Is plastic to blame for lackluster iPhone 5c sales?

February 21, 2014

When Apple introduced the iPhone 5c, the ad campaign was built around an "unapologetically plastic" theme. Since then, Apple has been apologizing to shareholders for less than stellar sales results. On his Observatory blog, former Apple advertising executive Ken Segall suggests that cheap, plastic, and Apple just may not compute.

Steve Jobs was right, says Segall. "Apple is a company that doesn't do 'cheap.' It makes products for people who care about design, simplicity, quality and a great experience—and are willing to pay more for these things." He goes on to write that making plastic a big part of the iPhone 5c strategy may have backfired and be partly to blame for the unenthusiastic response to the product.

By talking up the polycarbonate housing of the iPhone 5c, "there was a strategic plan to head off potential negatives by boldly proclaiming it as a positive," writes Segall. "Unfortunately for Apple, creativity can be a double-edged sword. The 'unapologetically plastic' line in the product video was so interesting and memorable, it got played back over and over in articles about the lackluster demand for iPhone 5c. Not exactly what Apple intended."

Inevitably, the Apple army is saying that the iPhone 5c's days may be numbered, since Apple CEO Tim Cook conceded during an earnings report that demand did not live up to expectations.

Segall "unapologetically" doesn't draw conclusions on his blog as to what ultimately caused this rare Apple failure. Was it because of the use of plastic, because Apple made plastic a selling point, or the phone's relative affordability? he asks, leaving the conclusion for his followers to formulate. And they do, ardently.

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