Wow! here came the iPhone

Today, exactly 10 years ago, Apple introduced the iPhone. During his keynote presentation at Macworld Expo in San Francisco, the late Steve Jobs told the audience that:

Today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products.
The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls.
The second is a revolutionary mobile phone.
And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.
So, three things: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough Internet communications device.
An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator.
An iPod, a phone… are you getting it?
These are not three separate devices. This is one device.
And we are calling it iPhone.
Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.

For the thousands of people in the auditorium, as well as for the crowd of technology enthusiasts like me that followed the event via a live blog, this was certainly a wow! moment.

iphone_jobs

This was one of these points in time when you recognize that a product or service is a must have that might change your life. Something powerful enough to make one say: “Wow! I’ve never seen (or heard) something like this in my whole life.” Or, like Jobs had perfectly described this moment a few seconds earlier in his speech:

Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything. And Apple has been – well, first of all, one’s very fortunate if you get to work on just one of these in your career.
Apple’s been very fortunate. It’s been able to introduce a few of these into the world.
In 1984, we introduced the Macintosh. It didn’t just change Apple, it changed the whole computer industry.
In 2001, we introduced the first iPod, and… it didn’t just – it didn’t just change the way we all listen to music, it changed the entire music industry.

So, as a product marketer and a public speaker, what can you learn from the January 9th, 2007 iPhone announcement? besides that the iPhone was – and still is – a great disruptive product. Here are a few tips on how to turn a new product introduction into a memorable wow! moment:

Sometimes a wow! moment just comes spontaneously (or even unexpectedly.) But if you want to make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to wow! your audience, then you’d better plan, script and rehearse your presentation well in advance.

The legacy of Steve Jobs

I just finished watching Apple’s “Let us loop you in” live stream.  A near-anticlimactic event without any spectacular new product announcements – but rather new features on, and different colors and sizes of the Cupertino company’s smartphones, tablets and watches (and wristbands.)

There were also no surprises in terms of the CEO’s presentation style. Tim Cook has never been able to reach the speaking heights of Steve Jobs, even though he keeps delivering a consistently good speaking job.

Tim_Cook

As Carmine Gallo observes in one of his Forbes articles, Cook has skillfully taken over the techniques of his famous predecessor to introduce new products. His presentations are also rich on photographs and images. And, even when Cook talks more statistics, his slides only have one number on it —the number he wants his audience to remember.

What is probably more remarkable than Tim Cook giving a Steve Jobs-like talk, is that nowadays almost any device manufacturer or software developer is trying to mimic Jobs’ presentation style and templates.

In some of my presentation skills workshops, I’m showing Bill Gates’ infamous slide that he used for  introducing Microsoft Silverlight. It’s a self-explanatory example on how overcrowded visuals may blur the message and overshadow the speaker.

gates

But, in preparation of writing this blog post, I watched some recent product announcements by some of Apple’s direct competitors: Samsung, LG and Huawei. Look at the video captures below. Sometimes it’s even hard to identify their visuals as not being created by an Apple designer. All of them have rigorously adopted Steve Jobs’ principles: focus, design and simplicity.

Samsung

LG

Huawei

The only advice they all might have missed is Jobs’ “Think different” – and in this case, probably, “Use different visuals” too…

More reading:

Your story is your brand (and vice versa)

The relationship between brands and customers often draws upon love and respect. A mix of ethospathos and logos. Isn’t that exactly what storytelling is about? As such, storytelling is probably one of the most powerful tools for brands and companies to communicate their core values, win more customers, and differentiate from competition.

Below are a few examples of how companies have used stories to take their customers on a journey, connect with them emotionally, or position their products and services beyond functionality and price.

Let me start with a quite recent one. When Amazon introduced their first smartphone last June, the invitation for the launch event they sent out was accompanied by CEO Jeff Bezos’ favorite children’s book “Mr. Pine’s Purple House.” As the book tells a story of being special, standing out from the rest and inspiring others, it was a perfect teaser for the Fire Phone – which, after launch, turned out not to be a big success.

