One more thing… What is Hype? (Steve Jobs part 2)

One more Steve Jobs post and we’ll be done for 2009.  Steve Jobs has a trademark way of making a big announcement.  First, he starts his presentation with some routine news, and after talking for a bit he pretends to be done before pausing for dramatic effect and then saying, “There is one more thing…”

The pretend afterthought is, of course, the BIG thing.  This is how he introduces some of Apple’s biggest new products – its most hyped products.  Or are they?  The iPhone could rank as the most publicized new product launch ever, but few critics will call it hyped.

Gartner Hype Cycle

Here's Gartner's definition of how hype plays out in the launch of new technology products.

Which begs the question: What is hype?  Industry analyst group Gartner has defined a “hype cycle” that measures a product’s visibility over time.  The firm says the cycle starts with the “Technology Trigger,” which causes visibility to skyrocket to the “Peak of Inflated Expectations,” from which it plummets into the “Trough of Disillusionment” only to gradually rebound through the “Slope of Enlightenment” before settling into the “Plateau of Productivity.”

Cloud computing, PDAs and VoIP all have passed through the hype cycle, but this isn’t the case with Apple’s products.  My theory is that Apple avoids the Trough of Disillusionment by generally matching its pre-launch build up with great product features.  Thus, extensive promotion doesn't become over promotion.

Often times, the temptation for companies is to use hype as a way to get noticed, or to jumpstart its marketing for a new product. But this can be risky strategy long term because

hype can lead to dissatisfied customers as they find out that maybe the promised features don't do as much as they had expected.

But if a new product’s publicity matches the impact it will have on the market, this can minimize any negative reaction and set customer expectations properly.  If the product meets market needs and is well designed, it will catch on with customers, meaning it can replace hype with customer enthusiasm—the best way to generate buzz in the media and social media.

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