Months before the highly anticipated iPhone 4 announcement in 2010, a prototype of Apple’s newest creation was discovered in a bar in Redwood City, CA. Unintentionally left behind by one of Apple’s engineers, the top-secret device sent shockwaves around the world as images and videos were disseminated across the blogosphere. The company immediately denied the lost phone belonged to them, but the leak produced unprecedented hype and helped the iPhone 4 become Apple’s most successful product launch yet.
A “Fire-y” leak.
Fast forward a couple years to last month. Google launches a Kindle Fire competitor (the Nexus 7). Like clockwork, Amazon leaks information that they’ll be launching a comparable device within the month. Though a good intentional leak leaves no evidence that the company is involved, the timing in this case was far too coincidental to be anything but a pre-meditated act by the retail giant. The information leaked promised a quick timeline and was just enough to whet my appetite.
Amazon’s preemptive strategy worked on me. The leak infiltrated my purchase consideration and stopped me from preordering the competitor’s tablet until I could at least see what Amazon was offering. This ability to interrupt consumers during the purchase cycle and plant consideration for another product is an extremely powerful tool.
Quantifying social conversations.
Now, loving data like I do, I decided to dig into this a bit to see the quantitative impact this strategy had on buzz for both products. To do this, I used a social monitoring tool to search social networks and blogs for all public-facing mentions of both the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire. After collecting the data, I compared buzz volumes for both products and even saw the amount of conversation overlap (when someone mentioned both products within the same post).
What I found was that Amazon was able to stay in the mind of consumers during Google’s announcement, evidenced by a +145% boost in Kindle Fire conversations during the Google announcement.
Moreover, Amazon effectively hijacked one out of every five Google tablet mentions with mentions of its own upgraded tablet expected to be announced within the month.
While comparisons between the two products were bound to happen, the leak acted as kindling to the fire (pun intended), allowing Amazon to influence conversations and comparisons.
Most companies are afraid of unexpected leaks. However, with Twitter and other platforms helping drive the exponential growth of the social ecosystem, this social intelligence has become a must. Amazon and countless other companies have discovered that when done right, leaks can be used as a highly effective means of reacting to, and even shaping, the ever-changing consumer electronics marketplace.
By identifying and analyzing social communities that play host to their fans and advocates, marketers can stay ahead of their competition. They can respond quickly to competitive announcements, use the rumor-mill as a “test market” before finalizing product features and, perhaps most importantly, potentially stop impulse consumers from purchasing new competing products.
While the final verdict is not yet out on how these two devices will compete in market, what is clear is that Amazon has positioned itself in an excellent spot leading up to its product announcement. That is, unless another competitor pulls the same trick one week later, once again repositioning the battlefield.
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