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01/28/2008

Disruptive Marketing

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Typically a service disruption is bad for business. For example, when an online store goes down it means lost revenue and aggravated customers, right? Well, Apple's turned what might be considered bad service into a marketing tactic. While most companies try to downplay technical difficulties, Apple hypes them. You might've noticed they even highlight their service disruptions with a cute "We'll be back soon" Post-It icon. It's not there to be condescending; it's actually a signal. As the BusinessWeek Apple blog notes, when the Apple Store is down, "that's often an indicator that a new product is about to be announced." Apple has turned an inconvenience into a positive newsworthy event. Now anytime the store is down, the likes of Engadget and Gizmodo, as well as the hundreds of Apple fanboy sites, report it and the speculation begins. When the store's back up what new product will be there? A Mac tablet? An ultraportable Macbook? A pink iPod Nano for Valentine's Day?

It's an unconventional and innovative approach to marketing - it fundamentally transforms a negative into a positive, it creates suspense, and it builds in viral marketing. But it can have its drawbacks. As BusinessWeek points out, that "We'll be back soon" icon doesn't always mean a new product is about to be revealed. Sometimes it means that the site is just down - you know, for maintenance or technical problems or some other nuisance. Has Apple, in using this marketing device, created unrealistic expectations? Probably. But as long as they don't suffer too many unwanted outages and regularly deliver on the promise of innovation, they'll continue to get invaluable free publicity.

Goes to show that virtually anything can be turned into advantage if you apply a little creative thinking.


Update: This blog entry has been recently published on both Chief Marketer and the U.K.-based uTalk Marketing.

January 28, 2008 in Branding, Cult brands, Customer experience, Discipline of marketing | Permalink

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