Generating “Buzz”

With the Consumer Electronic Show just having been completed I think it is a good time to talk about one of those things that every technology provider strives for which is to generate a certain amount of “buzz” around a future product.  It is so very important to the success of any new product that people begin  to talk about it before the product is released.  Certainly out of this years show there was a lot of noise generated around Google’s Android platform, with companies making a big push to showcase upcoming releases of both phones and tablets.  Companies like Verizon, Samsung and Motorola did a lot to push the new releases of Android based tablets, pinning future success on the release of the product.

There are some good historical examples.  The “buzz” generated around Microsoft Windows 95 or the “buzz” created around the Apple iPhone.  In each case you had people lined up at midnight to get the product.  This is great stuff, but there is another type of “buzz” that gets created underneath all that and that is creating the excitement in the developer community.  The people who make the cool apps for the Apple app store or Google store.   Without developers extending and creating a market place an application can have a very short life span

My last role at Microsoft there was a commitment that everyone had to sign up about creating “buzz” in the development community for Microsoft Developer tools .  To clarify for those with no Microsoft background every employee signs up for a “commitment”, which is a goal that will be either fulfilled or not fulfilled come review time at the end of the Microsoft fiscal year.  This determines salary increase, bonus and promotion.  Anybody reading this probably has the same question is what the hell does “generating buzz”  mean?  Being developer land, my first thought was “good luck…with that”.  How are less than 100 people out in the field going to generate excitement around Microsoft Developer technologies, especially when there are so many dependencies? 

To be fair to create buzz goes beyond assigning a few people it really takes a commitment beyond a few individuals, to multiple organizations to external partners.  One of the keys to Apple’s iPhone success was not just the whisper campaign they were generating.  They also had a behemoth like AT&T behind them and they were fully bought in, up to their neck.  Not like the dipping their toes into the water effort they did with the Windows Phone 7 launch.

Another key success factor is just having a product, because it is the end game , it is where you are trying to take the consumer.  When the product launched there is a certain level of satisfaction in having got there.  Sometimes tech companies are guilty of trying to generate excitement without really telling the end customer what to be excited about.  Usually it is to try to get people excited about the company.  Coming from my background at Microsoft the last years seemed to be spent trying to recapture the glory of yester year.

Having a certain level of “buzz” is the difference between having momentum and not having momentum.  When you have the ear of the consumer and the press then a new phenomena sets in, which is “what is next?”  In todays world Apple certainly has tha momentum.  They have the iPod, iPhone, MacBooks,i Pad, Apple Store…they really are in the zone right now here they are setting the industry direction.  Google now is starting to get beyond just being a search company with first Android and next Chrome. Facebook maybe has more momentum than anybody as under their CEO Mark Zuckerburg, they have that “it’s a young mans game” syndrome going.  Similar to what Bill Gate’s had back in the 80’s and 90’s.  It’s the difference between rolling the boulder up the hill or down the hill.

Finally with regards to CES and why it has become what it has. A big reason is that technology is pervasive in everybody’s lives today.  It is not restricted to the “nerd” or “geek” or “hobbyist”.  We all have technology in some capacity of our lives.  It is our cell phones, flat screen TV’s, Tivo, game console’s, Roomba’s, etc.. The Consumer Electronics Show is about showing off how technology is going to further enhance our day-to-day lives in the near future.  Any company participating better not be showing off what is already available.  Attendees want to see the coming years Christmas purchase, not what they already have.  They want the participating companies to wow them.  In short they want some “buzz”.

Good Night and Good Luck

Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 10th, 2011

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