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Aftermath of Mapgate: How Apple Came Out on Top

October 4th, 2012

If you’ve been on the internet (or even just out of the house) at all during the past week, you’re well aware that Apple has been in hot water over their choice to drop the long-trusted Google Maps in favor of their own navigation app for iOS6, the latest iteration of the company’s operating system. This is uncharted water for the electronics giant, which is more accustomed to dealing with unabashed adulation from Apple fanboys than it is with a PR crisis. There were even some who suggested this rare misstep could finally be the undoing of the Apple brand.
It’s hard to imagine one misstep undoing such a significant amount of brand loyalty built over decades. Although, this was the first major PR blunder in a while for the Cupertino-based company, so many of us were interested to see how they planned to address the backlash. In an unexpected move, Apple CEO Tim Cook quickly released a public apology on the company website. Cook’s finely crafted apology mitigated the damage and, in many peoples’ opinion, could even bolster the CEO’s and the company’s credibility in the long-run. The apology was refreshingly honest. He acknowledged the gaffe upfront and apologized without qualification or excuses. For the biggest company in the world to admit failure, suggest solutions (from competitors, no less) and explain how they plan to handle the situation was widely viewed as stunning. Most companies that big don’t feel they need to admit failure, let alone apologize for it. But, as in line with our crisis communications strategy, Apple validated the concerns of their customers, showed actions to resolve the issues and controlled the narrative.
Okay, so maybe Apple won’t come out of Mapgate in as good of a position as they would have had they taken the time to fully develop their map app, but maybe the second best outcome happened for Apple through the way they handled the PR firestorm. Cook’s public apology not only stopped backlash but also flipped the script and turned a negative story into positive vibes. Apple went from being widely bashed by consumers and the media alike to being praised by analysts and experts for its handling of the situation. It was a PR response many brands could learn from.
In a crisis, it’s all about perception. Perception is reality. In this crisis, Apple managed to use an apology to assure longtime fans and investors that the company will right this wrong and do everything they can to not let it happen again. The perception, for many, is that Apple came out on top. So in reality, Apple won Mapgate in the long-run.

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