Modern Companies utilize the concept of ethical branding as a means of portraying their businesses as moral and ethical. Ethical branding as a marketing tool strikes a balance between the economic aspect of a business and the ethical aspects. Ethical branding resonates with a large percentage of modern-day consumers who are conscious of matters business ethics and sustainability. Apple Inc. has managed to build a multi-billion-dollar company due to its strategic use of the concept of ethical branding. Ethical branding has enabled the company to appeal to a diverse group of customers throughout the world. Apple Inc. has built its ethical brand on innovation and the company’s values such as privacy, diversity, and sustainability. The ethical brand of Apple has enabled the company to have a trustworthy and loyal customer base that has enabled the e-retail venture of the company to flourish. Though highly successful Apple still needs to improve on its ethical brand. The company should focus on introducing a humanitarian aspect to the Apple brand and improve transparency within its operations.
Apple: Ethical Branding
Ethical branding is a relatively new concept in the field of business marketing. Ethical branding is an offshoot of branding which is an essential concept in marketing and product promotion. Ethical branding is more than relevant in the modern corporate environment characterized by an ethically conscious consumer base. Apple Inc. is a highly successful international company dealing in matters of electronic hardware and software. Apple Inc. has over the years built a strong business brand that resonates with the company’s ethical practices and values such as innovation and diversity. Apple Inc.’s e-retailing venture is based on a strong ethical branding base that appeals to its customers and differentiates the company from its competitors.
Ethical branding is a contemporary marketing concept that combines the economic and social concept of product promotion. As an economic concept ethical branding is concerned with increasing sales revenue and profitability of a given product. On the other hand, as a social concept ethical branding is concerned with promoting a product in a moral manner that takes into consideration humanitarian and environmental concerns of society (Cabrera & Williams, 2014, p. 349). Ethical branding is defined by Cabrera and Williams (2014, p. 349) as a branch of marketing that promotes products or services that are morally correct are not harmful to both people and the environment, and contribute to society and the public good responsibly and sustainably. Ethical branding is closely associated with other business concepts such as sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Cabrera and Williams (2014, p. 352) assert that a company cannot claim to be engaged in ethical branding when its brand is not associated with sustainable practices and reasonable CSR practices. Modern companies invest heavily in matters CSR and sustainability as it impacts their public reputation which is essential for sales and marketing.
The concept of ethical branding is relatively new in the field of corporate management and marketing. The term ethical branding emerged in Europe in the 1980s and was a response to the unprecedented rise in ethical consumerism during the same period in Europe and America (Perreault, 2018, p. 32). According to Perreault (2018, p. 34), ethical branding was then used to advocate for the establishment of fair-trading relationships and supply chains between the developed nations and the Third World Countries. Ethical branding was used to abate the usury and the greed that characterized the exploitative trade between the developed nations and the developing countries. The term was made popular by the numerous trade unions, NGOs, and corporate institutions that used it to advocate for the protection of human rights in the supply chains of multinational companies (Perreault, 2018, p. 39). The concept of ethical branding has since evolved and been incorporated into the rigors of everyday business marketing. In the contemporary business world, ethical branding is used to identify companies and business brands that market their products in a morally responsible and sustainable manner (Perreault, 2018, p. 154). Modern businesses have invested heavily in sustainability to ensure that their ethical brands are viewed positively in the market.
Contemporary consumers are highly conscious of matters ethical branding is pushing companies and business organizations towards sustainability and ethical branding. According to a recent Aflac survey, on the impact of ethical branding, commerce, and corporate philanthropy, more than 65 percent of Americans are highly likely to buy a product that belongs to an ethical brand (Perreault, 2018, p. 176). Besides, the Aflac survey report holds that modern-day consumers are more ethically conscious than any other group and are more swayed by brand authenticity than any other factor in their consumption decision-making process (Perreault, 2018, p. 176). Corporations and business organizations have since switched their marketing strategies to be in line with consumer demands. According to Sharma and Lijuan (2014, p. 35), the contemporary business environment is more concerned with building trust and good relations with their stakeholders and the general society through proper ethical practices. Modern business organizations market their products through ethical branding which focuses on providing factual information about their products to the consumer so as to maintain customer trust and loyalty. Modern businesses consider ethical brands as their most valuable assets. However, an ethical brand is difficult to build and to maintain as it is highly vulnerable (Sharma & Lijuan, 2014, p. 35). A single negative incident can lead to the destruction of an ethical brand that has taken millions and years to establish.
