Ap­ple’s iPhone X mar­ket­ing cam­paign

Michael Si­mon looks at how Ap­ple’s un­con­ven­tional iPhone X mar­ket­ing strat­egy will make you want one at any cost

iPad&iPhone user - - FEATURE -

iPhone X is here. Mind you, if you haven’t al­ready pre-or­dered or staked a spot on line at an Ap­ple Store you prob­a­bly won’t be able to get one, but tech­ni­cally iPhone X is fi­nally avail­able for pur­chase. And based on its un­con­ven­tional mar­ket­ing push, Ap­ple re­ally, re­ally

wants you to want to buy one, even if you don’t ac­tu­ally in­tend to plunk down £1,000.

Not that it didn’t want you to lust over the iPhone 7 or iPhone 6, but there’s some­thing dif­fer­ent about the way Ap­ple is hawk­ing iPhone X. With iPhone 8, Ap­ple is sell­ing a new phone: bet­ter pro­ces­sor, bet­ter cam­era, new colour. With iPhone X, it’s sell­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence. From the YouTube first im­pres­sion videos to celebrity retweets and rolling re­views, iPhone X is be­ing pre­sented not as a de­vice but a phe­nom­e­non. Like a sum­mer block­buster, iPhone X is the new thing that ev­ery­one’s talk­ing about. And if you’re not buy­ing it, you need to see it. And once you see it, you’ll want one.

Fea­tures first

In some ways, Ap­ple is treat­ing iPhone X more like Ap­ple Watch than a phone. With its first wear­able, Ap­ple wanted to sell it to cus­tomers as a piece of jew­ellery rather than a piece of tech­nol­ogy. It was about fash­ion and con­nec­tion rather than bat­tery life and speed, and that men­tal­ity pro­pelled Ap­ple Watch to be­come the best-sell­ing watch – not just smart­watch, over­all watch – in the world.

Of course, the iPhone is al­ready the best sell­ing smartphone on the planet, but iPhone X rep­re­sents a whole new an­i­mal. Much like the orig­i­nal iPhone, iPhone X rep­re­sents the next 10 years of Ap­ple’s mo­bile strat­egy, but this time around it’s not just “a rev­o­lu­tion­ary mo­bile phone.” iPhone X is a life­style de­vice, the first iPhone in years that needs to be seen.

So, Ap­ple took a very dif­fer­ent tack with the leadup to the iPhone X launch. It en­cour­aged lines at

Ap­ple stores. It gave a small fac­tion of YouTube stars hands-on ac­cess be­fore tra­di­tional out­lets. It gave most re­view­ers a 24-hour win­dow to or­ga­nize their thoughts. And in per­haps the most un-Ap­ple move of all time, it col­lected the most glow­ing com­ments and out them in a press re­lease.

Now, you could say Ap­ple is des­per­ately try­ing to con­trol the iPhone X con­ver­sa­tion with this strat­egy, and maybe it is. Most of the re­ac­tion we’ve seen has been after short stints with the de­vice, and prob­lems are far more likely to crop up after days rather than hours. Plus, with a slow roll­out it can avoid a pile of is­sues like it ex­pe­ri­enced with Ap­ple Watch Se­ries 3’s cel­lu­lar is­sues. But I’d ar­gue the op­po­site, that Ap­ple is

more con­fi­dent in iPhone X than any other prod­uct its re­leased. Above all, Ap­ple wants to show there isn’t a steep learn­ing curve with iPhone X, and the short­ened win­dow for re­views helps il­lus­trate that point.

But Ap­ple’s main mo­ti­va­tion with all th­ese iPhone X first looks is to put a fo­cus on its fun fea­tures rather than specs. That’s plain to see in the YouTube videos that were heavy on en­ter­tain­ment and light on ex­am­i­na­tion. But even the tran­si­tional out­lets fo­cused more on Face ID and the new de­sign rather than bat­tery bench­marks and speed tests. Ap­ple needs the core fea­tures of iPhone X – but­ton­less nav­i­ga­tion, hands-free un­lock­ing, and yes, the notch – to be­come in­grained in its cul­ture even be­fore most peo­ple are able to buy one. And even be­fore iPhone X re­leases, Ap­ple is al­ready lay­ing the ground­work for it to take over.

With three flag­ship mod­els this year, Ap­ple doesn’t need to move large num­bers of iPhone Xs. Based on its first quar­ter guid­ance, Ap­ple plans to move a met­ric ton of iPhones over the next cou­ple months, and a lot of those sales will be due to the ap­peal of iPhone X, even if they end up buy­ing an iPhone 8 in­stead.

Shut up and take my money

The point of iPhone X is to show­case the fu­ture of Ap­ple’s smartphone strat­egy. It’s not about me-too fea­tures like the OLED screen, it’s a sneak peak, al­beit one you can buy for £999. For many buy­ers, money won’t be an ob­ject. Based on the five- to sixweek de­lay in ship­ments on Ap­ple.com/uk, Ap­ple has al­ready sold mil­lions of its new iPhone X, and there are mil­lions and mil­lions more in the pipe­line.

But whether Ap­ple sells more iPhone Xs in the hol­i­day quar­ter than iPhone 8s isn’t the is­sue. It’s about im­pres­sions. When iPhone X was first an­nounced, the re­ac­tion was muted. There were con­cerns about Face ID. Peo­ple won­dered if it was worth such a premium over iPhone 8 Plus. Some even started ques­tion­ing whether Ap­ple’s “all screen” claim was even ac­cu­rate. But that too plays right into Ap­ple’s mar­ket­ing strat­egy. Ap­ple knew there would be ques­tions about iPhone X. But with one fell swoop of first im­pres­sions, Ap­ple dis­pelled all naysay­ing. Face ID works. The screen is amaz­ing. And it’s worth the ex­tra money if you can af­ford it.

Even if you don’t buy an iPhone X to­day, to­mor­row, or next month, Ap­ple has planted the seed of de­sire. Peo­ple who were al­ready go­ing to buy an iPhone X re­ally want one now. But more im­por­tantly, a whole group of peo­ple who nor­mally might not care about an iPhone launch week­end will go to the Ap­ple Store this week­end to get a glimpse of the new iPhone. They’ll try it out. They’ll tweet out pic­tures. And they’ll tell their friends that they need to go see it too.

And if they have £1,000 burn­ing a hole in their pocket, they’ll buy one when­ever it’s avail­able.

Ap­ple spot­lighted snip­pets of iPhone X re­views in a glow­ing press re­lease

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