In the ongoing legal tussle between the world's most admired tech brand and the world's largest law enforcement agency, the Justice Department is quoted as saying that the tech giant's refusal to cooperate "appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy."
Of course, Apple maintains its concerns are for the safety of its iPhone users, which is why it developed its encryption capabilities in the first place. But naturally, as a technology company of personal products, its "public brand marketing strategy" is an obvious consideration … for obvious reasons.
According to Forbes, Apple is ranked as the No. 1 most valuable brand in the world, with an estimated value of $145 billion and with an advertising budget of approximately $1.2 billion annually.
This keeps Apple products in every one of its categories as market share leaders, 1.9 million employed, and 481 retail locations in 18 countries packed with eager shoppers seven days a week.
On the other hand, the federal government, of which the Department of Justice and F.B.I. are part, is just as concerned about its "business model and public brand marketing strategy" too. Just look at the numbers.
OpentheBooks.com estimates the U.S. government spends about $4.3 billion on self-promotion and advertising annually. In addition, the report observes "the U.S. government employs so many public affairs officers that it ranks as the second-largest public relations firm in the world in terms of the number of employees."
So both Apple and the government are concerned about their brands in terms of public perception, especially in this emotionally charged dispute between privacy protections and national security.
That's why we will see this play out in the media with advertising, public relations and social media strategies, along with such tactics as endorsements and testimonials (from both sides) in the coming days, weeks and months. But which side has the most leverage?
In his Feb. 18 broadcast, conservative talk radio host and avid Apple user Rush Limbaugh predicted Apple would probably lose this PR fight. And it's very likely he's correct. It is difficult to argue the right to keep private your personal, innocuous phone records, texts and yoga class appointments against the possibility of another San Bernardino, Paris or 9/11.
One side promotes the principle of personal privacy in the abstract. The other side warns of a reality with mass carnage.
In marketing, we call that reason versus emotion in purchase decisions. And emotion always seals the deal.
So it's up to Apple to enlist the help of other sympathetic brands, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft, to mount their own emotional appeal as a unified front. Or start looking for a back door.