Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Apple introduces the Twiggy, the impossibly thin new iPhone 5

iPhone 5. Thin, very thin.
I stand among the irrational customers of Apple who got hooked on the Cult of the Mac and the late Steve Job's  famed "reality distortion field." I bought the original Mac and stayed with the company during its worst years when some of its products were overpriced, not greatly superior in overall value and, gasp, not even that attractive.

I also stand among those who follow the best in marketing and Apple is unsurpassed at engaging its base and igniting passion. The announcement today of Apple's new iPhone 5 is a case in point.

Apple's Jony Ive: "Your iPhone...unique relationship."
It's easy to make fun of designer Jony Ive's videos selling products, but they work  (e.g., iPhone sales and Apple's share price). Ive takes an object and gives it a personality and presence that's almost too private to discuss in public. It's a "unique relationship."  (He speaks respectfully). You'd hardly realize it's a handheld computer that so far has been a pretty lousy telephone. Where Jobs emphasized words like "magical," "revolutionary" and "amazing," making himself both CEO and responder to the Apple experience, Ive has shifted the ground to more objective but still effective language, chiefly "thin." It's almost as if Apple is selling thin. And nobody is complaining that a $2,000 or so device (counting cost of that 2-year contract) is now obsolete.

Apple exists in the real world so each iteration of a product, however "revolutionary" at birth is only that, an iteration, as customers complained about the iPhone 4S (which nonetheless sold in huge volumes). In introducing the iPhone 5, the first emphasis goes to thin, hence my playful nomination of Twiggy as a name for the phone. This suggestion will fail faster than a Newt Gingrich run for the presidency because only the wrong demographic has heard of Twiggy, an ultra thin British supermodel from the 1960s.

The iPhone 5 has some other improvements. It's also faster. But that can be said or even expected for any new computing device. The camera is improved, ditto for that. The screen is bigger, still no big excitement. What does Apple do? Interestingly, Apple takes you into the manufacturing process, where its innovations may be matched by others but certainly not presented in so seductively (how did they do that?). Apple makes its sausage making almost as desirable as its sausage. Few competitors even try to compete in this area of marketing. Apple engages the customer with the creation (idea) and execution (manufacturing). The product itself is a story, to borrow from another context, hope and change. It's a brilliantly executed effort at deepening customer passion by extending customer awareness into further reaches of the company and the brand.
Twiggy: very thin and she sold clothes

When you view the new Apple video promoting the iPhone 5, check out the relatively small amount of time is given to scenes of customers actually using the device. For this essay, I watched the video once. If it has  muchvideo of customers actually interacting with others as they use the device, that did not stick in my head. I'm thinking of the solitary person shooting a panorama image, but mostly I'm thinking of Ive's bold positioning of the device as a thing of intimacy and desire. The bulk of the video makes a luscious presentation of a hunk of wires and silicon transformed into an object of art.

Are you not entertained? Have you been moved so effectively at a deep level that you must have one, no matter what the price? That's how I got my first Macintosh. Apple does this so well. To buy is to belong. To buy is to gain cool. Brilliant.

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