How to launch like Apple!

As we prepare for another Apple product launch I thought I’d write a short post about the company’s product launch playbook.  I’m surprised that more companies haven’t tried to copy the company’s model;  for those that do, here’s a look at the key elements.

  • Know your audience: nobody knows its audience better than Apple – it’s built its brand on its knowledge.
  • Create pre-event hype: easy to do if you’re Apple, you might think, but every company can do this.  It takes time, strong relationships, a plan, and passionate product advocates.  It could be argued that Steve Jobs started this process when he launched the first Mac in 1984, but it’s clear that it has definitely been part of the company’s game plan since he rejoined the company as CEO in 1997.  15 years on and the hype generated by Apple fan boys and girls before product launches is self-perpetuating.
  • Make product launches a big deal: in a generation where there are the tools to communicate non-stop, Apple keeps quiet about launches until the invites are sent out to a handful of high profile technology journalists. It makes sure that there are enough rumours floating around that the launch doesn’t come as a complete surprise, but the data and focus of the event are kept secret until the very last minute.
  • Establish a launch pattern: Apple traditionally announces product launches at particular times of the year.  Whether it’s software, Mac hardware, iPad, iPod or iPhone, Apple has established a rough schedule throughout the year that updates its product portfolio.  This helps consumers plan their technology investments and gives journalists something to write about regularly.
  • Ensure absolute secrecy: Apple guards it’s new product information fiercely… at least that’s what it wants you to think.
  • Simplify your proposition: rather than listing every new feature or function of a new product, Apple picks a handful and focuses on them.  Why? Because it knows which features and functions will sell its products quickest.
  • Write the headlines: whether it’s, “The world’s thinnest notebook”, “A whole new vision for the notebook”, “1,000 songs in your pocket”, “This changes everything. Again.” or “There’s an app for that”, Apple gives journalists a ready to print headline that tells its audience exactly what it wants them to remember.
  • Support your launch: Apple supports its product launches with PR, advertising and in-store promotion.  By the time the media leaves the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts tomorrow afternoon they’ll be surrounded by product messaging for Apple’s latest products, TV ads will be ready to run and the Apple homepage will be proclaiming another new product.
  • Demonstrate: one of the most important parts of any Apple launch is the demonstrations – it’s all very well talking about why a new product or service is better than your competitors’, but showing why will leave your target audience in no doubt you have a winner on your hands.
  • Make it available: the majority of Apple products are available within days or weeks of the launch – and your should be too.  If a product or service isn’t ready to be launched, all you’re launching is a concept.
  • Use partners: Apple is known for having a string of high-profile partners present at product launches.
  • Be clear on price: if you can’t put a price on a product or service, how do you expect customer to buy it?
  • Be prepared for things to go wrong: despite the best laid plans, things can – and will – go wrong – so be prepared.  How you deal with things when they go wrong can make or break a product launch.

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