A Look at the Apple Hype Machine

February 2nd, 2010

Steve Job is considered one of the great showmen in the business (showpersons?), and the reputation is, I think, well-deserved. I’ve watched him live many times, and saw that the secret of his success on stage is no accidental talent. As one first hand, in-depth article points out, in U.K.’s The Guardian:

Steve starts his preparation for a keynote weeks in advance, reviewing all the products and technologies he might include. Although development and release schedules are set far in advance, he still has to satisfy himself that the chosen products are keynote-ready. For software, this can be hard to decide: the engineering work is usually still underway, so he will make a preliminary determination based on seeing unfinished software. More than once this has caused some tense moments in rehearsal when programs haven’t behaved.

Several reporters at the recent iPad launch wrote that when the doors opened they were nearly trampled by the crowd forcing its way into San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center, hoping for front-row seats.

Despite this success, I cringe at one thing that Steve also launched into the business. He has mastered the overuse of superlatives, designed mainly to get the docile, loving audience whipped into a frenzy of belief that what they are seeing truly is “amazing,” “fantastic,” “magical,” “revolutionary,” and more. With thanks to my colleague Jon Robinson, I saw this lovely YouTube video today, which well-illustrates the point:

Steve can get away with this stuff, and keep ’em coming back for more. Some of you have no doubt had occasion to cringe watching similar efforts from lesser presenters.

Steve has reached the treasured pinnacle that most presenters can only dream about. Even if you find yourself doubting that the launch will be a success, and remember that Jobs has never batted 1000, you’ll soon be reminded by a colleague, blogger or journalist that “It rarely pays to bet against Steve Jobs.”