Overview of Apple Inc. And Its Activities
Apple Computers Inc. was established by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs in 1976. In the same year, the company released its first product Apple I which was a tremendous success. Apple I though priced at a whopping $660 recorded high sales than expected due to the company’s sales and marketing strategy (Cabrera & Williams, 2014 p. 349). The company’s CEO Steve Jobs focused on the high-level innovation, design, and values of the Apple Company to appeal to consumers and this strategy worked like magic (Ballesteros & Saldaña, 2016, p. 179). In 2007, Steve Jobs announced that the company would be renamed Apple Inc. (Ballesteros & Saldaña, 2016, p. 179). The change in name signified the company’s shift from a sole focus on producing computer software and hardware to the production of consumer electronics. Through a steady stream of innovation and invention, Apple Inc. produced high-end consumer electronics such as the iPad, iPhone, iPod, iMac, and Apple TV. The company also dabbled into selling digital content mostly music and e-books through its iTunes Store, iBookstore, Mac App Store and App Store. Apple Inc. also produces electronic software such as IOS and cloud-based data services through its platform iCloud. According to Ballesteros and Saldaña (2016, p. 180), the numerous diversified products of the company have led to Apple Inc. being valued at more than $150 billion making it the wealthiest company in the world. The wealth and value of Apple Inc. have largely been achieved through the company’s ethical marketing strategies that make Apple products appeal to most consumers.
Apple Inc. on December 5, 2017, officially unveiled its Apple Pay cash application cementing its place in the e-commerce and e-retailing business environment. Apple Inc. has a huge presence in the e-retailing business environment where it sells its products to customers through the internet. According to Ballesteros and Saldaña (2016, p. 180), though Apple Inc. has always operated a successful online retailing business for its products the development of the Apple Pay Cash app is proof of the company’s massive investment in e-retailing. A recent study that was done by Infotrac, more than 60% of American consumers prefer to do their shopping from the comfort of their homes through the internet (Ballesteros & Saldaña, 2016, p. 182). Therefore, online commerce or e-retailing is a huge aspect of modern-day business. Apple Inc. has invested massively in a hugely successful online retailing business that is built on a strong ethical brand. The ethical e-retailing brand developed by Apple Inc. helps the company to appeal to its online customers who are quite conscious of matters business ethics and sustainability. The Apple Pay Cash App enables customers of Apple Store; Apple Inc.’s e-retailing interface to complete their purchases using cashless business transactions. According to the Environmental Responsibility Report – Apple Inc., the Apple Pay Cash app is estimated to generate more than $50 billion for Apple’s e-retailing business venture by the year 2025. Apple Inc.’s massive e-retailing business is supported by the company’s well-established ethical brand and core values.
Apple’s Ethical Corporate Marketing Culture
Apple’s ethical branding strategy is built around the company’s practice of innovation and ethical values. The success of Apple Inc. is based around the successful marketing of its high-level innovation and ethical corporate management (Ballesteros & Saldaña, 2016, p. 182). The previous and most successful CEO of Apples, Steve Jobs, adopted a branding strategy that focused on forecasting all iPhone products, both hardware, and software, on the intricate innovation that set them apart from other competing products. Ballesteros and Saldaña (2016, p. 184) argue that under the branding model of Apple Inc., which was established by Steve Jobs, customers buy Apple products to enjoy the top-notch innovation and invention that comes with the products. To ensure that the Apple products satisfy the customers the company ensures that all its advertisements and product promotion activities are factual and aimed at portraying the products as they truly are. Factual representation of products is a key building stone of ethical marketing as it ensures that consumers make fully informed decisions based on correct data and information (Perreault, 2018, p. 181). This is quite important in strengthening the bond and trust that exists between a company and its customers. The trust that exists between Apple and its customers is what has enabled the company to have one of the most loyal customer bases in the world (Ballesteros & Saldaña, 2016, p. 190). The loyalty of Apple customers to the Apple brand is witnessed in the long queues and high sales that characterize the release of new products by the company. For example, in 2019 thousands of customers thronged Apple stores to purchase the newly unveiled iPhone 11 (Schulze, 2019). This represents the strong bond and loyalty that Apple customers have to the Apple brand.