My favorite brand story, however, is without any doubt the video that Apple created for launching the Macintosh in 1984. In exactly one minute, the company managed to articulate its mission, introduce its new product, and tell an unforgettable story – that contained all thinkable elements of good storytelling: suspense, emotion, metaphors, antagonist and protagonist, …

Another famous Apple branding example is the “Think Different” blitz, about which Steve Jobs said afterwards that “it took maybe 60 seconds to re-establish Apple’s counter-culture image that it had lost during the 90s.”

Similar ‒ but more controversial ‒ to Apple’s Think Different advertising is Johnnie Walker’s “Walk with Giants” campaign that shows videos featuring running legends Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat.

In an older post on this blog, I have written about a series of Hollywood-style movie trailers we created in Alcatel (today, Alcatel-Lucent) to pitch our portfolio of broadband solutions. “The Convergence Factor” was probably the most impactful, but certainly the most fun business presentation I created and delivered in my whole career.

Two other of my favorite brand stories come from FMCG giant Unilever. Ask any woman what Dove stands for, and she will tell you about the “Real Beauty” campaign, showing non-stereotype women, in different ages, shapes and colors, with real curves, wrinkles and spots.

Dove-firming

A memorable video published in the Real Beauty campaign reports on an experiment in which a forensics artist draws sketches of different women. A first one based on each woman’s personal description of herself, and a second one based on the description given by a stranger. Experience the movie and understand what makes it so powerful….

The “Lifebuoy” campaign, also by Unilever, hits the storytelling spot too. It addresses the necessity to change the hand washing behavior of one billion people in developing countries – and as such help reduce respiratory infections and diarrhea, the world’s two biggest causes of child mortality.

As can be learned from the Unilever examples, sustainability stories are often good recipes for success. A growing number of eco-, local– and fairtrade-labeled products succeed in seducing consumers with the promise of contributing to a greener, healthier and fairer world. Read also my post about “the good life”, which tells about a farm in Denmark that manages to sell eggs at three times the market price thanks to a “happy chickens must lay delicious eggs” message.

Another example of a sustainability message comes from my own employer’s “Campus in the Cloud” project that aims to bridge the knowledge gap for those who have no or little access to education by leveraging our in-house skills, talent and communications technology. Alcatel-Lucent employees share their knowledge by creating short (10-15 min) educational videos, which are made available to children and young adults.

Here’s one more. “Nike Better World” tells us how sports contribute to developing the next generation of youth with skills such as teamwork, determination, self-confidence, creativity, resilience, and physical and emotional health.

But not only big multinationals are good in story marketing. Belgian communication agency Mosquito introduces itself on LinkedIn with: “We believe that, whoever claims that his behavior cannot be changed by a small thing, has never slept in a room with a single Mosquito…”. You’ll never have to guess again about where the company’s name came from – or what it stands for.

More reading on stories and brands:

The thin red line

Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu surprised the United Nations General Assembly by drawing a red line on a sheet of paper, to make a statement about Iran’s nuclear program (watch the video on YouTube). Some bad tongues even say he needed this “special effect” to re-catch the audience’s attention after a rather boring speech by his Slovenian colleague.

This reminds me of another memorable example of a public speaker who conjured office stationery to make a point during a presentation.

In his MacWorld 2008 keynote, the late Steve Jobs presented the world’s thinnest notebook, the MacBook Air.  The Apple CEO introduced the new product with a photo of an envelope, told the audience that the MacBook was “so thin that it even fits inside one of those envelopes you see floating around the office,” and then pulled up and opened a real envelope that contained the new, ultra-thin laptop computer. (watch the video on YouTube).

Sometimes there’s a thin line between a good and a great presenter. Steve Jobs has always been on the right side of it. I don’t want to make any (politically correct or incorrect) statement here about the content of Mr. Netanyahu’s UN address or about his overall capabilities as a public speaker (he is neither on my list of favorite foreign politicians nor on my list of favorite speakers), but yesterday’s performance made him cross that line too.