The Barnum-Like Apple Hype

Posted: Sep 25, 2012 12:01 AM

I’m not an Appleite, Appletonian, Applethusiast, or whatever else the Apple lovers call themselves. 

However, the other night I savored the same thrill of those who wait in line for hours for the newest Apple product. 

In fact, it’s the same thrill that people experienced while waiting in line to see the bearded lady, or the two-headed boy, or the even the boxing kangaroo that was often exhibited by P.T. Barnum. 

Without question, Barnum knew that curiosity and lemming behavior went hand-in-hand. 

If the “barker” was saying that the best place to spend “one thin dime, one-tenth of a dollar” was on the inside of the tent and there didn’t seem to be anyone entering, then obviously it was all just hype.  (A 21st century term, but what Barnum was a master of.) 

However, if the “barker” added, “Look at the line to get in, folks, you don’t want to be shut out.”  And in fact the line stretched as far as the eye can see, no one was being let in, some were paid to wait, and others just liked the camaraderie, the curiosity overwhelmed the practicality. 

A two-headed boy, really? 

Yet, so it was with me the other night as I attended a movie that I had really wanted to see.  Nevertheless, the lines to get into another movie overwhelmed my curiosity, and I succumbed to what was truly a terrible flick. 

It doesn’t happen very often, my copycat behavior, but when it does I vow it will never happen again. 

Both P.T. Barnum and Steve Jobs knew that long lines play well, look good to the media, and are like magnets to the unwary.  

The other tactic Barnum used was to say “Sorry folks, all sold out, you’ll have to come back tomorrow night, oh, and bring a friend.” 

Yes, putting a few more chairs in the arena would be logical but it certainly didn’t create the additional buzz of being “sold out.” 

So to have the Apple brass adapted a circus technique. 

Assume you’ll sell 7 million, but only deliver 5 million. 

Tell the person at the counter, “Sorry, all sold out – next time stand in line,” but instead, deliver in a week. 

Implement whatever technique you can in order to keep the lemmings coming. 

When a product can’t stand on its own two feet, much like the two-headed boy, then the use of circus tricks are warranted. 

Barnum knew it, and so does current Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Indeed, watching the Apple iPhone 5 hype and long lines would have made good ole P.T. very, very proud.