A simple charitable gesture is not always so globally simple.

Earlier this week, Apple launched new red handsets of the preexisting iPhone 7 and 7 plus models. The release honours Apple’s long standing partnership with Red, a charity established by U2 frontman Bono to fight the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

Within most of Apple’s digital marketing, the charity and its proceeds aim is mentioned before purchase.

every other website
Layout of most Apple e-commerce websites. Source: Daily Mail 2017

 However on Apple’s Chinese website, there is no mention of Red whatsoever.

china product site
Apple’s Chinese e-commerce website. Source: Daily Mail 2017

The products online branding is also different on the Chinese website.
Globally, including Taiwan, the device is marketed as “(product)^RED.”
The Chinese website’s messaging however, roughly translates to- ‘is more red’.

compare the pair
A comparison of most Apple online branding (left) with Chinese translated online branding (right). Source: BBC 2017 

Apple has failed to comment on why Red or any explanation of the charity was absent from the Chinese e-commerce page. So why then is the digital marketing for one country different to the rest?

Some speculate it has purposely been done to win over Chinese consumers in a time of market struggle. Sales have declined in the Chinese market because the Government is trying to push the population onto domestic telco brands like Oppo. They were also to blame for the shut down of the iTunes and iBooks app stores for Chinese consumers. Red is also a popular patriotic colour often used by the Government, and for various cultural celebrations- symbolising good fortune and joy.

BN-OA617_0516ca_P_20160516073447 Apple chief executive Tim Cook on one of his many visits to China last year.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, 2017

Others claim it’s a demonstration of how Chinese politics impede digital marketing efforts. Despite HIV/AIDS cases increasing by 400% in China (source), the Government deny it being a wide spread issue.  It is also socially acceptable to discriminate against HIV/AIDS sufferers.

Whatever the reasoning, Apple demonstrates that digital marketing efforts can never be standardized across the world, despite the power of online reach. Messaging must often be altered to deliver objectives.

What’s your opinion on Apple’s decision? Contribute to the sound of this digital marketing topic below.


13 thoughts on “A simple charitable gesture is not always so globally simple.

  1. Eh… I think Apple makes enough money tbh. They release a new phone or device every year and it never includes anything that a consumer wants! And yet they make so many sales and I still use Apple! Ugh! I reckon the “red” idea is just to get onto everyone’s good side, so just a charitable act for their brand image. It is super interesting that the Chinese’s website isn’t the same as Australian website. I’ve never seen websites being altered so much depending on the demographic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. They definitely rake in profits that’s for sure. Apple’s simplicity continues to win people over. But I definitely think they are beginning to decline in popularity and profits. So whether this is a charitable act or one to win over a powerful market that can improve their sales, this definitely demonstrates somewhat of a struggle.


  3. I believe a lot of companies promote charities for the wrong reasons aka purely for profit, Apple is a great example of this. Targeting Chinese people through the use of the colour red and stating it is for HIV/AIDS awareness. Although I do hope it does assist in reducing HIV/Aids in China

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is sad isn’t it 😦
    I do believe that they will donate the money to Red, as Red have said that they are their biggest corporate source of donations. However yes targeting the Chinese by omitting the charity does seem quite a bit suspicious, but it does make sense for illuding them to think it is for their benefit!


  5. I think that because Apple is so well defined in the market place they feel as though they are entitled to do what they want. Although they might have good intentions, I see this as promoting charities for the wrong reasons.
    They should definitely lift their game!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True- they definitely do!
      I agree, they are promoting the charity so that people read up and learn that they are Red’s highest corporate global sponsor. So that further makes them look good as people will research the charity having never heard of it before.


  6. This is so interesting. I had no idea about this! I guess like any organisation, when marketing in different countries, you need to sometimes change your approach because the slogan or the marketing used could be completely misconstrued to another country due to a language barrier or something like that. I guess Apple has done the same thing. Maybe including that this product is linked with Red will have negative consequences for Apple and so they are excluding that information, but by the same token, its not a very honest approach. Not sure why they feel like they need to omit this information to the Chinese market!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s definitely an interesting topic I thought the same when people at work were talking about it on the weekend! China is definitely a country where you have to monitor what is being said, so yes that is one possibility!


  8. Apple has always interested me because its so powerful, people always buy their products no matter no matter how good or bad it is. Their followers are almost cult like ! But I guess its just good marketing. But this is interesting because it seems as though Apple are more focused on profit rather than doing something good like supporting a charity like RED. Looks like their marketing team are bending things around i to fit their beliefs and ideas of a country in order to create a strong position in the customers mind. But yeah, not sure if this is good marketing or just being unethical. Do they really care about RED?


  9. I know right! Apple is so powerful. I do believe they care about Red because after all they are their biggest corporate sponsor. However I think they are suffering in China. And I think they may have strategically not mentioned Red to exploit their cultural association toward the colour.


  10. Great post! It captured my eye when going through your site because i actually got a red iPhone 7 a few days ago!! I was one of the first to get one and only got it because i asked what colours they had. They gave me no information that it was for charity or anything until after i bought it. Though i went through Virgin to get the phone apples advertising of it hadn’t reach me yet either! I certainly didn’t know about the situation in China, but i am happy that in buying the red phone if i’m helping the cause! I would’ve bought it anyway because its such a great colour haha


  11. Oh wow! I’m flattered this post has reached an actual buyer! 😀
    That makes sense it that they didn’t explain it if you purchased through Virgin. Apple would probably push the charity awareness more than Virgin. However it could be a good sales technique for them to use!
    I have to admit it does look nice- I’m glad I informed you about the cause- you can now feel even more proud of your purchase 😉


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