iTunes Success – Impact on Digital Marketing?

Posted: August 1, 2007 in Digital Entertainment, Emerging Media, Mobile, Society & Culture, Trends

 Ever wonder why when Steve Jobs speaks, the music industry listens so closely? Yesterday Apple announced that iTunes has sold over 3 billion songs in the last 4 years, and that it recently surpassed Amazon and Target to become the third largest music retailer in the US. That is big news…especially considering that 10 years ago Apple was on the way out. The digital ecosystem has allowed Apple to reinvent itself and there’s a big lesson to be learned here.

So what is it about iTunes that made it such a success? Note that I refer to iTunes, not to the iPod. Selling iPods has become  a conduit to selling music, and now video content. The way Apple puts it “the iTunes Store is the best way for PC and Mac® users to legally discover, purchase and download music and video online”.  To me, the key word in this sentence is discover — it is experiential. iTunes has made it easy and convenient for the millions of consumers who own iPods to find and buy specific tracks as well as discover new music.

However, interestingly enough, Apple’s iPod only accounts for 12.9% of the market (although the mindshare is far greater). Apparently, mobile devices with built in MP3 players outpace iPod sales 7 to 1 (Communities Dominate Brands), and this trend has been key in the development of the iPhone, which will only become another conduit to sell more muic and more video content.

So what does this have to do with digital marketing you ask? Everything…

Is there anything revolutionary about the iPhone? Well – yes and no. YouTube on my phone? Been there for sometime now. Music? already have it. The internet on my phone – can it be? Yes, and it was for a long time. So what makes the iPhone important to us marketers? Simple -the increased mindshare, the streamlined browsing experience and easy access to the mobile online experience to a large group of consumers who have thus far ignored it — a group of consumers who primarily use thier phones for…making phone calls. But today’s devices can provides much more, and the iPhone will push the drive for innovation in the consumer experiences of the other devices. Maybe we are headng towards a tipping point possibly? I’m expecting greater levels of experiential adoption of the services and tools on all mobile devices, not just the iPhone. That’s exciting news for the rest of us!

As platforms become less important than the experiences themselves (i guess that has always been true), the models that make blending experience and commerce easy and convenient will continue to bubble up. Unfortunately, Joe & Jane Consumer don’t always know how or where to readily jump into these experiences, and our budgets don’t always have the bandwidth to accomplish this level of awareness.  So every once in a while, we need someone to add fuel to the fire. This year, the iPhone marketing campaigns and subsequent buzz were the equivalent of squirting charcole lighter fluid onto a dimly lit BBQ.

As we move closer and closer to the days of matching relevant content and marketing to consumers in a platform/medium agnostic manner, we can all thank those who every so often add the fuel to the fire – we all benefit from the “collateral damage”.

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