Sit down with a cup of coffee and a cup cake. This one’s going to want you to take notes!
The launch of iPhone X on September 12, 2017 is considered to be one of the most important events for Apple in a long, long time. The last time the tech giant made waves was three years ago during the launch of iPhone 6 – after which the sales somewhat plummeted to unexpected lows.
Naturally, this year a tectonic shift in the electronics industry was anticipated by tech experts and Apple aficionados because well, Apple.
According to Wall Street Journal, Apple was expected to showcase three new iPhones besides a new Apple Watch with an LTE cellular chip and a 4K Apple TV in September. Thanks to leading publications and blogs, there was a buzz around the new iPhone display and one-of-a-kind facial recognition support.
But what happened during the event was a revelation, a shocker that completely caught the Apple fans off-guard.
Apple X was launched with a bang and how!
The alphabet X suddenly sounds interesting, isn’t it? Expensive and overwhelming, this state-of-the-art iPhone is considered to be the greatest leap forward in technology. That’s what CEO Tim Cook says!
Apple is doing it right
Have you ever looked at a really successful brand and asked yourself, “How on Earth do they do it?” Well, that’s how Apple is to me. I am always amazed at the wonderful products that the brand comes out with. I remember the time when I first bought an Apple product. It was 2009, I was a college fresher and extremely proud of my iPhone 3GS.
I am on my fifth iPhone right now which is a handy iPhone 7 and as a marketer, there’s no doubt that Apple products are way ahead of the technology used.
What do you think is their secret recipe?
Apple not only produces some of the best products in the world, it is also a pioneer in executing impressive marketing campaigns. That’s right. They always leverage marketing to the fullest and I feel that’s what gives them a competitive advantage over others.
Did you know Apple has driven its revenues from $8b in 2004 to $215b in 2016? Take the iPod, iPhone and iPad in consideration. These gadgets have pretty much revolutionized the way we use technology. Now that’s called a “successful brand”.
But how do they use marketing to hook potential and existing customers and encourage them to make the big switch.
What can startups learn from the Apple product launch marketing strategy?
Here are seven takeaways for startups:
1) Don’t be such a big believer of advertisements.
Apple has a smaller advertising budget than Microsoft; in fact, smaller than most of its competitors. The former’s ad spends are under $1 billion – can you believe it? In fact, in the year 2013, only 0.64% of Apple’s revenues went to marketing; whereas Samsung spent 3.51% on sales promotion.
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This is too less for a tech giant, right? It is. But why spend unnecessarily when you can target Hollywood?
Apple has spent years tightening its grip on Hollywood. Unlike many companies, it never pays for its products to appear in movies or on television.
Remember Phil Dunphy’s quote from ABC’s hit sitcom Modern Family, “The iPad comes out on my actual birthday. It’s like God and Steve Jobs got together and said, ‘We love you, Phil.’”
That wasn’t a paid advertisement by the way.
It was the year 2010, and the first iPad had hit the Apple stores. However, it seemed iPad was so hyped that it practically advertised itself! Even Phil Dunphy couldn’t stop raving about it on television!
And you know what? Apple sold 300,000 iPads in the US alone two days prior its launch.
Takeaway: There is a web of misconceptions around advertising that startups often get entangled in. And that is – running ads faster, sooner. What you should do is curate content that tells a story, which throws light on the areas the target audience can fix – with your product offerings, of course.
2) Emphasize on the experience, not the features.
First tell me – how many of you have actually browsed through the complete manual before starting to use your iPhones? None of you. Because you don’t need do. However you learn of the features, you know you are going to enjoy the process. Apple focuses more on offering a “better experience”. It always emphasizes on the way the product affects you.
Be it Samsung or BlackBerry – these brands mostly talk about the features and specifications of their products. But Apple? It tells you how an iPhone or an iPad can change your life. The truth is it really does.
Apple understands its marketing strategy won’t work unless it works on smart quantities. It never talks about pricing. But the fact is you will pay a lot more to buy an Apple product than a competitor’s product with practically all the same features. Why? Because of “that” experience.
Apple products are high on functionality. Combine that with design aesthetics and the imagery in ads and everyone wants to be a part of the Apple community!
Unlike many companies, it doesn’t design a product, pack it with ultra-edgy technology and then throw it over to the marketing team to sell it. Rarely would you had ever seen Steve Jobs talk about the fabulous camera resolution in the new product. He would weave a story around the feature, but never talk directly about it. Never.
Takeaway: Anyone can hop on to your website and check out the features, pricing, testimonials, and so on. But what the potential customers can’t see is the need and the pros of using the product. Whether you generate the demand via blogs, social media or paid ads is entirely up to you. But it’s important.
3) Get influencers onboard early.
McAfee’s CMO states users drive 80% of the internet’s impressions. Influencer marketing is the most cost effective channel to acquire new customers. And who makes the most of it? That’s right – Apple.
