The prime objective of a new enterprise is to find a new market segment ("category") and set out to dominate it within five years, emerging as the "gorilla" of the new space with investors eager for its IPO.
To get there, your startup will need to be newsworthy. Reporters and bloggers have to be eager to write about it. Their readers must be excited to learn about what you are offering. Most of all, you cannot be boring. You must get the media to pay attention to you.
The iPhone business has achieved that. When you understand how, you'll be on your way to building a strong competitive advantage, a true unfair advantage.
Today's iPhone emotional sensations are a result of a long pathway of carefully planned and executed work. It is referred to in marketing terms as "PR" and in pop terms as "buzz". They mean the same thing: a lot of people are excitedly talking about your product offering.
This does not happen because of good luck or just because Steve Jobs did a meeting with the press. It is part of a campaign that contains a lot of careful planning and hard work by a lot of people.
From the first day the idea is presented inside the company, marketing people began preparing to communicate about the new child, the product. Like excited grandparents, they anticipated the birth event and began to talk about it to friends and anyone else willing to pause and listen.
As the product construction moves along, leaks begin about the (as yet not-announced) product. Most of the leaks are managed by the marketing people, deliberately, for calculated effect. Mystery attracts reporters and bloggers. Secrets are to be revealed by determined sleuths. Serial entrepreneurs understand that. Clever investors can make or lose fortunes based upon what they uncover.
Most clever new enterprises operate as "stealth startups" and work initially under disguised company names with fake websites. That attracts attention and probes. It is used by clever marketing communications pros to begin the roll-out of the PR about the new product.
As progress is made about the new device or service, more information is revealed about it. The rumors are circulated by the bloggers and emailers. Some facts are revealed about the new product by company marketing pros, teasing the curious. Competitors want to know more and begin to try to discover additional facts about this new enterprise that is beginning to get attention from the media.
Company officers begin speaking at industry gatherings. They divulge more bits about the new product. Professional product evaluators begin to speculate on their blogs about what it might be. Techies begin to discuss the features and compare them with real products and with others rumored to be coming from other stealth startups. Momentum ("buzz") builds and the general public begins to see short notes in their news about this mysterious thing that your startup is building.
Along this path the marketing people are focusing on getting this news to their target, their "ideal customer." That is the demographic profile of the people your company expects and wants to buy a lot of the new product. The marketing communications ("marcom") is crafted to bring a special message to these ideal customers: it is the value proposition. You propose to the ideal customer that she should purchase the new gadget as soon as it is on the market for a specific reason.
The words used in the value proposition are carefully crafted. When used to compare your gadget or service to the alternatives (your competition), you are being positioned. Positioning is putting your offering into an unoccupied slot in the psychological mind of the ideal customer. No one else can occupy that slot. It is your job to figure out where that slot is and to fill it. It is about perceptions. It is about emotions. In the end, every decision to buy something is an emotional decision. (Yes, engineers, it is all about emotions, not how the cool technology works or how fast it runs. I am also an engineer and I now understand this painful reality.)
There will be a primary deliverer of the marcom message for your new cool thing. Most often that will be the CEO. But if he is boring, you better find a spokesperson who is not. Boring is death. The most likely substitue will be your VP of Marketing or Biz Dev.
BOTTOM LINE: The iPhone is not just a bunch of disgusting hype. There is a well crafted device that works in a remarkably different way. What surrounds that gadget converts it into something more. That stuff is all about marketing communications. Studying the life cycle of an iPhone will help you craft the marcom plan for your company. Some of you will benefit by watching Joost do it. (Be sure to find bloggers pro and con about each company you decide to follow.) You too can attract a lot of media attention for good reasons. You can build buzz. It does not cost a lot of cash. It does take a lot of creative thinking. When you "get it" you'll be well on your way to crafting a true unfair competitive advantage.