May 4, 2010 -By Ilana Bryant
The cultural hysteria around Apple’s new iPad has left many marketers wondering whether it really is a breakthrough platform or just a new flavor of Apple Kool-Aid. I suggest marketers sit up — or lean back or lie down or get in whatever position is best for using this titanium tablet — and take notice.
iPad sales hit 1 million in a third the time it took the iPhone, according to Apple. It works in more usage contexts than PCs, laptops and smartphones, and it will take companies where other technologies can’t go. It brings a brand into every room in the house in a larger, more consumable format, enabling people to relax with it on the sofa and use it lying in bed. And the potential for a 3G-enabled iPad outside the home is huge. (A harbinger is the current success of the Star Walk app that lets the user put the iPad up towards the sky and be an amateur astronomer.) I’m personally looking forward to outdoor iPad opportunities for auto, travel, and home and garden brands.
As far as it being a mobile-entertainment platform, it’s better for viewing content than laptops, reading devices or smartphones. Its larger screen and clever, wide-viewing angle feature ensure good views of the images even when the tablet is held sideways.
And TV advertisers, take note: Recent qualitative research from PHD among iPad owners indicates the iPad TV experience is so good that many respondents forecast it will replace the second and third TV in their homes and, possibly, their primary TV sets. ABC’s TV app, which offers free access to the network’s shows in exchange for users watching five traditional 30-second ads per hour, generated millions of ad impressions in the first 10 days of the iPad launch.
Additionally, the iPad can create stronger emotional experiences than a smaller screen — an obvious plus for brands. Removing the mouse brings the brand experience closer to the user, and the screen’s size means we’ve moved from widgets to truly sensory experiences. Both consumer and neurological research shows that being able to interact with brands through sight and sound experiences can result in stronger emotional connections, brand associations and memory recall.
Pampers leveraged this interaction with “Hello Baby,” its app designed especially for the premiere of iPad, which allows pre-natal moms to experience their baby’s changes week-by-week with simulated life-size, 3-D images and baby sounds.
The iPad’s cinematic, touch-screen experience is also game changing. People, for instance, are buzzing about the app Elements: Visual Exploration (an interactive look at the periodical table) because of its visually breathtaking approach to the normally mundane table. Imagine the potential of this device for the visuals in print magazines. The iPad also has a willing audience of e-readers waiting. According to a CNET poll taken last week, 20 percent of iPad owners bought it for the primary purpose of reading books and magazines.
Additionally, the tablet offers a unique platform for social interaction with a brand. If you have wrestled with others to view pictures, videos or text on iPhone handsets, you know the benefits of the iPad screen. It’s also great, of course, for movies and board games. I think we’ll see a lot of multiple-user games taking off.
The iPad, which is more like an appliance than a computer, also reaches less tech-savvy audiences with high-technology capabilities. Its menu of apps is simple to use, and there are no folders so you don’t have to worry about where you save stuff and where you install it. Once the iPad goes mainstream, it will be a perfect platform for older consumers.
We know that the iPhone interface has resulted in much greater Internet use than other smartphones. And it’s clear in its first month out that the iPad has had the same impact. According to Web metrics firm NetApplications, the approximately 500,000 iPad users have a larger Internet consumption — in terms of percentage of Web traffic terms — than 30 million-plus BlackBerry users over the same period.
There’s also the product lust it inspires — for itself — which will generate more usage and thus more marketing possibilities. It’s a beautiful device that inspires the visceral reaction, “I have to have one.” Just as the phonograph was originally invented as a telegraph recording device (a relatively vertical audience) and was quickly adopted as a music recording device, and Twitter evolved from being a tool for social updates to a social organizing tool, so the iPad will likely be embraced by users who will find additional applications for it.
The launch of Apple’s iAd service that allows app developers to create advertising experiences within applications also means there’s the potential to develop new kinds of in-app ad formats.
To put it simply: the iPad is a solution waiting for a problem. And when marketers start figuring out what problems the iPad can solve for them, things will really get interesting.
Ilana Bryant is chief strategy officer at StrawberryFrog. She can be reached at Ilana@StrawberryFrog.com.