Should I launch this product?

I need some advice.  Let me give you the facts.

  1. I have a new product that is going to create incredible immediate demand.  No questions asked.
  2. It is unique and it will take my competitors awhile to catch up.
  3. I will not be able to actually deliver the product until the middle of summer ’07.
  4. I have a name for it, but another company owns the rights to that name.

Here’s my question.  Should I announce my product and launch the marketing of it this week?

My guess is that most of you will tell me no.  Deal with the legal issues.  Don’t create demand you cannot fulfill.  And yet, Apple announced the iPhone this week and is now stuck in a quagmire with Cisco Systems suing them over the name and the actual product not being ready for months.

Maybe you’re smarter than I am and can help me figure out how in the world they talked themselves into thinking this week’s announcement was a smart strategy.

What do you think?

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21 comments on “Should I launch this product?

  1. Patrick says:

    I think they should have named it something else. To me this device is already getting people into an uproar because they are only think of it as a phone. If you think of it as a phone then yes, it’s way too much money but it’s really mobile computer even more so than a laptop and for a lot of people it’s as much computer as they will need. I personally would have named it the MacMobile, iCommunicator or something along those lines. That being said I still plan on getting this “whatchamacallit” for potential business I can get done with it.

  2. Brett Rogers says:

    How stuck on the name are you – are you open to other ideas? If so, why not announce a “Name My Product” process on your blog here and invite people to participate and then blog the whole event(s) and generate buzz with your unique, participatory approach?

  3. They announced it because they had to do something big for Macworld. Especially since the day before Microsoft’s Bill Gates got to keynote at CES where they showed off all the nifty new treats coming alongside the release of Vista.

    Essentially it breaks down to Steve Jobs’ ego and wanting to show up Bill and Microsoft.

    Regardless of their marketing mistakes, this product will be huge.

  4. Brett Rogers says:

    Hmm… I hate it when I try to multi-task and read a post wrong. Dang it… lol

  5. Patrick,

    Your comments make sense even if the iPhone name wasn’t already taken.

    You’re right — they’ve really done the product a disservice by suggesting it is just a phone.

    I have to think they knew about Cisco’s ownership. So maybe all of this was done with a grand scheme in place?

    Drew

  6. Brett,

    Actually your idea sounds very much like something Apple would do to celebrate the creativity of their community. I wonder what names people would have generated if given the chance?

    Of course, you could be smarter than the average bear. Maybe all of this “get sued over the name” is just the set up for exactly the consumer contest you described!

    Drew

  7. Andy,

    I have no doubt that you’re right — the product will be huge. I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts today about why its nothing to write home about. People are grousing about its size, hard drive capacity and low pixel camera.

    Not to mention the carrier issue. Lots of people have contracts etc. that they won’t be able to get out of.

    I agree…the move does smack of ego. But surely there is something more to it than that. Otherwise, I envision one of Jobs’ flunkies wrapping themselves around his legs to prevent him from climbing onto the stage.

    Drew

  8. Gavin Heaton says:

    The simple answer is “launch and learn”. Apple threw it out there and it took off … the strategy worked — and the details can be sorted out later. Even if they can’t get the name sorted, it doesn’t matter — that will also create buzz (and they will have a new name waiting in the wings).

    Apple knew that they had to claim the initiative for this and set the agenda. It will take at least 6-12 months for their rivals to catch up. And if they had waited to launch, then the iPhone would have looked like the “me too” rather than the “new kid on the block”.

  9. I think it was brilliant and exhibits a bit of the “screw you we’re different” culture of Mac and Jobs. Strategically, both Cisco and Apple can afford a legal battle and frankly, the “i-fill in the blank” name is SO inconicly Apple, that the fight is simply a legal formality. Cisco probably had to push to get their “iphone” to market for the “use it or lose it” protection for this kind of intellectual property. That seems obvious now. I’m impressed, pleased, and think it was the right move since during the protracted legal battle, Apple will likely gain billions in stock value, have another massive revenue/gp spike, and will fund the next generation of “Wow” device that will finally turn this portable device market on its ear.

  10. “Launch and Learn”, now that’s great phrase!

    But only big companies with deep pockets and lawyers on retainer can afford to fight it out as a secondary story to major buzz.

    For smaller companies, it’s a pricey gamble that most can’t afford to take.

