iPhone 5 India launch: the missing ‘experience’ factor

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So Apple managed to sell virtually everything (albeit a relatively small quantity) that they shipped to India for the iPhone 5 launch. Given that it was a launch of a much-anticipated, global brand there were several elements missing in the marketing mix. For starters, there wasn’t any ‘official’ launch campaign from Apple. Tech blogs reported the Nov 2 launch and it was solely up to Apple enthusiasts to figure out pre-booking. Apple re-sellers held their launch events in metro cities and we learnt that only 16GB versions of the device were up for sale. Those who ordered the 32GB and 64GB versions were told that the delivery will ‘take some time’. A week after the launch, most of the re-sellers either do not have any stock or hold one or two pieces.

The sell out has been attributed to a new distribution system and enthusiasm from owners of 3G and 3GS version who were keen to upgrade. I would imagine most of the buyers would be positively pre-disposed to Apple in the first place and knew exactly what to expect from the iPhone 5.

To me, a critical element missing during the launch phase is the experience quotient, especially for the non-Apple device owners. What I mean by that is that not a road show or ground activation which other phone brands like Samsung & Nokia execute during launch phase. I don’t think Apple will ever do an activation in malls. But they do have re-sellers like Imagine Store, iStore, Croma and eZone displaying Apple devices like iPad & iPhones in malls outlets. The complete absence of an iPhone 5 in these outlets that too during the critical launch phase means potential consumers did not get a chance to play with the device and experience it first hand.

In a market obsessed with technical features, the only way Apple can negate some of the bad mouthing of its products (especially the iPhone and iPad which are always under the microscope) is to get the products into the hands of as many people as possible. That could also be done by offering a lower price but that’s (a) unlikely from Apple (b) not entirely in Apple’s control given the pricing structure on imports.

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