They waited with bated breath for their Twitter feeds to refresh: the members of the Apple fan club who signed up on the back of a technology marketing masterclass.
Yesterday saw Apple make its big announcements about new education products. The headlines went to a cheaper iPad and benefits for schools who buy its machines and software services.
The move towards cheaper deals for schools speaks to the firm having high ideals. And it seizes the zeitgeist – an idea that has guided Apple’s technology marketing for 20 years.
Once, it would have been considered a public relations hit if the trade and specialist publications sent along reporters and a snapper to cover such a launch.
But yesterday, tech bible The Verge live tweeted the announcements from Chicago, Illinois, and fans were disappointed that there wasn’t a live stream of one of the biggest events in tech marketing. Instead, they had to make do with a video made available later.
So how did Apple – once occupying a niche in the market for computers particularly favoured by designers – reinvent itself so that just saying it has made a product slightly better has fanboys drooling?
Easy: masterful product marketing.
Steve Jobs saw an advantage in making Apple’s brand cool and building products that were easy to use. He sold us on the idea of seamless technology, beautifully designed. Tech blogs lapped him up, the media adored him and he became a modern-day icon in a turtleneck.
When Apple released its funky-coloured iMac in 1998, it broke the mould. Here was a computer that didn’t just perform– it looked great, too. It delivered a lesson in aesthetics to anyone marketing technology.
That little “i” became a key tech marketing tool - an indicator of cool on the iconic products that followed. The iPod, arriving in 2001, was not the first MP3 player. But it built on the image of the iMac.
Its ad showed a young Masood from EastEnders dancing out the door of his flat after drag-and-dropping the Propellerheads track Take California on to his iPod.
Apple didn’t just take California, it took everywhere. The words “iPod” and “MP3 player” became synonymous, like Hoover and vacuum cleaner.
By the second-gen, an iPod was a necessity, not a luxury, for young people. They had to have music on the go – all of their music, if they could. And they had to listen to it on those white earbuds.
The iPod’s popularity came despite the pricing – or perhaps because of it. Apple sold people on the idea of paying a premium for something they could get cheaper elsewhere. It was an affordable luxury but one that had kudos and cool design. There were better MP3 players out there – but there was none cooler.
And if you’re going to listen to digital music, you’ll need to buy it somewhere. Enter iTunes. The technology marketing shifted up a gear. Once you buy content from one source, you don’t want to lose what you own by using another platform.
Apple created a market, then locked the people it was selling to inside. It had a captive audience, albeit a willingly captive audience.
Another winning product marketing technique from Apple was to adapt the best of its rivals’ tech to its needs. It even ended up paying MP3 player firm Creative millions after adopting an incredibly similar user interface for the iPod. How many of us worried about that when we were playing with our cool, new iPod?
At the time of the iPhone’s launch in 2007, the BlackBerry was the opposition. But while it had a staid, businesslike reputation – all those people in office attire prodding out another email on the tiny keyboard of their CrackBerry – the iPhone was having a party.
The future is now
It was made to appear more than a phone … easy Wi-Fi internet, games you could buy from iTunes and as many songs as you could squeeze inside. Ads made it look like it had fallen straight out of Star Trek. The future was now.
The iPad’s arrival in 2010 had people wondering why anyone would want a massive touchscreen you couldn’t even make a phone call on. Until they realised how easy it was to use.
There had been other tablet computers – but the iPad opened the door to the mass market, carried on the shoulders of all those other “i” products that laid the groundwork.
But it’s never just been about new products, it’s been about making the incremental improvements appear earth-shattering. Those tweaks to the memory size and camera quality, the growing screens and slipping an S on the end of an iPhone’s name to show it’s a better iPhone.
That’s the secret when you’re marketing technology. To be new, to be the latest, to store the most or have the biggest screen gives kudos to the owner – it’s all about feeding their appetites.
We are PR and marketing specialists – with our finger firmly on the technology pulse. Contact us on 0800 612 9890.