Apple gets expert bloggers and thought leaders on board way before the product launch. They get everyone talking about the upcoming event for months – way before there’s even a demo for anyone to see. The catch is – no one talks about what the product does. Instead, they talk about what it might do.
Apple throws a bone to the influencers without revealing too much. It starts the engine but doesn’t move forward before the product is actually launched. So when the day actually arrives, Apple doesn’t start cold. It launches “like a boss”. Smart, right?
Apple has a knack of deliberately releasing very, very few details about their upcoming products. When the iPad’s launch was anticipated, the rumor mill was filled with speculation. No one knew anything about it but people went as far as creating realistic 3D mockups of it, hoping to get traction on their blogs.
But the time iPad finally launched, its reputation had grown to fabled proportions.
I quite like this – “A customer doesn’t buy a smartphone, he buys an iPhone. He doesn’t buy a tablet, He buys an iPad.”
Takeaway: Influencer marketing helps in driving sales but connecting with the right people in the industry takes time. Don’t start just a few months before your next big launch. Plan a year ahead to get in the good books of the influencers. Network heavily. This type of marketing does involve some sort of financial investment. But trust me – it is worth the efforts.
4) Don’t just roll out a product, create suspense around it.
Apple understands this better than anyone else. So what does it do? It weaves suspense around its new product launch. Everyone would pretty much know that Apple is about to launch a new product. Of course, bloggers and journalists will start writing about it.
Now, if you would have gone to Google and searched for “Apple launch” before the launch, you would have seen words like “reportedly” used frequently within the news articles. Apple is known to serve tidbits of info to the press to keep them hooked on what’s about to come.
But would anyone exactly know what the product is? Nope. Apple stays mum till the D-Day. Not even a hint on Twitter! On the day of launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook will walk on stage and overwhelm the world. That’s good enough for Apple.
Takeaway: Creating a suspense around a new product is not rocket science. You just have to make sure you start planning it way in advance. Your pre-launch activities have to be consistent and comprise a subtle message.
5) Run more product info via website.
That sounds obvious but pay more attention to this while writing content. As soon as the product is launched, the Apple homepage gets taken over by full-page banners for new phones with simple, high-impact images and quick links to a video and landing pages from where you can retrieve more information about the products.
Check out the current Apple homepage. This is after the launch of iPhone X.
Takeaway: Your website content should always resonate the offerings you promise during the launch. Whether the big unveil happens on social media or during a webinar, you must always ensure your website supports your launch. Don’t deprive the potential customers of more information.
6) Try to win at visual storytelling even if you are not.
Think Apple, think of the world’s biggest product innovations. But the pre-launch ads and videos are even more compelling.
Apple created a series of short videos to promote the Apple Watch besides providing a guided tour video of the product. It did the same for Apple X. Slick, short and to-the-point – Apple had everyone instantly hooked to its latest offering.
Going back to 2006 when Apple launched the “Get A Mac” campaign starring Hodgman and Justin Long as PC and Mac respectively. They stood against a white backdrop, introduced themselves and had a conversation. There was no mention of the product features. Just two guys having a chitchat. It did make a big impression.
Remember Taylor Swift lip-syncing to Drake and Future’s hit number “Jumpman”. It was a funny advert with Taylor running on the treadmill and ultimately slipping and hurting herself. Do you know what the advert was for? Apple Music, of course. You can see one of those, here.
Did the ad mention Apple Music even once? Visually – once, at the beginning. It was a subtle gimmick but it stayed in the mind, didn’t it?
Takeaway: Today, content is not just restricted to the written text. It also means gifs, infographics and videos. You can also start to create a hype before a launch through teasers. Remember – there is always one grand piece and some smaller ones accompanying it. Imagine – if your customers like the trailer, they would be excited to know what the full blown party will look like!
7) Organize a product launch keynote event like a pro.
Apple doesn’t take this lightly. With all the pre-launch chatter, emphasis on influencer marketing, the location and size of the attendee list – Apple makes sure it is committed to the news it is about to impart. It doesn’t matter whether you are flying in for the event or watching the live cast – the experience has to be spellbinding for each and every attendee.
The event is like a grand finale for Apple. And it takes place at the right time. In a live-setting, the real-time product demo validates the products that everyone has been talking about while showing off in immersive, high-resolution glory.
You can even expect a live performance by a leading entertainer. It’s all about the experience for Apple, and it starts way before the products reach the market.
Takeaway: Your business may not be financially strong enough to organize a product launch but it doesn’t mean you can’t have it at a small scale. Today, virtual events is also an option wherein you can make a big announcement online in front of invites guests and network online. Think out-of-the-box!
Over to you
Apple has a solid 40-year-old customer base that won’t switch sides for anything. It isn’t possible for any company to touch those heights instantly but yeah, it definitely serves as an inspiration to al. The one thing that actually stands out for Apple is that they treat their brand exactly how they want the audience would treat it. Like royalty.
Make sure so do you.
While creating magical WOW moments like that by Apple may seem like a tough thing to do, I help brands re-create their story for the market with a strategy that promotes their products effectively. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me here!