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Apple Inc And 3M Term Paper

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Updated: Jul 21st, 2021

Abstract

This paper is a documentation of analysis of two multinationals in relation to their communication strategy particularly concerning their shareholders. The two companies analyzed in this paper are Apple Inc and 3M. These companies have contrasting organizational structures and deal with different products.

On the other hand, both companies operate in many countries and have a significant number of stakeholders in their operations. The circumstances affecting the environment in which communication is done within each company is a major consideration in this paper.

An analysis of the situations has also been done. Future courses of action have also been suggested for these companies in order for them to maintain profitable operations.

Introduction and Background

Apple Inc and 3M are two American companies that have several organizational similarities and significant differences. Both companies are multinationals with interests around the world. They are both profit making companies that own stores in several countries. However, their communication strategies are different. The manner in which each company communicates with its shareholders is different and it has different effect on the market and operation of the company.

3M is an American company established in the early twentieth century as a mining company. It later metamorphosed taking advantage of any business opportunity that would materialize, and it developed into a large multinational. Due to the many years of changing business environment, 3M sells many goods some of which it manufactures. The company is popular for adhesives, paints, tapes, construction materials, electronics, and a myriad of other products used in various industries (Garud et al., 2011).

For this reason, 3M does not identify with any single product in the market. Its sales rely intensively on product promotion and creative branding. The materials it manufactures rely on the ability of the company to maintain standard specifications for the specific products. Although intellectual property is inherent in all manufacturing companies, it is not of critical importance in 3M’s marketing strategy (Garud et al., 2011).

This makes the company’s management less careful with the security of the information regarding their products. Apart from 3M’s subsidiaries, which manufacture electronics, other sections of the organization are less sensitive to leaking of information to the public (Lauring, 2011).

Since 3M does not have to secure all information regarding its products tightly, it engages in open communication with its stakeholders. Instead of closed door meetings that might be witnessed in some companies, 3M addresses its stakeholders through open forums and mass media.

The quality of their products and even product specifications are details that can be obtained from the mass media in the localities where 3M stores operate (Garud et al., 2011). 3M occasionally convenes meetings to brief its stakeholders of developments in the company, and to announce changes to strategies that the company might employ in the future. These meetings are open to media scrutiny and no inquiry is made over details that are obviously confidential.

Occasionally, 3M convenes forums which last for limited period in order to assess the market situation and the attitude of the customers at that particular moment. During this time, 3M collects opinions of all stakeholders for use in strategic planning. The company is also able to assess customer preferences and the opinions of the employees. The market is also assessed for its capability to accommodate another new product. This helps the company plan for manufacture of new products (Garud et al., 2011).

On the other hand, Apple Inc is an exclusive electronics manufacturer. Since apple was founded, it has developed its own technology without borrowing much support from other electronics manufacturers. All Apple’s products are exclusive in respect to design and technology.

These products are noted for their superior quality and conformity to customer preference (Cusumano, 2008). The company began with manufacture of an archaic personal computer. It then progressed to the manufacture of mobile devices. Motorola and other companies had demonstrated the capability to manufacture portable cell phones (Lauring, 2011). However apple manufactured mobile phones based on its own technology.

This gave it a considerable reputation in the electronics industry. The company also engaged in manufacture of entertainment devices on a major scale before mobile phones became technologically advanced to handle entertainment functions. Apple still manufactures entertainment devices. This technological advancement has cost the company a lot of investment in research and human resource development (Cusumano, 2008).

On the other hand, the company has accumulated intellectual property more than any other electronics manufacturer. This intellectual property is not accessible to other parties in the manufacturing industry. Apple has always zealously protected this intellectual property. Perhaps this is the source of Apple’s competitive advantage. The company sells expensive products, but of a quality much higher than that of devices made by other companies (Cusumano, 2008).

Apple does not openly communicate with its stakeholders openly for fear of losing its intellectual property to its rivals. Even when the company communicates with its stakeholders, there are usually complains of false statements within the released information. Some individuals and companies have repeatedly claimed that the company releases contradictory information to the public (Cusumano, 2008).

