Apple courts trouble
Updated: 2012-01-16 08:06
The imminent launch of Apple's upgraded iPhone 4 lured thousands of buyers to its two outlets in Beijing on the cold winter night of Jan 12. But the size of the crowds brought an abrupt suspension of sales of the iPhone 4s on the morning of Jan 13 and one store in Beijing didn't open at all, because the swelling crowd of eager Apple devotees created safety concerns.
This is not the first time Apple's marketing strategy has caused such turmoil among the buying public. Similar headlines occurred in January last year when the first incarnation of the iPhone 4 was launched and in May when the second version of the iPad was launched.
Apple's clever marketing has made the company's products must-have lifestyle accessories for many, and the company has now replaced Lenovo as the most profitable IT company in China.
But as helpful as it is to its bottom line, Apple's strategy for product launches inevitably results in mass hysteria and disturbances and if it continues with this marketing strategy it is only a matter of time before one of its product launches ends in tragedy.
Intentionally fuelling demand by manipulating a product release to the extent that it creates a state of panic among consumers, who fear they may not get their hands on their objects of desire, is not only immoral but also illegal.
Apple should heed the lessons from the experience of Unilever. The giant consumer goods company was fined 2 million yuan ($31.74 million) in May 2011 by the Chinese price authority for repeatedly spreading rumors of price rises that artificially boosted demand for its products.
Apple has the ability to make it easier for consumers to order new products online or by telephone. Apple cannot afford to ignore the Chinese market, so it has no excuse for not changing its strategy so as to avoid such incidents in the future.
(China Daily 01/16/2012 page8)