Apple's Polish Dulled, But Not For Long

green appleThe coverage and speculation about Steve Jobs' health has taken some of the tarnish off of Apple's brand, but it's unlikely the damage is permanent.

According to YouGovPolimetrix's BrandIndex, Apple's "buzz" score-- a measurement of consumer perceptions of a brand both positive and negative--has dropped from the mid-30s on Jan. 1 to the mid-20s as of Jan. 24.

"When you look at the last month, they're at a new low for the past year," Ted Marzilli, senior vice president and general manager at the research company, tells Marketing Daily. "I don't think Apple is collapsing as a company, however. And their scores are still positive."

Apple's computer equipment brand is faring worse than its consumer electronics products. While the buzz score for consumer electronics fell from 35 to 27.3 during the first three weeks of January, the computer brand dropped from 33.6 to 25.9. (YouGovPolimetrix's buzz score is determined through subtracting negative feedback from the positive feedback based on daily surveys of 5,000 people.)



Although Apple's brand buzz was trending downward through January, the company's score--which is generally among the top 10% of companies in YouGovPolimetrix's survey--did not drop as drastically as the scores of oil companies and commercial banks in the second half of 2008, Marzilli says. Even with scores in the mid 20s, Apple is still among the top quarter of companies.

On Jan. 14, Jobs announced that he was taking a medical leave of absence from the company until the end of June to treat an illness he had originally characterized as a "hormone imbalance." A week later, Apple released its first-quarter results for fiscal 2009, posting more than $10 billion in revenue for the period. Among consumers, the headlines surrounding Jobs' health resonated more deeply than the financial news.

"Steve Jobs' illness was a headline, and it did carry through on the Internet," Marzilli says. "Consumers don't typically respond to financial reports."

As news and speculation surrounding Jobs' health diminishes, it is likely that Apple's scores will recover. At least until the issue resurfaces. "The drop has stabilized," Marzilli says. "I would expect over the next week or two for the scores to recover. But this will come back up."

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