Objects of Desire: A Marketer’s Perspective

Okay, I admit it, I am an early adopter. If it’s new, if it’s shiny then I am probably hatching a plan for why I need it. The iPad was no exception. So it was really no surprise to my colleagues or family that I just had to have one. But the question is why? I am swimming in computing power at the office and home. Within my reach at any given moment is my laptop, my BlackBerry, high-speed Internet access, a myriad of hard drives, and peripherals that let me be a marketing strategist, or a videographer, or a musician. Then there are other times I am a learner, or a consumer, or an audience. Clearly I do not need another screen, right?

Well, the iPad has got me thinking about what business Apple really is in. It is not computers or phones or MP3 players. Apple is in the business of seduction. It creates beauty. It creates objects you desire and want to possess.

It starts before we even see the product. Off in the distance we hear rumours of something new from Apple. There is talk of a new device, and Apple’s history of innovation feeds the rumour mill. “What will it be?” is the chat around the water cooler, or its digital equivalent, Twitter. Then there is the announcement, straight out of the P.T. Barnum playbook, complete with its own ringmaster, Steve Jobs. Steve is a master marketer because he gives the audience what it wants to hear. Hope. Hope that there is a computer out there that will lets us live happier and more productive lives. He breaks the story down to a simple clear message. You can feel his passion for the new and his frustration for what current technology does not deliver.

Next is the reveal. The iPad is elegantly simple. It is seductively sleek and seems to be missing everything you think a handheld computing device would need. Steve Jobs hates buttons – he never wears buttoned shirts and you don’t see many on his devices. It looks more like an object of fashion and less of a technology device.

The packaging is great, simple and to the point. It shows the product and little else. You do not see features and benefits, system requirements, and marketing hype. The packaging is as beautiful as the product. In short, you want to keep the box.

Opening the iPad box was like Christmas Day. Each layer of the package was simple and beautiful. The power cord and the owner’s manual were clear and self-evident.

Getting it running was simple. Three minutes was all it took for me to get it running, another two minutes and I was buying my first movie and application from the iTunes. Seamless from start to finish.

People want to hold it, as seen by my daughter who ran in from school and grabbed it out of my hand and disappeared into her bedroom. She emerged an hour later and handed it back to me with five more applications loaded onto it. She had Facebooked her friends and told the world she had a new iPad. Well, it was nice while it lasted.

All this to say that marketing is more that just telling your audience what your product or service can do for them. It is about creating an end-to-end experience that starts long before the product is launched and continues long after the product is sold.

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