You might think I'm referring to the time of year when college basketball re-emerges as an obsession and my free time is dedicated to rooting for my favorite teams, calculating probabilities for upsets and cheering on the underdogs. On one level I am doing this, but I can also say the same thing for the time of year when Apple announces new products, and rumors run rampant about new products they've yet to announce. It seems like every March or so when the blogs have a new Apple-related topic to run with. It's become an annual event!
Much like the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, the press latches on to hypothesize and debate whether Apple products will meet expectations and "win the championship." March Madness this year is centered on the launch of the iPad 2 and the rumors about the iPhone 5. The iPad and the iPhone have defined two distinct categories and continue to represent the cream of the crop. They're the Duke and North Carolina of the technology world. Much like Duke and North Carolina, they put forth a great team year after year and everyone is gunning for them. Much like Duke and North Carolina, there are lots of people who dislike them, and even more who attempt to emulate them, and even more who want to be them.
The Android platform, on the other hand, is the Kansas of the category, the team that seems to be winning a lot more as of late, but looks can be deceiving. The Android platform continues to grow because of distribution and not being tied down to a single carrier or handset. It's like having a junior college or a prep school that spits out great talent into the elite college programs year after year, and rarely gets the recognition. The Android platform may be a winning platform, but it has yet to have the single device that marries simplicity with an innovative form. Android may get the distribution, but Apple is winning the awards.
According to Apple, the second-generation iPad sold over 500,000 units in the first weekend. The first generation of the device sold over 15 million in the first nine months. The device isn't perfect, but nobody is. People have tried to create and sell tablets in the past, but Apple made it feasible. Android platforms are coming to market, but they don't have the excitement and buzz that the iPad has. They don't even rate a 2 seed or a 3 seed. They seem to get no higher than a 4 seed, because consumers are smitten with the strength of schedule for the iPad and some of its impressive wins. It's taken on a new role, it's improved, and it's continuing to sell. To use another sports analogy, it's the West Coast offense of technology. Once you see it in action, you want one. All the competition tries to replicate it, and only some people will get it right!
The same can be said for the iPhone. The rumors about the new version include a metal backing, a larger display, a better antenna and NFC included. If that's the case, Apple will have another best-seller on its hands. Of course, you could announce that the company was coming out with a new purple iPhone, and the masses would get excited!
The lasting impact of March Madness "technology-style" is actually a lesson to anyone trying to build a brand. It's a mixture of innovation and consistency. Like the auto industry, it's also based on planned obsolescence. Step 1: build a product that truly is unique, groundbreaking and stylistically innovative. Step 2: build simple, consistent, easy-to-understand messaging around your unique offering and surround your audience with that message. Step 3: create regular excitement, in this case annually, where your audience can look forward to something new and interesting. Step 4: revisit your product or service and never rest on your laurels. If you follow these easy-to-understand steps, you could create a brand as strong and beautiful as Apple.
In the meantime, good luck with your brackets! I hope you pick a winner!