iPods, iPhones and iPads, oh my! What do these three items have in common? Yes, they are all Apple products - but more importantly, they each stirred mass consumer mania upon their rollout.
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Since Apple released the iPod in 2001, the groundbreaking product has taken over as the most popular portable music and video device in the world. In 2007, Apple announced it had sold its 100 millionth iPod and claimed that the iPod is the fastest-selling music player in history. Then, Apple introduced its much-awaited iPhone later in 2007. Only 200 days later, the company had sold a whopping four million iPhones worldwide. That's 20,000 phones a day! Then the iPad sold approximately eight million in the first 200 days which doesn't include the November or December. And the App store is set to hit the 10 billionth app sold, currently sitting round 9.9 billion.
The Rumor Mill
Apple has done the good news announcements much better than the bad ones. It is often tight-lipped when it comes to potentially negative news. The rumor mill is processing the small amount of information we have and pushing out fresh speculation about Steve Jobs' condition. This is the one area Apple has had problems with managing consumer and investor expectations. In 2004 he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his pancreas; then a six month leave of absence in 2009 for his liver transplant. Now Jobs is taking a medical leave of absence to focus on his health. But Apple is much better at the good news announcements.
iPad Unveiled in January 2010
In January, Apple unveiled its much-awaited new tablet device, the iPad. ABI Research estimated that the media tablet segment could sell four million units in 2010. It turns out Apple sold 4.2 million units in the three months ending September 30, 2010 alone. (If you like to keep your finger on the pulse of the market, this could be the career for you. Learn more in Lead The Charge With Product Development.)
There is no question that Steve Jobs and his fellow masterminds at Apple are the kings of hype. Who else could inspire millions of crazed consumers to stand in a Disney World-esque line that's wrapped around a building three times just to hand over their hard-earned money? Many of these rabid fans go so far as to camp out in front of the store overnight, just so they can be one of the first to purchase the latest and greatest iProduct. Sure, these progressive products are cutting-edge - even revolutionary. But are they worth spending the night in a sleeping bag on a grimy storefront sidewalk? Thousands of consumers would answer with a resounding "yes".
Marketing experts say Apple's success comes from its unique ability to build consumer excitement until it reaches a deafening fever pitch. Here are a few ingenious tactics the Apple team uses to hype up a new product:
Tactic No.1: Mystique and Mysterious "Leaks"
Apple is renowned for its tight-lipped secrecy when it comes to product launches. As a matter of fact, most of the information about upcoming Apple products comes in the form of "leaks" revealed on techie blogs and gossip sites, which then trickles down to mainstream media.
For example, the tech world rumor mill was hard at work in late 2006. Word on the street was that Apple was preparing to enter the smart phone arena by launching an earth-shattering new device: the iPhone. There were reports that Apple had registered the iPhone name. Then, there were mutterings that an iPod manufacturer in Taiwan had placed an order for 12 million iPhones. Tech-loving consumers across the globe were sitting on the edge of their seats, credit card in hand, waiting for the big release.
For months, Apple somehow managed to capture consumer attention, intriguing cell phone users and iPod fans to no end - seemingly without spending a single dime on marketing. However, the company is so clever at keeping its guerilla marketing tactics under wraps, no one can say with absolute certainty whether Apple leaked these appetizing details on purpose.
iPad Also Launched The Rumor Mill
Apple was at it again leading up to the iPad launch. The mysterious media event invitations, Apple's incessant "no comment" replies and the anonymous source information "leaks" cranked up months before the big reveal. Even days before the unveiling, techies and reporters were still uncertain whether Apple would actually announce this compelling new product at its next media event. Rumors were running rampant that Steve Jobs had uttered to an unnamed source, "This will be the most important thing I've done."
All of these magical events came together to create yet another worldwide iFrenzy. After months of taunting, teasing, rumor mongering and massive speculation, Jobs finally delivered. In January, he presented the Apple iPad to an engrossed audience of techies and reporters at a special media event, much to the delight (and relief) of the world. (Memorable advertising is a brick in the fortress that keeps competitors at bay. For more, see our article Advertising, Crocodiles And Moats.)
Tactic No.2: Mesmerizing Demo Presentations
When Steve Jobs unveils a new Apple product, it's not just any old demo presentation. Jobs has mastered the art of capturing the audience's attention, building tension and practically hypnotizing everyone in the room, causing them to fall in love with his latest product. During these gripping demos, his enthusiasm is tangible and contagious, and audience members can't help but get caught up in the excitement.
It's almost as if he uses the Jedi mind trick. Many reporters and techies walk away from these presentations proclaiming that Apple's latest device is certain to change the world. And will it? Probably not. But the fact that Jobs can convince them that it might proves he is one of the greatest marketing and public relations wizards of all time.
The Big iPhone Announcement
When Jobs revealed the iPhone at the annual Macworld trade show in January 2007, he was certainly on his game. After reviewing the revolutionary products Apple had created over the previous decades, he got to the good part: the big announcement.
"Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary new mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device," he explained. He repeated this line several times before booming, "Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device … today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!" Of course, the crowd broke into wild applause.
After building tension you can practically cut with a knife, he drops a bomb on the audience, sending shockwaves of exhilaration throughout the room and the world. Now, this is a man who knows how to give an unforgettable sales presentation.
Tactic No.3: Adding "One More Thing"
As almost every Apple fan knows, Jobs has a famous signature line that he utters at the end of almost every product launch presentation: "And one more thing ... " After stirring up the crowd by announcing his latest and greatest device, he floors the audience with one last exhilarating detail. It's basically the encore to his fabulous show.
For example, he may reveal one more exciting feature included with his new device, another soon-to-be-launched product, or he may even introduce a wildly popular band. Whatever the final surprise may be, Jobs never disappoints with his "one more thing".
Some Serious Buzz
There's no doubt that Apple knows how to create some serious buzz. Not only is Jobs the master of hype, but he somehow pulls it off using cost-free, seemingly effortless underground marketing tactics. When you combine the Apple team's marketing genius with Jobs' masterful presentation style and infectious enthusiasm, it's a recipe for booming success. No wonder Apple is now a $300 billion company.
So, the next time you're looking to build hype, take a page out of the Steve Jobs' book. (Evaluate past performance before investing in gadget funds. For more, see Technology Sector Funds.)
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