Experientialisation – Apple, a modern marketer

Tom Kinsman
22 April, 2010
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What’s going on here people!? Apple aficionados had to sit themselves down and steady their giddy heads this week when they read that the new fourth-generation Apple iPhone had been ‘lost’.

After allegedly purchasing the ‘lost’ iPhone for $5000, Gizmodo is running an exclusive article entitled ‘Apple’s next iPhone’, featuring an intricate breakdown of the most sophisticated detail, and the justifications that support the belief that this is indeed a real Apple product.

Gizmodo, I believe you, God I believe you. Ever since I read that you’d pulled it apart and performed microscopic scrutineering I believed you.

So what’s the fallout? Well I’ve a marketing mind, I love the idea of connecting with people, and you and I both know that traditional media costs a fortune. This is the third of a trail of recent experiential marketing campaigns that I believe are meticulously crafted, back-room, need-to-know-basis gear that is the new face of targeted retail consumer marketing.

Experiential marketing

2009 saw Kraft Australia launch a new product – arguably its riskiest venture yet (the Cadbury takeover was yet to occur): another Vegemite!

Australia was up in arms. How could you ever improve on this iconic Australian product? How could Kraft risk cannibalising its highest profile Australian product? The simple answer was Kraft did nothing of the sort; they told consumers it was their idea.

Kraft asked the public what they’d change about Vegemite, chose the responses they were able to execute, put a couple of verbatim answers in the launch and told Australia it had taken their favourite morning spread along with their recommended improvements and given them what they wanted. Hardly.

Kraft needed a new revenue stream. You can only sell so many jars of Vegemite and so, perfectly legitimately, they launched a new line. Handled so delicately, the following succession of events was pure artistry; masters of media, the finest puppeteers of publicity pulling all the right strings.

Do you seriously think that iSnack 2.0 (apt given the readership of Australian Macworld) was widely accepted at Kraft as the best name for its new product? Of course not; it was part of a sequentially planned succession of events that not only generated two widely anticipated product launches but also created a unique Australian collector’s item along the way.

First step was the initial product launch of iSnack 2.0, a relatively straightforward traditional media launch. Following the (I’d argue) anticipated rejection of the new name, Kraft withdrew the product, creating an instant classic. Think now, all those happy little Vegemites who’d love to get their hands on one of the relatively few iSnack 2.0 jars ever actually making it to production.

Don’t believe me? Even the Powerhouse Museum had to get its hands on one.

Following that, we’re on to the launch of product No.2, Cheesybite, in roughly as many months, with an intensity of hype generated only by the natural media forces at work – social media, over-eager journalists and the rumour mill. Media is expensive, so hype is the new market force. The generation of hype is the new marketing objective, and success in this field is a ‘Krafty’ art.

Take two, Hidden Pizza restaurant: need I describe in explicit terms the process behind this marketing campaign embarked upon by our humble Yellow Pages?

For those of you still slouched on your uber-cool, post-modern milk crate with hand-stitched pizza bag in hand and fresh basil stuck between the gap in your teeth that you asked the orthodontist to leave (but you’d never tell anyone that), wake up! You’ve been had!

There was no artisan pizza restaurant, hidden in the trendy northern suburbs of Melbourne. It was a perfectly crafted, well executed experiential marketing campaign sponsored (so I believe) exclusively by Sensis, to generate awareness for their flagging Yellow Pages business.

“Finding the restaurant is easy, just look it up the way you would any other.” Am I the only one smelling the anchovies? Apparently not.

What’s this got to do with the new iPhone?

So, why the drivel on new marketing techniques? Why all the talk about generating ‘hype’? Because, contrary to the beliefs of Gizmodo, this is, I believe recognition by Apple that while their current public relations model works, there are new techniques that need to be harnessed.

This is once again, Apple artistry in motion, just as we’d watch a beautifully executed Flash media animation on a big glossy Apple screen (not on your iPhone though), what we’re witnessing here is Apple’s recognition of hype generation by the natural market media forces and the power we’re able to harness.

Apple-focused websites (including Australian Macworld) are quite obviously rife with comment, but more interestingly, the news has reached traditional online and print publications around the world, with a whole swagger of free media and hype generation. In fact, just about every major media network or publication ran a story on the lost iPad.

So how does this benefit Apple? Well, how does it hurt Apple?

The unit, for all we know, could be a total decoy. Perhaps it’s a motivation to move the final units of the 3G and 3GS for consumers who like the look and feel of the current product and are opposed to the new, squarer design?

My contention is that this is the initial product launch. Not only has it got everyone talking about the iPhone before it is even announced (let alone hit the shelves), but it also diverts attention away from any other competitors’ products in the lapse between old and new products.

And once the actual phone is available – after much anticipation – not only will we be discussing its virtue as a standalone product, but also referring back to the predictions made at this time: how close the actual product is to the leaked phone and generally exchanging more words in print, online and in person than we would have otherwise.

Leaving the hype generator to it’s own neo-liberalist forces creates arguably more product awareness than a traditional launch ever could.

That Apple is one of the world’s most innovative companies has been missed in all of this discussion. How can we ignore he possibility that this may well be one of the world’s most effective firms implementing (with accurate efficiency) a viral marketing campaign?

Do you really think that Apple would let its staff carry around in their pockets one of their key developmental prototypes so close to launch? If everything we’ve been led to believe about Apple’s leak prevention strategies is true, I’d argue that it’s ridiculous to entertain the notion.

Before I finish, sit in front of a mirror and ask yourself: “Am I anticipating the launch any less?”

Exactly.

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