Expert view: A green Apple is good for us all

I don't love my PC. It performs its function without me resorting to a hammer more often than not, but I have never been tempted to caress it.

Mac users, on the other hand, will actually stroke their computers.

I love my iPod. It's possible that a different MP3 player would perform just as well, but I don't want one - I want my iPod.

To me, Apple products are innovative, creative and beautiful. Whether they are a million times better than non-Apple products, I couldn't say, but Apple owners across the globe think they are. That's a hell of a reputation.

But the reality is that computers are toxic nightmares from production through to disposal. The industry has been slow to accept environmental responsibility - and Apple has been slower than most. Apple is supposed to be the innovator, the leader in the field, the one everyone else follows, so it's a good target for driving wider change - except that everyone loves their Apple.

When Greenpeace pondered this problem, it showed a fantastic grasp of reputation management - not its own, but Apple's. The Green My Apple campaign embraced the high brand loyalty Apple experiences and used this as leverage. It didn't call for a boycott and it didn't attack Apple - it subverted Apple's own messaging to encourage all those who love Apple to expect the company to do better.

Green My Apple said: "I love my Apple. I just wish it came in green." It spoke directly about the company's leading and innovative status within the industry and the brand values that say "you can expect more from an Apple". It challenged those Apple values to deliver in a new way by leading the march for a cleaner industry. It spoke as an Apple lover, acknowledging the unrivalled brand and reputation the company has and using them to encourage change.

The campaign gained ground and support quickly, and it was reported that Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, was furious at having his own brand turned against him. But good sense and reputation management prevailed and, in May of this year, he announced a greener approach to production. It isn't everything Greenpeace asked for, but it's a good start. Jobs may not have liked it, but Apple has an even better reputation as a result.

It's worth taking the time to examine the campaign in detail. Understanding how Greenpeace effectively managed Apple's brand and reputation is a good exercise in considering how we can best manage our own.

- Mirella von Lindenfels is founder of Communications Inc

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