apple announcing the recall? Can you visualize all those people who lined up to buy an iPhone 4 rushing back to an Apple Store to return it? A product recall might do more to cripple Apple's reputation than doing nothing at all would. It does seem as though the company is going for the keep-it-quiet plan, with its general lack of statements and the silencing of Apple's support forums. Maybe the company is just going to try and sweep this whole fiasco under the rug. I might be wrong, but I just can't imagine Apple demanding an iPhone 4 product recall. Can you? Let us know your opinions in the comments box below!

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