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Apple’s tax affairs have not shaken its loyal customer base

By Sarah Murphy | Director

September 7, 2016 | 4 min read

Last week Apple was ordered by the EU to pay around €13bn (£11bn) in back taxes in Ireland. This news led to a wave of negative press for the tech giant. But has this story damaged the company’s public perception?

The BrandIndex buzz score measures whether people have heard anything positive or negative about a brand in the previous two weeks. As may be expected, the general public have seen and heard a lot of negative coverage about Apple in the past fortnight, with its score going from positive territory (5.7) to negative (-2.9).

Yet despite falling by 8.6 points in 10 days, this is not even the brand’s lowest buzz score in the past two years. Back in October 2014, when its tax affairs were previously in the news, it saw scores of -14.4, but it quickly recovered.

apple

However, with the new iPhone set to launch in the coming days, arguably of more concern to the brand will be the reaction of its current customers to the tax story. YouGov data shows that Apple has traditionally had the most loyal consumers. Fully 85 per cent of iPhone customers thinking about upgrading plan to get an Apple device. Among major competitor brands, an average of 63 per cent plan to stick with their device manufacturer next time around.

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Yet, the brand’s buzz score among current customers has fallen by a greater amount than among the public as a whole, declining by 14.2 points. That Apple customers are picking up on news about the brand more than the public at large is not a surprise – this is the case with most brands. It should be noted, though, that despite the fall its buzz scores among people who own Apple products are still positive.

apple buzz

There have also been declines in current customers’ impression and satisfaction scores, and over the past three months neither score has been lower. However, it must be emphasised that they have declined from an impressively high starting point (+70 and above) and are now merely very high (around +60). So, while those with Apple products have a slightly less positive impression of the brand and are marginally less satisfied customers, they still have an overwhelmingly positive view on both fronts.

apple customer impressions

The most significant figures in the BrandIndex data are current customers’ purchase intent and consideration scores. Consideration measures which brands people would think about buying while purchase intent assesses which brands consumers are most likely to buy next time they make a purchase in the sector. Naturally, consideration scores are usually higher than purchase intent scores.

On both fronts, the tax story has had no discernible impact among Apple customers. The average purchase consideration score for the past three months is 65.8 and in the past week it has bounced around between 67.2 and 65.0. Similarly the average for purchase intent is 38.9 and in the past seven days it has been between 37.4 and 40.6.

apple customers still plan on buying apple products

So while the tax story was big news, it has made very little impact upon those people most likely to buy Apple products – its current customers – on the measures that assess whether it is likely to suffer a sales hit. Should its new products not sell as well as previous iterations, it will not be because of its wrangles with the European Union.

Sarah Murphy is director of YouGov BrandIndex UK

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