What every business can learn from the iPhone 4 launch

Reports of customers paying up to $1,000 just for a place in line. Would your customers be willing to do that for your products?

You know a product is successful when not only do people line up overnight to buy it, but places in the line are actually bought and sold for hefty prices.

That was the case in the early morning hours as customers lined up for blocks for first dibs on Apple's new iPhone 4.  There are reports that people were even selling places in line for as much as $1,200 -- just to get at an item retailing for $299 earlier than everyone else. Others paid people to hold places in line for them.

Is the world going insane?  Maybe... but wouldn't it be nice to have such insanity from your customers?

Are your customers paying $1,000 just to get a place in line at your product launches?

What is it that Apple is doing to arouse such incredible enthusiasm for its products, and why aren't more companies doing it?

Apple seems to employ a sense of magic that enables it to rise above the competition, including visionary product marketing. Apple's products aren't designed to simply "do" Web browsing or "do" messaging or "do" video. Apple has a vision to bring computing power quickly and seamlessly to everyone in the world.

When the iPad was launched to similar fanfare just a couple of months ago, I quoted Seth Godin's observations about what makes Apple so captivating. My SmartPlanet colleague Andrew Nusca also provides pointers as to what makes Apple different than the rest .

Since the iPhone seems to be repeating the iPad excitement, I'll repeat Godin's observations here, his list of ways Apple builds and maintains excitement, something other companies can learn:

  • Earn a "permission asset": Apple has built up plenty of cache with its "tribe" over the past 25 years. "They didn't sell 300,000 iPads in one day, they sold them over a few decades," Godin points out.
  • Don't try to please everyone: "There are countless people who don't want one, haven't heard of one or actively hate it. So what?"
  • Make a product worth talking about: Obvious, but as Godin puts it, " If it's so obvious, then why don't the other big companies ship stuff like this?"
  • Build a platform for others to play in: "Not just your users, but for people who want to reach your users."
  • Create a culture of wonder: Plenty of companies have extremely good engineers and product developers. But Apple isn't just about meeting technical specifications and pushing stuff out the door.
  • Be willing to fail: Godin puts things in perspective: "Launching the iPad had to be even more frightening than launching a book..." Apple has had some duds in its time as well. "Apple clearly a faced a technical dip in creating this product... they worked on it for more than a dozen years. Most people would have given up long ago."
  • Give the tribe a badge: This is a classic Godinism, who observes that the iPad is "a visible symbol, a uniform."

Godin didn't mention this, but there's an overriding vision that permeates every Apple product that elevates its ventures to religious pilgrimages. Jobs and company have been on a mission, since day one, to change the world and bring seamless computing to everyone on the globe. iPhone meets this standard. The passion to being computers into everyone's lives in a comfortable, human-scale way also energizes Jobs' speeches well beyond that of the typical tech industry speaker. It's a passion that literally infects Apple's followers and markets.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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