In the days and weeks leading up to the unveiling of the iPad 2, the Internet was abuzz with rumors and speculation, as well as praise and criticism for a tablet which--at the time--didn't even yet officially exist. Apple is good at many things, but above all else Apple has mastered the ability to grab headlines and create a buzz around its products. There may be some marketing lessons to be learned from monitoring and tracking that buzz.
A reader sent me a link to a funny video. It parodies the classic movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory --with Steve Jobs as Willy Wonka. The animated Jobs takes the five golden ticket winners on a tour of the "magical" factory where Apple products are made. The clip includes Bill Gates filling the role of the evil rival "Mr. Slugworth"--frustrated that Microsoft makes products with the same features for less money but can't seem to sell them, and he asks Charlie to find out the secret to Apple's success. Jobs takes Charlie to where that secret is kept--an empty room--and explains that there is no secret, and no magic. The products really are no better, but Apple prides itself on "showmanship".
The video is funny, but like most things that are funny its humor is derived in part from its truth. When push comes to shove, rival gadgets and PCs are equal or better than most Apple products, and cost less money at the same time. Yet, somehow Apple has created an aura of "magic" and prestige around its brand. Not everyone is mesmerized by Apple's "showmanship", but whether you love Apple or hate Apple the company seems to evoke passionate opinions with little gray area.
Alterian has been monitoring conversations about the iPad 2 across all social media sites to assess hype by measuring the number of conversations and the sentiment behind them. The study is ongoing and continues to monitor the online conversations in the wake of Apple's big announcement.
An Alterian spokesperson explained the value of tracking these metrics. "The data behind these conversations can help give direction to questions that have already been raised: How will the launch of the iPad 2 fair? Will Apple be able to stand up to its new competitors? Do consumers feel the iPad 2 is significantly different from its predecessor?"
The data might be of interest to Apple, but it seems to have more value for iPad 2 competitors or for online marketing and social media in general. For example, Alterian is tracking not just the volume of conversations, or relative sentiment (positive or negative) regarding the iPad 2, but also where those conversations are taking place. Knowing where the public discussion about the iPad 2 is going on gives online marketers useful information to help focus social media and marketing efforts to promote other products.
You have to build a quality product with a solid user experience first. It would be helpful if you could even do something unique or innovative instead of just manufacturing a copycat gadget. But, if you can do those things--and deliver it wrapped in grandiose "magical showmanship", you might just have a winner.