The Internet Generation (anyone who can’t remember a time in their lives when the iPod didn’t exist) prefers to do their own primary research, first noticing what products friends and family are using, then turning to Google to see what other people think. Today's Wall Street Journal article captures the power of influencers nicely. The result: a new rule must be followed to succeed with the iGeneration: marketing isn’t what you do to reach your first customers; it’s what you do to help your first customers reach the rest.
Apple marketing has figured this out. Look carefully at Apple’s iPod television commercials, billboards or posters. Here is a reminder:
See those happy, young people dancing in silhouette against a colorful and ever-changing background? Throughout the commercial, those distinctive iPod white headphones flow in sync to the silhouette’s energetic movements. What you don’t see is a focus on the iPod’s product features – how to select a song or change the volume, for instance. And that’s because Apple isn’t selling you an MP3 player. It’s inviting viewers to experience the Apple lifestyle and become part of the iPod community. The implicit message is this: Use any other MP3 player, and you’ll hear good music, but use an iPod and you’ll feel good. You’ll be part of the club. That silhouette is you.
(FWIW, the silhouette is an old real estate marketing trick: Get the intended buyers to imagine themselves in the space. That’s why you remove all your personal belongings when you show your house – and bake cookies – making it easier for the buyers to imagine their stuff in your home.)
Apple’s engineers did not design those white iPod earbuds. They are a pure Apple marketing trick designed to make the visible part of the product stand out. But the earbuds accomplish something much more important: They act as a status symbol. They are a way for Apple’s early adopters to reference sell while also making them feel part of an exclusive club. For $49 – the price of an iPod shuffle – you, too, can join the club. And new members gladly don those white earbuds and continue to flaunt the iPod lifestyle to the few who remain on the outside. The cycle continues until the club is no longer exclusive and the iPod becomes part of our everyday vocabulary, which, by the way, happened in less than three years.
Don’t Miss Out
Today, a good set of user reviews on the AppStore can make an unknown product an overnight success. This is because people don’t want to miss out: when it seems like everyone is excited about something it’s human nature to want to be part of the crowd. Apparently $4.99 doesn’t seem to be too high a price to pay to find out what all the fuss is about. Great developers not only cultivate good reviews, they also give away versions of their product for free in return for getting users to rate their products while using it. knowing that other people will pay attention. At last check, Angry Birds had nearly 9,000 ratings for their paid version but over 400,000 reviews for their free version! Of course the free version whets user’s appetites for the full version but it turns out that all these users raving about the product drives the revenue much more quickly.
People put more stock in other people’s opinions than they do the carefully crafted collateral of the product’s owner. Just as good developers have learned to share the experience of early adopters of their products, good marketers have to embrace and cultivate user’s experiences in order to grow their business with the Internet Generation.