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What's Your Story

July 10 2007
By Marc Freedman

An iPhone Christmas

I've intentionally tried to limit the iPhone hype. The Apple PR machine has done such a swell job inundating the press and public that they don't need my help.

One article worth sharing is Robert X. Cringely latest piece, Faster iPhone faster! Kill!! Kill!! A big problem with the iPhone, a strong data-driven service, is that it uses the poky EDGE data network? It's clearly just a matter of time before the iPhone joins the 21 st century. Cringely says it will happen for Christmas when Apple and AT&T move to HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), which is 400-700 kbps, or 3-5 times faster than the current network.

Most importantly you won't have to buy a new iPhone. A firmware update is all it needs. One morning you'll wake up to find your iPhone downloading not just a little faster, but three times faster. That, my friends, is what you call an upgrade.

Demystifying Apple

Cringely shares the Apple marketing formula, which they've learned through trial and error and are successfully applying with iPhone.

The formula is no secret. Here is his list.

  1. Set expectations.
  2. Deliver on those expectations.
  3. Follow up on any problems.
  4. Have no shortages.
  5. Have an upgrade plan.

It's standard marketing. Indeed many of the techniques that Apple is using are well-known and commonly practiced, such as putting the product in the hands of employees to make them beta testers and evangelizers, aka “eating your own dog food.”

The trick is execution. So far Apple has been spotless. What about you and your company's story?

The rest of this series takes Apple as the launchpad to dive into successful marketing for most any company in tech, media, and other innovation-based industries.

All business is drama

The rest of this series shows you how to develop winners just like Apple. I use a multi-focal lens that brings a rich discussion through the multiple perspectives of the Marketers, Sellers, and Developers.

The first step is developing the product, which is where Apple shines.

Your product STARTS with the story. It's nothing without it, just a hunk of metal or bits on the shelf or a drive. Good stories attract. They interest. They create momentum.

The best stories are personal with real pain. There is a backstory, a crisis, a resolution. They are authentic. They compel and are gold.

Successful stories are a synthesis of our key stakeholders.

THE MARKETER: It's the beginning of a brand and its future.

THE SALESMAN: My customers want and will buy it.

THE DEVELOPER: It's my product roadmap.

What's your story? Is it competitive - we're just like the iPod with a few cool features (Microsoft Zune)?

Or is it innovative - we have an mp3 player that anyone can play and copy music to (Apple iPod)?

Make me care

You've plotted your story. Now fill in the blanks. Tighten the threads. Knit a three dimensional tapestry with a different facet from every angle and different viewer. For your employees. Your shareholders. Your business partners. The media. The analysts. The market. Your potential customers.

This is how “they” know you. And love you. Or not.

Disney thought I was crazy when I talked to them about creating film demand, and saving money from expensive TV time, by tapping into their audience 15 years ago. Today conversations between and among people and products are commonly happening well in advance of general product availability. Some successful products never leave beta.

These conversations make you care and share your experience with your network.

THE MARKETER: We're positioning the product, educating the market, and creating the brand.

THE SALESMAN: Pre-selling takes the pain out of hard sales.

THE DEVELOPER: Friendly user testing kills bugs and improves the features set.

Pre-launch is a golden time where you can do little wrong. You set expectations. You control and refine perception and reaction Last, but not least, you create demand.

Stand and Deliver

You've created and told your story. Can you deliver the goods? It's time to execute. This is the hardest and the easiest part.

It's hard because it's real. You have marketing programs, sales, inventory, fulfillment, channels, and customer service to juggle, all the meanwhile starting on your next update and chapter of the story.

But it's also easy, and this is where I disagree with Cringely from the beginning of our series. If you created a tantalizing story that's accepted and shared among your users, sales will not be difficult. Moreover you've built up a huge store of brand equity that is capital that you can spend to overcome the inevitable problems, whether they're shortages, bugs, or undermanned service. You've relegated them to minor plot point in your story.



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