Over the past two years, hundreds of thousands of blog posts, forums, and comments had speculated about Apple making a tablet. Last week, Apple did something they hadn’t done during that entire time span. They admitted they had designed a tablet computer. How did they create so much buzz?
While I think their new device is a real breakthrough in future computing, I find the marketing (or lack of marketing) for such an item much more fascinating. How does a company build up so much hype? Why are people so excited about something they didn’t even know existed? And why have so many critics turned negative on something that isn’t technically for sale yet? Let’s dive a little deeper to solve the iHype mystery.
Apple, in its history as a company, has been known for releasing ground-breaking products that change the way we do things. It started back in the ’80s with the Apple II and the Macintosh, and continued in the 2000’s with the iPod and iPhone. The widespread obsession in the tech community over Apple rumors is fairly new, but the true Apple geeks have always been a hype-driven excitable bunch. The return of Steve Jobs near the end of the ’90s helped to rejuvenate this passionate group. The basics behind iHype are these:
- Develop new things in ways that haven’t been done before.
- Don’t publicly show prototypes or “proofs of concept”.
- Make a polished, grand announcement of the new thing.
- Ignore the negative critics.
Your business or organization may not make awesome tablet computers, but the principles of iHype can still apply to your business.
Develop New Things
Whether it is a piece of software, a book, a networking organization, or a physical item, your product or service stands out in some way. You may do lots of R&D for your new device, or you could simply offer a better way to manage alumni donors. Perhaps you offer public speaking advice or maybe you write code and build web apps. You can be a star by developing things that are new, fresh, and useful. Think like Apple and create things that people dream of using. Offer services that no one else can match and create your own category. To build iHype, you must build something to hype up.
Don’t show Prototypes
The biggest lesson here is this: Prototypes eat up all the hype. When you announce that your company is working on a new product to be released in 18 months, users will forget about it two days later. Not only are future predictions unreliable (see XKCD’s take below), you kill off all of your excitement by the time the thing launches. You effectively use your marketing window of opportunity to announce a future announcement.
Imagine going to a party on July 31st that was solely to announce another party in 4-6 months (New Years Eve). You would likely kill any buzz for the real party and possibly upset your current guests. The exception to this is a short timeframe with a solid date. Announcing your new product that will come out at the end of the month is probably OK, but it’s better to announce things that ship today. (Apple occasionally announces things before their release to do patent and FCC filings which inadvertently announce things. If they could wait until the ship date, they would.)
The Grand and Polished Announcement
You won’t have the same stage as Apple, but you can deliver your message with the same gusto. If you are issuing a press release, than include graphics, numbers, and memorable quotes and taglines. If you are sending an email newsletter to current clients to announce a new service, give it a great subject line and pay attention to the details. If you are lucky enough to make your announcement in person as a presentation then practice, practice, practice. A boring and unoriginal announcement is likely to be forgotten. Tell the story of your great new thing. The time you spend on it will often mirror the amount of attention it gets from your audience, so put in the time it deserves.
Ignore the naysayers
Apple made their announcement last week and already many of the tech blogs are denouncing the new device. Apple has experienced the same thing happening with the iPod an iPhone, so they are not fazed by harsh words. You may not have the same experience so a negative review could be very painful initially. Do not let it get you down. Your new offering has taken you time and energy because you built it with intent and passion. If someone with a blog or an email account doesn’t like it, there is no reason they should kill any of your excitement. You are trying to sell your product to people who want it, not people who don’t. Do not forget this. Every product has a negative critic and unfortunately their voices can drown out the positive folks. Have confidence in your service and in your announcement, do great marketing, and the buyers will come.
You probably won’t get the same media level of hype that Apple gets, but there is no reason you can’t create stir of similar excitement with your followers and customers. Make something great, boldly announce it when it’s ready, and ignore anyone who talks down about it. These are the simple keys to creating your own storm of iHype.