Two employees of the Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei have been punished severely for sending a marketing tweet on New Year’s Day with the label “via Twitter for iPhone.”
According to an internal memo seen by Reuters, both employees have been demoted and their monthly salaries have been reduced by 5,000 yuan, or about $728. The company’s director of digital marketing will have his pay rank frozen for one year.
Sapient, an outsourced social media firm, encountered “VPN problems” with the desktop it was used for publishing, so it used an iPhone with a roaming SIM card to send the New Year’s Eve message. Twitter is typically blocked in China, so VPNs (virtual private networks) are commonly used to access it.
The post, which read “Happy #2019,” was deleted almost immediately, but not before screenshots of it made their way to social networks such as Weibo, where they were mocked incessantly.
Huawei has experienced similar humiliations in the past. In a notable instance, Israeli actress Gal Gadot, in her capacity as a paid ambassador, promoted the Mate 10 Pro on Twitter using her iPhone.
Given the intense competition between the iPhone and Android platforms, the illusion of brand unity has gained importance among smartphone manufacturers worldwide. Even at Apple, employees frequently have devices from rival companies, even though corporate leaders sometimes take measures to prevent this.
Huawei probably has little to worry about shortly, as Chinese iPhone sales in the December quarter were poor enough to prompt this week’s guidance cut. This caused Apple shares to plummet, prompting CEO Tim Cook to pledge that management would “take action” to correct the company’s course.