Apple’s #Bendgate Response Holds Lesson PR Pros Should Keep in Back Pocket

Image: YouTube/Unbox Therapy
Image: YouTube/Unbox Therapy

Apple hit back against accusations Thursday that its iPhone 6 Plus bends easily in a user’s pocket. Complaints about bent phones have been circulating on social media in recent days, clouding the good PR that Apple hoped to achieve with its recent product release. The tech company didn’t do itself any favors, though, by countering rather petulantly that only nine customers have contacted the company about this problem. Just nine. After all, what’s that compared to the number of units sold to date?

Apple tried to minimize the extent of the problem in an attempt to encourage future sales. Instead the company put itself in a defensive posture, which is not a good place to be after the launch of one of its signature products. In its response to the controversy that is now being referred to on Twitter as #bendgate, Apple went on to provide details about some of the phone’s safety and product durability tests. One of these tests included a “sit test,” which simulates sitting on a hard surface in a tight pair of jeans with the phone in the back pocket.

This tidbit of information is unlikely to relieve concerns about the iPhone 6 Plus’ durability. Sure, sales may continue to go well, and the company has offered to replace faulty phones. But the image of the bending phone will be another black mark for a company not known for being warm and fuzzy when it comes to customer complaints.

It is hard to know whether this is indeed a small problem confined to the nine people Apple claims. What if, for the sake of argument, it was a wholesale rumor? How would your brand handle a claim that your product was performing poorly? It’s a delicate situation, to be sure. But one thing you should not do is attempt to mitigate the problem by claiming only X customers were affected. You should treat all your customers with equal high regard. And show some empathy. It won’t kill you.

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