Would You Buy an iPhone Because Apple “Creates” American Jobs?

Hernan Bruno |

A couple of days ago Apple released some numbers of how many jobs it creates in the United States. And that number is close to half a million. Apart from the 47,000 jobs “at Apple”, there are about 250 thousand engineering, sales, logistics and service jobs that created by the mere existence of Apple. Plus Apple claims that it creates 200 thousand jobs that can be ascribed to the “iOS app economy”. Check here for the data and Apple’s view.

Let me tell you what this post is not about.

First, it is not about whether the mere number of jobs is a good indicator of the impact of a given company on the economic activity of a region. Surely, it cannot be the only indicator. Shouldn’t we be concerned with how much value to the economy these jobs actually create? Apple is not one of the most valuable companies in the world because of the large number of van drivers and Apple store technicians it employs.  Read here for a bit more on this. Also, most app developers are not working on the apps full time (homework: compute the average income per app from Apple’s numbers and see for yourself).

It is also not about estimating the actual impact of Apple on total job creation. As this New York Times article explains, this number cannot be computed to any decent degree of precision. The reason is simple, many jobs that can be linked to Apple, would still exist if Apple were not around. This line of reasoning would also bring us to the number of jobs being “destroyed” by the technological change that Apple is part of. Since this is not what this post is about, I will stop here.

This post is about the Apple brand. Does this type of communication help the brand? Notice that I am not saying whether Americans would like to have more Apple jobs. More jobs sound always like a good idea. And Apple jobs cannot be that bad. The important questions that we need to ask ourselves are:

  1. Are American customers more likely to buy an Apple product if they know that the company employs more people? Think about it, would they value the product more by knowing how many people it took to create it? Or perhaps fewer people signal efficiency and frugality, also favorable corporate traits. To me, this looks like a sad case of the nationalistic sentimentality that we often associate to car companies (Chrysler’s Superbowl commercial this year is a particularly pathetic example of this). But patriotic sentiment is not part of the Apple brand. Apple is universal, eternal. They have been telling us through beautiful minimalist design, commercials and keynote speeches, that the brand belongs to anyone who is willing to embrace it and it is here to build the future. Apple is not Harley Davidson, and is not Levi’s.
  2. Are International customers more likely to buy an Apple product if they see these numbers published by Apple? I live far from the United States. But it did not take long for me to find out about this piece of marketing communication. How many customers in China, India, Latin America, and Africa will see this communication and link the brand to the US and American-ness. There is nothing wrong with that association (Harley Davidson is a great brand!), but I don’t think it is the association Apple wants in these markets. Brands are very delicate concepts, and even minor associations can set them off-balance.

Apple is a brand about “the intersection of technology and liberal arts”. It is innovative, user-friendly, reliable and fun. It is a brand for those who “think different”. Leave the patriotism to the car companies.

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