    And I certainly wouldn’t (though I try to think like a “big boy” most of the time.)

  11. Naming is important, too important to forget in the heat of a launch. After all, the words we use have an impact on those who receive them.

    I agree, iPhone is diminutive and litigious (they knew about Cisco, so why go there?). Bob Sutton has a great riff about “Steve Jobs as the Poster Child for the Upside of Assholes” here http://bobsutton.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/01/steve_jobs_as_t.html

    This is a screen interface of a system, just like the iPod is. So why not call it the iSeeCall (nice ring to it, BTW) or something more creative than I can come up with on a rainy Friday after having Apple indigestion for several days. Good conversation!

  12. Mark True says:

    I’m more concerned about the availability issue. With the power of social networking and the buzz factor, why not hold on to this puppy a little while longer, leak names, leak capabilities and then monitor the buzz to improve the product before you bring it out….a high-tech trial balloon!

    I know the AppleGeeks in my world were talking about it before it came out…without all the details.

    As a marketer, I’d rather have all that litigation money for marketing efforts!

    -MT

  13. Gavin,

    There’s much to be said about stepping out first — you are right about that.

    Do you find it odd that they would lead with a name that they had to know full well they didn’t own?

    Drew

  14. Doug,

    Is there anything about the announcement/launch that you’d have done different?

    Drew

  15. Roberta,

    I do think you’re right in that large companies have more room and can recover from a mis-step. They have the resources to invest in a recovery.

    If Apple hired you to handle the launch…what would you have done?

    Drew

  16. Valeria,

    Even if Apple owned the iPhone name, I find it incredibly short-sighted in terms of all that the product can do.

    Maybe, as someone suggested, they used iPhone knowing full well they’d be turning to the citizen marketers to really give the product its final name.

    So…hang onto your ideas. You could be a billionaire.

    Bob Sutton’s comments were on the money — both in Jobs brilliance and that it is a brilliance that most of us would prefer to observe from a distance — rather than work with it.

    Drew

  17. Mark,

    Some are suggesting that the delay was intentional so as to create a frenzy when the product is finally available.

    I think there would have been the same frenzy if they announced it on a Monday and people could buy it the next day! That’s how the Mac folks are.

    What I find interesting is that no one is mentioning the single carrier decision. Lots of people who want the phone will not be able to buy it because of existing contracts with their current phone company.

    It’s going to be interesting to watch!

    Drew

  18. I don’t come from the big bright world of consumer products/branding so I probably would have spent more time in market research to address some of the issues y’all talking about, like the single carrier … contracts to dispose of, etc.

    But if I were the one to launch, I tend to vote with “Here it is, Now get it. Really, you can go get it now. Shoo, shoo. Get your tushy over to Best Buy (and make sure I had nice tie-ins.)

    Reason I say that is some research being done about Generation Whatever – wants everything now and doesn’t understand the meaning of the slow build.

    So give ’em the good news and turn ’em loose.

  19. Steve Harper says:

    Too many entrepreneurs fear that sharing their idea opens them up to having it stolen or duplicated. Though in today’s society I will admit we are all a little short on trust, I would submit to you that there is absolutely no rippling off the passion and energy that you will put behind the idea, concept, product or service. No one can take that and no one can likely execute on your “think” as well as you can. It is a part of you and that quite simply is just too damn hard to duplicate.

    I had a similar concern with the elements in an event that I created called The 8 Minute Ripple. I worried that my process could easily be adapted or copied and someone was going to steal it right out from under me. Though I will admit the concept isn’t hard to copy, people have tried and without the power of ME and MY RIPPLE approach, any knock-off cheap ass approach to doing what I do fails.

    At the end of the day it is the passion and my unique approach that makes my “think” mine.

    Just my two cents.

    Ripple On no matter what you decide!

    Steve

  20. Roberta,

    Hmm, your point about the “I want it NOW!” generation is a good one.

    I wonder, with a price point of $500+, who Apple thinks the audience is for this product? Then again, my daughter has more money than I do!

    Drew

  21. Steve,

    I think we are shifting from a place of “covertly protecting” our secrets to accepting, as you have, that the reality is — it’s not the ideas that are unique. It is our spin on them.

    You are wise beyond your years. Probably life lessons learned on Charlie’s Angels, eh? 🙂

    Drew

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