This paper examines the various ways in which Apple Inc communicates with its stakeholders. The channel of communication that the company employs is evaluated in this paper. The strategy used by 3M is also analyzed for the purpose of comparison. The use of social media, which is increasingly becoming a modern toll for business communication, is also analyzed. An analysis, recommendations and conclusion of the analysis are also among the objectives of this paper.

Discussion and Implications

Apple Inc has always exhibited conservative tendencies in all its operations. The company has exclusively manufactured computers and personal digital assistants since its inception. Although the company is publicly traded, it has maintained its profile even in all its trade marks.

A few mergers or acquisitions have been witnessed at Apple Inc. Apple Inc also manufactures operating systems for all its devices (Cusumano, 2008). All software used on apple devices is exclusive to their products and is not sold to other companies. Other manufacturers are also not allowed to use apple software on their devices. This shows how the company considers secrecy as an important aspect of its strategy.

On the other hand, 3M Corporation is also a public corporation with stores around the world. Although the company is not as big as apple Inc, the openness of the company’s operations can be contrasted with the reserved nature of Apple’s operations. The communication strategy used by 3M is a fragmented one where regional operations have their own special way of communicating to their stakeholders (Lauring, 2011).

Recently apple Inc became the biggest company in the world in terms of the value of its stock holdings. Many people around the world own share of the company. It also employs many people around the world.

China is one of the countries that host some of the biggest manufacturing factories Apple Inc has ever built. Although this company is immensely popular, it has a tendency of keeping all its stakeholders in the dark concerning its future path. Even senior officials within the company are cautioned not to talk about the situations in the management structure and the production lines.

When the company’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs, disappeared from the public scene for several months, his health condition was kept secret for reasons the company’s management never revealed. His immediate subordinates refused to talk about the health condition of the chief executive officer for fear of the disciplinary action that the CEO and board might take. Apple Inc is notorious of sending employees on compulsory leaves for violations of information security code.

Apple Inc keeps its information official and normally sets dates for all major announcements. Even company employees do not share information regarding their respective assignments. When announcement about a new product are made, they come as news even to most of the company’s employees.

To ensure that this communication strategy is implemented without flaws, the company has employed security technology in all its operations. In its premises, all doors, telephone lines and production lines are monitored using cameras and can only be accessed through the use of security codes.

Apple has always avoided personal relationships between its personnel and other stakeholders. This has led to the employment of technology in relating with customers. Apple Inc communicates with its customers through the internet. Only those people with Apple devices can use Apple’s internet applications to receive news and updates concerning the company’s operations.

This strategy is aimed at preventing other people from monitoring trends in the company. For this purpose, apple introduced iCloud internet computing software for the customers to use. Apple advertises most of its products throughout this application. Only people with apple devices can use the software. This has led to increased secrecy. However, Apple’s ability to keep its stakeholders in suspense has generated considerable popularity for the company.

Many people and even analysts have complained of the negative aspects of apple’s strategy. There are allegations that the company uses its guarded relationship with the customers to manipulate the market. In addition, critics are not able to access the information and analyze it.

In that essence, it is not possible for Apple’s products to be subjected to considerable criticism. Apple combined this strategy with its ability to manufacture high end high quality products to maintain customer loyalty (Lauring, 2011). It is this strategy that has helped the company to gain high value in the stock market. Apple Inc has the highest value in the stock market than any other company in the world.

In one of apple’s documents concerning its property, the company concentrates on cautioning its stakeholders against misappropriating any information in their possession. Information is considered the most valuable asset for Apple Inc. For this reason, the company has ensured that information regarding all aspects of the company is scarce. The only accessible information regarding apple on other sites in the internet are criticism articles. This serves to make the company’s products a kind of a novelty such that people want to possess them.

3M Corporation has a different mode of communication for its shareholders. The company operates in many countries in the world and has several hundred stores that are operated in different environments. This makes it difficult to use a uniform strategy of communication for all customers and other stakeholders around the world.

At the regional level, the company employs a strategy that is tailored for the specific stakeholders in the regional operations. In that essence, the communication strategy of the company is different in every country. This communication strategy is particularly useful for the company since it has the consideration of the culture and social values of the host community in the area in which it operates (Garud et al., 2011).

