Smarten Up

Smartphones and the cult of the new.

NUVO Magazine Winter 2014: Inquiring Minds, Smarten Up

New. Improved. Throw in free and you’ve got the three most powerful words in the English language. A lesson Silicon Valley learned very early. Get ’em pumped up about what’s new. Tell ’em it’s better than before. Give it to ’em for free—with a three-year contract, that is.

While there’s no denying the continuing attraction of free, the new and improved has been looking a little stale as of late—particularly when it comes to your smartphone. When the thing in your pocket can already take calls, send e-mail, snap photos, monitor your heart rate, start your car, and store pretty much every piece of music, text, and video you will ever own, really, what’s to improve?

The question posed a bit of a conundrum for those in the business of selling phones. The answer: invite Hollywood to the party. Over the past several years, product announcements from Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, and other big-name tech companies have taken on the vibe of a summer blockbuster premiere.

You don’t simply present your work—you romance it. Build up the buzz. Amp up the hype. Make sure there’s plenty of prelaunch “leaked” photos and blogosphere commentary. Give your product some far-out, vaguely sinister code name: Snow Leopard, Tumucumaque, or simply Project D. Replace your home page with a countdown of the days before the “big announcement”. The day of, keep ’em waiting for “one more thing…” Now that’s entertainment.

Hyperbole as marketing strategy, product as pageant—it was fun the first couple of times, but isn’t the bombast and spectacle getting a little tired? Don’t get us wrong: your phone is cool. But do we need the whole cult of the new? Do we need to stop what we’re doing and tune in to your PR stunt? Do we need the headlines and news segments and viral video of the über-hip camped out in front of your store to buy the next big status symbol? Do we need a gang of should-be-retired Irish rock stars to close out the launch party by giving away its new album? Suggestion: the phone is smart enough. Time to take the marketing to the same level.