Thursday, January 17, 2008

Anticipation building as a marketing tactic

Apple's Macworld is a study in the art of extreme anticipation building. The level of anticipation is so great that Apple watchers obsessvively look for clues, scour leaks for authenticity and count down to the announcement of the next great product. The whole thing is more similar to recent movie marketing epitomized by JJ Abrams and his Cloverfield campaign ... engage enthusiasts through very controlled information delivery and then launch the product in a extremely hyped environment with minimal preview.

Apple's extreme anticipation building has clearly worked in the past (e.g., iPhone). Is it an approach that should be used as THE method for product launches? There isn't a clear cut answer, but there are some key questions that Apple must have considered to validate its current approach:
  • Share value: MacWorld creates a very compressed, binary event for investors. Apple stock is extremely volatile during Macworld. Would a more conservative product launch approach reduce stock volatility?

  • Revenue: Macworld clearly has many enthusiasts that want to purchase what is announced immediately. Would a more traditional product launch schedule be better attuned to products that are >$500 where some will buy based on research and others will buy based on brand?

  • Cost: Macworld must clearly be the key date in the life of many developers at Apple. Does this one year cycle put artificial constraints/deadlines on the R&D cycle and delay products coming to market?

  • Competitors: Macworld provides a point in time announcement that prevents competitors from scooping Apple. Is this advantage substantial or does it not matter given the prevalence of fast followers?