The strategy used by3M is focused on the wellbeing of the community in which it operates. Although the company’s ultimate aim is to generate profit, the stakeholder engagement program consists of elements of corporate social responsibility. 3M has no predetermined course of dealing with stakeholder communication.

The method through which the company engages the stakeholder is developed at the regional level in the geographical area where it is applied. The first step towards successful communication with a stakeholder in 3M is scouting and evaluating various parties to determine their importance and relevance as stakeholders of the company (Garud et al., 2011).

When the stakeholders are determined, the existing communication strategies are assessed for the efficiency. If a need arises for the regional management to change their communication strategy, the communication planning team develops a framework with which communication is done in the best manner possible. There is also a provision to assess the performance of the new strategies in order to ascertain that an improvement of communication between the company and the stakeholders is registered.

3M’s communication strategy is more open and consists of assemblies of the identified stakeholders. The local press is also used to engage the local community, which is considered essential for 3M’s business. Periodicals are also used to engage the stakeholders in the company affairs.

Occasionally, the regional management convenes meeting of stakeholders where issues concerning development of the community are discussed (Garud et al., 2011). Evidently, 3M engages the stakeholder directly. A personal relationship can be developed between the employee and the other stakeholders of the company.

Although 3M engages it stake holders at the regional level, there is a provision for the top management and stakeholders with a significant stake to review the plans that are established by some of the regional managements. The reason for this is that the overall management is eventually responsible for the actions that their regional representatives take on their behalf.

Occasionally, the regional management has to seek approval of the senior managers and the more significant stakeholders who are the shareholders. This ensures that none of the communication strategies implemented contradicts the firm’s global policies. This aspect of stakeholder engagement is known as corporate stakeholder engagement.

It is through this forum that the goals of the communication strategy are evaluated for their usefulness and suitability in the due process of attaining ultimate organizational goals. The company also considers the viability of the suggested strategies in terms of available resources and the local regulations concerning the particular strategies.

The difference between the way 3M and Apple Inc communicates with their stakeholders is the degree of openness and transparency that the companies have in their communication channels and policies. Apple Inc is more reserved and prefers an indirect engagement with stakeholders (Wright, 2012). Mass media is not used for official purposes, and only small bit of information can be released to the media without prior planning by the executive (Wright, 2012).

When the company engages the stakeholders, specific people are chosen for the engagement. The public is only included in the communication forum when the company is launching a new product. This causes anxiety in the public. The occasional meetings in which Apple’s officials engage the public are the reason for the overexcitement that engulfs the launch of any new product.

In contrast, management at 3M is more open and concentrated on the issue concerning the stakeholder. The company focuses on improving its products in the perspective of the stakeholders. Unlike apple, the focus of the stakeholder engagement is less focused on the profit and market capitalization.

Another difference in the manner in which Apple Inc and 3M engages their shareholders is that 3M involves all stakeholders in the formulation of the communication strategy. An agreement has to be struck between the management customers and the employees regarding how a good communication strategy is to be implemented.

Perhaps the only stakeholders that are involved in the formulation of communication strategies in apple inc are members of the management team. Not all members of the management team are involved since the changes that occur come as surprise to the junior managers. This is done to protect the information from reaching the public before the official announcements.

Use of Social Media

Social media is becoming an increasingly popular tool for stakeholder engagement. Both apple and 3M engage their stakeholders through social networks. There are different structures for social networks that utilize the internet as the basic channel for communication. Open networks such as the Facebook and tweeter are available for the public. Other networks involve websites created by the companies for the specific purpose of engaging its stakeholders. Other forms of social engagements are used by apple in their stakeholder engagements.

3M has a global policy of listening to its stakeholders without seeking the identity of the particular person. The best strategy for the company according to the management is to identify the issue that stakeholders consider important for addressing.

Thus, stakeholders are allowed to express their opinions through any available means including the use of email messages. Blogs are useful for the stakeholders to express their views through posts. Since people have many relationships over social networks. It is possible to synchronize the posts in the networks for better assessment by the company.

The company chooses to use a variety of social networks in order to compensate for the inadequacies of a single network. The social networks are sources of information about the market trends and the performance of their products. It is then possible for the company to evaluate the responses and develop a strategic plan for future operations.