The values of Apple constitute a large part of the company’s e-retail brand strategy and have contributed to the company’s online commerce success. Apple’s core values of privacy, accessibility, diversity, and sustainability are manifested in the e-retail business of Apple Store. Apple cherishes the important value of privacy which is an area of concern in the modern world of data privacy and security. According to Environmental Responsibility Report – Apple Inc., the security and privacy value of Apple which is highly regarded by its customers is a centerpiece of the company’s branding. Apple Inc. is keen on promoting inclusivity in the tech world. Through the Different Together Campaign, Apple has been able to improve the number of both its female employees and members from previously underrepresented ethnic groups such as African Americans and Latinos hired in its numerous companies. The Apple Inc. board is also one of the most inclusive corporate boards in America with more than two-thirds of its board made up of women. The value of inclusivity and diversity resonates well with most of the company’s customers who feel that the company’s products are inclusive. The ethical brand of Apple is also largely centered on the company’s sustainability practices. Apple Inc. releases annual reports that show the company’s progress with regard to corporate and environmental sustainability (Environmental Responsibility Report – Apple Inc., n.d.). Apple products are all made in a manner that is environmentally sustainable and that resonates with the company’s customers.
Ethical branding, though a relatively new concept, is the norm and future of product promotion in the contemporary corporate environment. Most modern businesses have e-retail ventures that allow for transactions via the internet. For a company to generate successful sales revenue through its e-retail ventures it has to create and maintain an ethical brand like that of Apple. Ethical branding is built on ethics, sustainability, and values of a business. An ethical brand acts as the face of a company and helps build trust and loyalty among customers. Ethical brands appeal more to customers’ beliefs, values, and ethos and this makes customers own the brand thus driving up sales. Ethical brands such as that built by Nike, Apple, and HSBC are quite vulnerable and quite costly to build and maintain.
The ethical branding strategy of Apple Inc. is one of the best in the corporate environment. However, the company can still improve its brand in several ways. Apple Inc. should introduce humanitarian aspects in its ethical brand to give the Apple brand a more human outlook. The contemporary ethical brand used by Apple is more inclined towards environmental and corporate sustainability. Sustainability is made up of three aspects; the corporate aspect, the environmental aspect, and the humanitarian or social aspect. Thus, Apple should focus on improving the social aspect of its brand so as to resonate more with its customers. Apple Inc. should increase its transparency levels more so on the company’s operations. Apple did not come clean on allegations that the company’s factories based in China were abusing its workers. The revelation of Apples’ business activities in China and the numerous human rights abuses involved threatened to destroy the company’s ethical brand. In the future, Apple Inc. should become more transparent more so in its relations with other business organizations. This will enable its customers to be more loyal to the company.
Ballesteros, C. and Saldaña, D.E., 2016. Ethical Marketing. In Global Perspectives on Contemporary Marketing Education (pp. 174-194). IGI Global. https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-4666-9784-3.ch012
Cabrera, S.A. and Williams, C.L., 2014. Consuming for the social good: marketing, consumer citizenship, and the possibilities of ethical consumption. Critical Sociology, 40(3), pp.349-367. https://doi.org/10.1177/0896920512458599
Environmental Responsibility Report – Apple Inc. https://www.apple.com/lae/environment/pdf/Apple_Environmental_Responsibility_Report_2018.pdf
Perreault, W.D., 2018. Essentials of marketing. New York: Mc Graw Hill.
Schulze, E. 2019, September 20. Apple’s iPhone 11 goes on sale with lines outside major stores around the world. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/20/apple-iphone-11-goes-on-sale-with-lines-outside-major-stores-around-the-world.html
Sharma, G. and Lijuan, W., 2014. Ethical perspectives on e-commerce: an empirical investigation. Internet Research, 24(4), pp. 414–435. https://doi.org/10.1108/intr-07-2013-0162