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Few brands have perfected the sensationalistic product launch like Apple – though all brands aspire to that level of success. As we mark the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, what lessons from Apple can your brand apply for its next major product release?

Understand consumer desires

Before you can release anything, you’ve got to build it. And to do that, you’ve got to know what people want. When Steve Jobs announced the iPhone at Apple’s Macworld conference in January of 2007, he spoke initially about three products: an iPod, a phone and an internet communicator.

Each already existed, and the idea of updating them was pretty cool, and got a lot of applause. However, the big reveal Jobs was building to was even better: a new product that combined all three of those things in one device.

Social media was still in its infancy – so their research had to come from other sources – but now brands have the advantage of finding out what consumers want directly from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, etc. From the simple to the extraordinary, consumers share exactly what they want from you – constantly. Be sure you’re putting those insights to use!

Understand competitor offerings

Solving a problem for consumers depends on knowing where your competitors are excelling, and where they’re dropping the ball. Consider the above tweet: If you’re a store that is open 24 hours, social feedback like that is important for learning where there’s a gap you can fill. What does this customer need at 2:00 a.m. – and can you provide it? Do they know you can? These are just some of the questions to answer with your competitive analysis.

As Apple conceived the iPhone, it clearly understood what was already on the market – and no, to clarify, the iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone. But it revolutionized the smartphone, becoming almost as synonymous with the term as “Kleenex” is to “tissue.”

Focus on the customer experience

Improving upon competitor products and services isn’t something brands should do simply for the sake of it. You’ve got to have an eye on the consumer experience, and how your version of a product improves upon that.

As Apple examined the smartphones of the time – the Moto Q, Blackberry, Palm Treo, and Nokia E62 – it took note of the fact that their plastic buttons and controls weren’t adaptable to emerging software ideas, which limited them. Additionally, their keyboards were clunky, and often in the way even when they weren’t being used.

Apple focused on the User Interface – and the idea that treating the device like a hand-held computer solved a host of problems for both users and app designers. They got rid of all the buttons and made a giant screen that was controlled with the fingertips – something new, but easy to learn.

Steve Jobs explaining the drawbacks of 2007 smartphones; screencap from YouTube

Smartly, they synced everything through iTunes, something their customers already understood how to do. So they completely changed the User Experience for the better – with a learning curve that was hassle-free.

Understand how your brand is perceived

Something else to consider as you conceive new ideas is how your brand is perceived by your audience – and how you want to answer that perception.

Apple is known for revolutionizing tech – something they did with the mouse and the clickwheel. It was perfectly on brand for them to then deliver multi-touch as a next level UI enhancement. And their audience responded in typical fashion – waiting in line outside their stores for days in advance, hoping to buy this new product the second it became available.

Whatever your brand is known and loved for – that’s what you want to consistently deliver. That’s not to say you can’t top yourself – just don’t forget who you’re doing it for. If social listening and sentiment analysis don’t indicate a burning desire for a change to your best-selling product, be careful about updating it.

Use social media as an always-on focus group to understand exactly what your audience does want, and how to deliver it in the perfect way to succeed as you evolve.

And track social insights in real-time with every product launch, to understand how to better communicate new offerings to your customers. Do they need better access to customer service? Do they need a better understanding of what is changing and why? Whatever their needs and wants, the information is there – you just have to put your social listening tools to work to stay tuned in. And then respond. That’s what Apple would do.

For a master class in announcing a new product with excitement and humor, watch Steve Jobs’ 2007 Macworld keynote here. For a master class in applying social analytics to inform brand strategy, reach out!

Image from Yusuke Kawasaki

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