Apple’s approach to social networking is reserved. The company refuses to engage in serious social networking strategy because of its desire to keep some information secret. Apple engages its customers alone in social networking (Hopkins & Turner, 2012). However, its performance with the latest networking software has not been up to standard.

Even among apple’s customers, only the few with specific devices can access the networking sites. The refusal of the company to allow the public in to their networking site makes it impossible for it to develop into a fully functional social network. In addition, some of Apple’s stakeholders do not use the mobile devices or the internet that apple considers major channels of communication (Wright, 2012).

Thus, some stakeholders are left out in the communication forums organized by Apple Inc (Hopkins & Turner, 2012). Although Apple engages in some social activities with the customer, the primary aim of these engagements is to assess the performance of their devices and software in the market. In addition, these sporadic engagements help to conduct surveys on customer attitudes. Using this information, the company sets release dates for new products when anxiety is highest among its customers.

The approaches by Apple Inc and 3M to social networking are quite different. Apples approach is closed and is much less social. 3M’s approach is open and the public is free to join, whether they are customers of the company or not. This approach results to a true social network where there is focus on the customers and the public (Piekkari & Nell, 2010). The different approaches have different effects on the customers of the respective companies.

Ethical Issue versus Control

There are several ethical issues that arise due to the different approaches used by 3M and apple Inc in their social networks and stakeholder communication.

3M has an open and transparent system that allows people to know some of the future plans that the company has for its stores around the world. The approach is also consistent with the principles of corporate social responsibility. Stakeholders of the company are involved in the formulation of the communication channels and design of all projects concerning the company.

Public interest is essential to 3M’s plan since it is aimed at improving the image of the company as a responsible organization within the host community (Piekkari & Nell, 2010). The transparency is a widely accepted ethical practice for public companies. Since such organizations are owned by the public. It is important to announce every future plan to the public and engage them in planning. Through this strategy, the company can compete with rivals who offer products of comparable quality.

The public may not expect much of a surprise from the company, but may buy its product since the company appears socially responsible towards its stakeholders. Corporate transparency ensures that the company engages in fair competition. Not much criticism has been experienced as a result of communication strategy at 3M (Piekkari & Nell, 2010).

3M does not make its sales through control of the customers and other stakeholders. Its customer’s base is related to its popularity rather than control and loyalty. The competition strategies the company engages in seem to be fair since it operates in a free market.

The employees also work in a fair condition where they are allowed to relate to the customers directly without compromising the corporate secrets. Employees are not victimized for communicating with customers about the development of the products by 3M (Guffey & Loewy, 2010).

Apple Inc has problems with convincing the public that its communication strategy observes ethical principles. The paranoid nature of the company’s management has been criticized by the company’s stakeholders. The company’s devices are incompatible with most of other electronic gadgets and computers in the market.

This is aimed at limiting people from associating apple products with others that exist in the market. This strategy had success with laptop computers for some time due to the high quality offered by the company in the manufacture of hardware. The incompatibility with other gadgets was viewed as a special aspect of the company (Wright, 2012).

However, this perspective changed with time and the sales for the computers plummeted. Apple Inc made a comeback with manufacture of laptop computers that were compatible with other operating systems in order to survive in the computer market (Guffey & Loewy, 2010). The tendency to control the customers continues with the mobile devices, which are responsible for most of apple’s annual profit is the current practice at Apple Inc. It is unethical for manufacturers to control customers in a free market according to business experts.

Although Apple’s strategies are within the limits set by government regulations, it appears to go against the principles of business ethics in most circumstances (Guffey & Loewy, 2010). Apple’s strategy may appear as a self serving strategy since the customer is no allowed to compare the company’s products with others in the market.

Several complaints have been filed in court against apple for unethical false advertising in previous years. The company has also been accused of issuing false statements concerning its future plans with the intention of tracking down those employees who are giving the information to the public.

The employees are the sent on a compulsory leave. These tactics are against the basic principles of ethics governing public advertisement. However there may be genuine reasons for apple’s behavior. Although the company’s communication strategies are completely different and antagonistic, it is also possible that each company acts appropriately according to the conditions in its environment.

Analysis

Apple and 3M operate in a completely different environment. The only similarity between the companies is the scale of operations. 3M operates hundreds of stores in sixty different countries in the world. On the other hand, apple inc. produces millions of mobile devices and computers every year.

