There’s more than one way to market a strategic advantage.
I can sympathize with Robert Ferrini. He’s the senior director of worldwide advertising and planning at Apple who took issue with the Justice Department’s assertion that Apple has “advertised the ability of its devices to block law enforcement’s requests for access.”
“This claim is false,” Ferrini declared in a statement filed Tuesday in a U.S. District Court. And he can prove it:
“Since the introduction of iOS 8 in October 2014, Apple has placed approximately 1,793 advertisements worldwide—627 in the United States alone—of different types, including, print ads, television ads, online ads, cinema ads, radio ads and billboards… Of those advertisements, not a single one has ever advertised or promoted the ability of Apple’s software to block law enforcement requests for access to the contents of Apple devices.”
As I say, I can sympathize with Farrini. From the start of the San Bernardino standoff, the Justice Department has sought to trivialize Apple’s ($aapl) motives.
“Apple’s current refusal to comply with the Court’s Order,” the DOJ told magistrate judge Sherri Pym that first week, “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.”
That was a low blow—but not without a grain of truth.
“At Apple, your trust means everything to us,” Tim Cook wote in his introduction to Apple’s privacy white paper. “That’s why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption.”
He goes on to spell out how Apple’s commitment to privacy differs from its competitors’.
“A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.
“Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.”
Apple, because it makes most of its money selling hardware at premium prices, can exercise what Stratechery‘s Ben Thompson calls a “strategy credit”—”an uncomplicated decision that makes a company look good relative to other companies who face much more significant trade-offs.” Google can’t afford to walk away from its ad revenue. Apple can.
Nor does Apple have to spend money advertising the ability of its devices to block law enforcement’s requests for access. The U.S. government is doing a bang-up job at that.