Virgil Winston: Marketing Guru

I am sure you have heard all the hullabaloo about Apple’s new iphone. If you haven’t, I can only assume that you have either: a) just awakened from a coma, or b) just returned from a prolonged trip in a third world country. Every techie and gadget guru with radio or TV show, column or blog has been frothing at the mouth waiting for the iphone to hit the open market. Those “in the know” were able to get the super buzzed about gadget ahead of time and the raves have been pouring in, non-stop. Due to an unfavorable incident at Mac World last year, which involved a rather loud disagreement between Mr. Jobs and myself, I was not one of them.

Unfortunately for me, Mrs. Winston was obsessed with having an iphone in her hot little hands the moment it hit the shelves, which meant I was in line at my local Apple Store at the crack of dawn on the day it was released. I settled into my Deluxe Cooler Chair for the expected five hour wait and tried to get comfortable. I had 300 fellow consumers to keep me company and Mrs. Winston was kind enough to pack my cooler with hot coffee and my favorite bagels, so I was well equipped to wait it out.
I couldn’t believe that I, a seasoned marketing man, fell for the hype but at least I had company—plus, I could always blame it on my wife. Actually, there is a very good marketing lesson here and we’d all do well to pay attention. After all, personal differences aside, nobody builds excitement for a new product like Steve Jobs. The man is an innovator. He understands that exclusivity and buzz do more to generate excitement for a new product than, well…anything. Of course it helps if your product is a super cool all in one gadget that does everything but make toast, but the point is still valid. If you have a product to sell or a service to offer, you want to get people talking. You want your company’s name to be on your potential clients lips. What better way to do that than with branded swag? I’ll tell you, make that custom imprinted swag “hard to get” and you’ll have people talking faster than an auctioneer on a coffee buzz. They may not stand in line for five hours, but they will certainly remember your name…and that’s the important thing.

I’ve got to finish downloading Abba’s Greatest Hits on my—er, Mrs. Winston’s new iphone. Until next time, remember what the great man once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”