Apple vs Gizmodo: When Good Brands do Bad Things

Apple vs Gizmodo: When Good Brands do Bad Things
Heather Rubesch - Thu Apr 29, 2010 @ 04:28AM
Comments: 11

GizmodoI had been following the Apple vs Gizmodo flap with only half hearted attention this past week.  I read the tale of Apple engineer who mistakenly left his prototype of the next generation 4G phone in a bar near Apple’s headquarters and it wound up sold to Gizmodo, tech product review blog, for 5K.  I even entertained the conspiracy theorist notion that the whole thing had been an Apple stunt to garner some free publicity and throw competitors off with a fake futuristic device.

Up to this week Apple’s response had been pretty much “give us back our phone”.  There was some reporting that they would make Gizmodo persona non grata for future journalistic sneak peeks at their devices but most of that was heresy and speculation. Gizmodo complied and returned the phone.  Gizmodo always maintained that although they purchased the phone they believed it was a “lost” and not “stolen” incident that resulted in their obtaining ownership.

Well the defecation hit the oscillator a few days ago in this story when San Mateo County Sheriff’s deputies raided Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen’s home while he was at dinner seizing 4 computers and 2 servers.  This raid was 6 days after Chen and Gizmodo had already turned over the phone.  Because Chen is a journalist warrants such as this are issued in only extreme circumstances.  Typically subpoenas are used first on journalists.  For additional detail regarding that as I am no legal scholar I will refer you here.

So now the situation has gotten interesting from a brand perception perspective.  In fact Jon Stewart and The Daily Show devoted the first nine minutes of their show last night to giving Apple a verbal tongue lashing.  It is a pretty hilarious and though provoking nine minutes so suggest you check it out here.

Apple has long billed themselves as the anti-Big Brother company.  First in the 1980’s with their famous “1984” ad to launch Macintosh and then most recently with the Mac vs PC ads.  They want to be the company that isn’t IBM or Microsoft.  They want to be the opposite of The Man.  As Stewart points out “Jobs has cops kicking in doors in Palo Alto while Gates is out ridding the world of mosquitoes.”  Who is acting like Big Brother now?

As both a blogger and an Apple customer I have to admit I am a bit torn.  I am eagerly anticipating the shipment of my iPad 3G now that it is finally “late, late, late April” but I am also disappointed in a brand I held in such high regard.  It appears to me that Apple is biting the hand that feeds it.  Bloggers like Gizmodo are part of what fuel the anticipating and excitement about Apple’s product launches.  I have been on more than a few times in the last week checking out the buzz about both the iPhone 4G and the impending shipment of my iPad 3G.  They are part of what makes being an Apple customer a community.

What should Apple do to repair this “thug” persona they have picked up?  I would suggest:

  • a public apology to Jason Chen and the prompt return of his stuff
  • no retribution against Gizmodo concerning future access to your advance products
  • let Jon Stewart send a Daily Show correspondent over to your headquarters for a tour and explain why secrecy and tight product control is so important to Apple’s mission to your ability to innovate

I don’t think any of us tech geeks think we want Apple to go full frontal when it comes to details about their upcoming products.  Let’s face it that would be like knowing what was in the packages under the Christmas tree before the big morning.  We like the element of surprise and we want Apple to maintain that but not at the expense of freedom of the press.

Interested to hear others thoughts!

About the Author: Heather has spent the past 15 years advocating for the customer perspective in her approach to software development and product marketing. Her penchant for collaboration is what drew her to the Savvy B2B team. Read more of Heather's posts here or contact her directly at

Comments: 11


1. Eric Goldman  |  my website   |   Thu Apr 29, 2010 @ 04:39PM

Couldn't have said it better myself. Absolutely agree with all points, especially the what Apple should do next part. I'm a fan of Apple myself, but I wouldn't bet money on them taking your advice…

2. Heather Rubesch  |  my website   |   Fri Apr 30, 2010 @ 03:15AM

Eric - Thanks for the comment. I wouldn't bet money on Apple taking my advice either. Like Stewart I guess I just felt like I needed to let them know I held them to a higher standard. I did get the ship notice for my iPad 3G. Should be here before 3pm today so I guessing that will erase any lingering anger as I play with my new toy all weekend!

3. John White  |  my website   |   Fri Apr 30, 2010 @ 10:30AM

>>I have to admit I am a bit torn
You think //you're// torn? I bought Apple at $14 and still have it. Try to keep your conscience intact when the scent of money fills the room...

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