Of the eight stages involved in the new-product development process, commercialization is where the rubber meets the road. A complete market strategy for commercializing a new product must consider when, where, how, and to whom the product will be introduced. While market-entry timing, geographic rollout market identification, and early adopter/heavy user/opinion leader identification is critical, it is the execution of the introductory market strategy that will ultimately spell success or failure. Apple Computer’s marketing plan for the launch of its iMac computer provides an excellent example of how to properly introduce a product into rollout markets.1
In a marketing scheme that draws close parallels to his 1984 release of the original Macintosh, Apple CEO Steve Jobs demonstrated his mastery at brining a product to market. Jobs’ clear vision of the iMac’s critical path schedule, beginning with its dramatic May 6 introduction to the media, generated an excitement that was essential for Apple’s successful return to the consumer PC market after 14 years. Apple followed up on Jobs’ initial theatrics; their marketing strategy included an iMac countdown on radio stations nationwide, a giveaway promotion straight out of the book “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, casting Jobs in the role of Willie Wonka, and a midnight madness sale at major computer retailers on the eve of the iMac release. A $100 million ad campaign, Apple’s largest ever, was put in place to be sure the iMac buzz continued long after its initial release. And just what did Steve Jobs and Apple get in return for their flawlessly executed marketing plan? Apple’s stock tripled in value since the iMac unveiling, in the week prior to release, there were 150,000 advance orders for the $1,299 computer, and marketing researches estimate 7% of iMac buyers are converts from Windows-based PC manufacturers.2
1 Jim Carlton, From Apple, a new marketing blitz, The Wall Street Journal (August 14, 1998): B1.
2 Scott Thurm, Sales of Apple’s iMac blossom, retailers say, The Wall Street Journal (August 19, 1998): B5.