How Steve Jobs Turned the iPad 2 "Cover" into a Hot Item

Over the past 10 years, Apple has done some amazing things. In the process, they have transformed themselves from a company on the brink of bankruptcy to the world's most valuable technology company. Perhaps their most amazing feat, however, is turning an accessory - the cover of the new iPad 2 - into the cover story.

Smart marketing

Most companies would design a cover for their product and sell it as a mere accessory. Not Apple. They created a brand identity for the cover by calling it the Smart Cover. It is a smart design (more about that later), but what is even smarter about the cover is the marketing strategy behind it. Apple gave the Smart Cover its own Web page. On this page, they create cleverly-worded benefit-focused sub-heads:

  • Great looks. And even better moves.
  • A magnetic attraction.
  • An on-again, off-again relationship.
  • A cover that's smart. And bright.
During the iPad 2 introduction, Steve Jobs emphasized the Smart Cover by making the point that it was designed with the iPad 2 and highlighting the fact that it was not an afterthought. He even punctuated its importance by introducing a movie-clip that features the Smart Cover. To take this one theatrical step further, Apple did not say much about the Smart Cover prior to the launch so that its introduction during the presentation would have greater dramatic effect.

Elephant's trunk communications strategy
This focus on the Smart Cover employs what I call the Elephant's Trunk communications strategy (ET) since an elephant's most unique and useful feature it its trunk. Using the ET strategy, marketers emphasizes a unique selling benefit of the product that will attract the most attention rather than dilute the marketing communication with features that competitors, and previous models, could also claim. The iPad is thinner, faster, and lighter than the previous version. As you have probably heard, it has cameras front and back and a built-in GPS. Based on Apple's successful track record, this is expected and deemed evolutionary rather than revolutionary by expert reviewers. What is not expected is such an elegantly-designed cover that has important functional benefits such as...

  • Automatically connects itself to the iPad when placed nearby
  • Turns the product on and off instantaneously
  • Holds the product at one angle for typing
  • Positions it at other angles for hands-free viewing
According to the New York Times, tech bloggers have used words such "magical" to "mind blowing" to describe the Smart Cover. In his blog Daring Fireball, John Gruber even says that "Smart Covers are so cool that I can imagine iPad 1 owners - who think they're happy to stick with what they've got - changing their minds and deciding to upgrade upon seeing Smart Covers in person."

Longer lines = Marketing is working

Around the world, lines of people to buy the iPad2 were even longer than they were for the original iPad and longer than expected. This indicates the marketing is working and the buyers are, once again, excited about the launch of an Apple product. What some may not know is these lines were orchestrated by Apple because they did not allow pre-orders. They did not want a reoccurrence of the reports of no lines at Verizon stores when the Verizon iPhone was recently introduced. And, according to Wired Magazine, Apple gave themselves a virtual monopoly selling Smart Covers (priced $39 to $69) during the first few weeks by not giving outside vendors access to the iPad2 before launch. Taken altogether, this is smart marketing.

How might you apply some of Apple's marketing techniques to the launch of your new products?


Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 30 articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. He is frequently interviewed by various media for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.
image courtesy of flickr user, mattsmacintosh