the best ever viral campaign – and it didn’t even need the internet…

On October 23rd 2001 Apple launched the iPod, it is a classic device and much has been written about it’s success… By 2009 it held 82% market share. It cannot be denied that the iPod is a great product, its easy to use, good UI, good looking and it generally just works, however it is not perfect… there are problems with overheating and it never really led the market in technology, the Iriver for example had a much larger hard drive and colour screen and multi-format storage when 10GB iPods were still black and white, so what made the iPod such a success and how the hell does that link back to my title?

Apple doesn’t do social media, no presences, no engagement, no seeding of content, no attempt at stimulating offline WoM, nothing. However the iPod was a social masterstroke for 1 major reason: white headphones!!

Every MP3 player had black or dark coloured headphones, so did every CD, Minidisk (remember those) and cassette player for every brand, good and bad… And as most people keep their music players hidden in a pocket or bag there was no way to differentiate or associate between brands. What I mean is this: in Fashion I associate myself with certain brands mostly because other people I want to be like do so, not celebrities, just people. We all do the same, we see someone we associate with as they look like us or who we want to be like and we look at how they stand, what they wear and we mimic… it is human nature, we steal fashions and ideas – that is how fashion works.

That is what iPod did with white headphones. As soon as we started seeing people like us with white headphones on the tube we all wanted to know what they were using, what MP3 player was it, it sparked curiosity and interest by disrupting the norm of black headphones, it made the headphone a fashion statement, it made the iPod a fashion statement.

That is why, in my humble opinion Apple are the best viral marketers ever! – I am not sure if this was a stroke of luck  or if this was intentional but we can learn from it either way…


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