March 16 - Loyal Apple fans are largely seen as environmentally-conscious, socially-aware citizens of the world, but long lines for the new iPad suggest deep emotional ties to a brand can be difficult to break, even when questionable labor practices are involved. Conway G. Gittens reports.
There were scenes like this across parts of the world...throngs of people standing on line to be the first to get their hands on the new Apple iPad. But not everyone at Apple's New York City flagship store was there to celebrate the launch. A small but verbal group of protesters, part of a Change.org petition boasting more than a quarter of a million signatures, showed up to send Apple a message. SOUNDBITE: CHARLENE CARRUTHERS, CHANGE.ORG PETITION SIGNER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "I am a loyal Apple customer. I own a iPhone. I own a MacBook and I've been a loyal customer for several years and it's important to me that the folks who make the products that I depend on everyday are treated ethically." But judging from demand, most Apple customers are willing to overlook questionable labor conditions at the Chinese factories operated by Apple partners. One reason: Apple users feel a strong sense of identity associated with the brand, says Priya Raghubir, she specializes in consumer psychology and is a professor at New York University Stern School of Business. SOUNDBITE: PRIYA RAGHUBIR, RESEARCH PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "It's what the brand represents, not necessarily only lifestyle. So lifestyle could be part of it but the overall personality, what it signals to that consumer about the consumer themselves, which is smart, innovative, cutting edge, and worth a few extra dollars." According to Raghubir, it is that deep psychological and emotional attachment, which she describes as "love" - that makes consumers willing to overlook a few corporate indiscretions: giving the brand, in this case - Apple, the benefit of the doubt. SOUNDBITE: PRIYA RAGHUBIR, RESEARCH PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The way you know in our relationships with the people we love a lot: partners, parents, children, when they mess up we say 'you're not a bad person, you did a bad thing' very similar to that, but you would only do that if you cared for the person." And experts say Apple is responding by showing it cares: by cooperating with the Fair Labor Association it's sending a positive signal to consumers who typically find it mentally easier to forgive, than to break up. Conway Gittens, Reuters