In 3M’s industry, leak of information concerning a planned production of a product may not pose a serious risk for business operations for the company. Few manufacturers in the industry are likely to capitalize on any intellectual property in making of adhesives and pharmaceuticals which are the major products associated with 3M. This is because the manufacturing standards for these products are universal. These standards are strictly governed by international authorities and companies are monitored for compliance and quality.

Only information regarding branding and marketing strategies may be considered sensitive. Thus, the company finds it safe to let their customers and even competitors to know some details of their plans. In case of copyright infringement, it is easy to follow up the case due to the physical evidence that it is likely to present. On the other hand, the company might also find it important to retain some information regarding marketing strategies.

In addition, 3M manufacture products which have no capability of accessing social sites unlike apple Inc. Thus, for 3M, it is difficult to operate services such as iCloud and special closed social networks such as those operated by Apple Inc. After all, it might not be the will to observe ethics that keeps 3M from engaging in tactics such as those evident in Apple’s operation, but it might be the only option for the company to engage in public forums as a way of communicating to the stakeholders (Lewis, 2007).

On the other hand, apple operates in environment where intellectual property is of extremely high value (Wright, 2012). If the company’s rivals obtain a significant amount of information regarding an anticipated product, it is likely that they will produce another product to counter apple Inc’s product. The product to be used in the counteractive measure is likely to be produced much earlier than apple’s product thus affecting the latter’s sales.

Apple’s success has been primarily because of its ability to keep its intellectual property secure (Guffey & Loewy, 2010). So far, apple Inc is the only high profile company that has managed to produce devices with custom software developed at its production plants. The manner in which the company communicates with its stakeholders may be the only safe way to survive in the highly competitive market.

Apple Inc produces a large number of mobile devices and personal computers every year. However, the company has stores in thirteen countries (Wright, 2012). To implement a successful marketing plan, the company has to engage in internet marketing to ensure that customers around the world stay informed regarding the company’s products (Lewis, 2007). There not enough physical stores to attend to Apple’s customers. This requires that the company runs an online store to compensate for this inadequacy.

Conclusion

It is evident that 3M and Apple Inc have been compelled in their respective communication strategies due to the nature of their respective operating environments. The effort the company takes to engage the stakeholders occasionally to assess the market and production situation help the company to keep up with the ever-changing market environment (Guffey, & Loewy, 2010).

Although 3M engages in a conventional style of communication to its stakeholders, it might also be compromising considerable important information regarding its future plans and operations it is important to keep some information secure for the sake of formulating an effective strategic plan.

Apple Inc engages in practices most analysts would consider unethical. However, to some extent, the actions undertaken by apple to protect its information could be genuinely necessary. The company must maintain some level of connection with the public for a good reputation.

It is also necessary to inform all the stakeholders of all the changes and developments in the company t hat might affect them (Lewis, 2007). Thus, there should be more communication other than the company’s occasional engagement with its stakeholders during software launch occasions and device release events.

References

Cusumano, M. (2008). Technology strategy and management: The puzzle of Apple. Communications. ACM, 51(9), 22-24.

Garud, R., Gehman, J., & Kumaraswamy, A. (2011). Complexity Arrangements for Sustained Innovation: Lessons from 3M Corporation. Organization Studies, 32(6), 737-767.

Guffey, M. E., & Loewy, D. (2010). Essentials of business communication (8th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western/Cengage Learning.

Hopkins, J., & Turner, J. (2012). Go mobile: location-based marketing, apps, mobile optimized ad campaigns, 2D codes and other mobile strategies to grow your business. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.

Lauring, J. (2011). Intercultural Organizational Communication. Journal of Business Communication, 48(3), 231-255.

Lewis, L. (2007). An Organizational Stakeholder Model of Change Implementation Communication. Communication Theory, 17(2), 176-204.

Piekkari, R., & Nell, P. (2010). Regional Management as a System: A Longitudinal Case Study. Management International Review, 50(4), 513-532.

Shih, C. C. (2011). The Facebook era: tapping online social networks to market, sell, and innovate (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall.

Wright, A. (2012). Analyzing Apple products. Commun. ACM, 55, 27-27.

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