“Bendgate” Scandal: How Apple’s Misfortune Lead to PR Gold
Posted by Jessica Blair
For many tech-savvy people, the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus was as magical as Christmas morning. For myself, I was extremely eager to get the new iPhone so I would now have the same charger as everyone else (#iPhone4struggles). At 8 AM on September 19th, 2014, Apple stores around the US opened to long lines of customers, waiting eagerly to be the first to get their hands on the new iPhones. And to the people who waited in-line at Palo Alto store, they were lucky enough to meet the big man himself, Apple CEO, Tim Cook.
At the announcement event on September 9th, Cook ranted and raved about the new iPhones with their larger frames and thinner display, saying that “they are without a doubt the best iPhones we’ve ever seen.” With a statement as heavy as this, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has a lot of pressure to live up to and for a while, it did. But when Unbox Therapy posted the “iPhone 6 Plus Bend Test” video four days after the phone’s release, a media frenzy began that no one could have anticipated.
In the video, Lewis Hilsenteger from Unbox Therapy decided to test the phone’s strength after noticing a slight bend in his iPhone 6 Plus. He applied what seemed to be minimal pressure to the phone and you immediately notice that the phone did bend. Within hours, the video gained traction on social media and lead to the appropriate hashtag #Bendgate trending. People all around the globe began flocking to Apple stores, trying to recreate the bending and subsequently ended up damaging these phones beyond repair. In those cases, with the people who purposely damaged these phones, it was irresponsible and took away some of the credibility for the hashtag.
However, what came out of this unfortunate situation and the trending hashtag for other companies is absolute PR gold. Kit-Kat and other phone electronic companies, such as Samsung and LG took complete advantage of Apple’s weakness. LG and Samsung both established that their phones are purposely designed to flex or curve; while Kit-Kat tells the consumer that their candy doesn’t bend, it breaks. This clever play on words and concept behind their product is what every PR professional secretly hopes for: to highlight their product through another company’s misfortune.
In terms of Apple’s PR, it has always been based on the product being the best of their kind – best design, best operating systems, etc. But with that in jeopardy, regarding the iPhone 6 Plus design and the recent bug issues with the iOS 8, Apple might have to find a solution to their PR strategy. Though sales in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have not slowed down, it is only a matter of time before this bubble bursts.
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