Owning the news cycle
Apple's ability to dominate tech news cycles before, during, and after its special events is mind boggling, and unique not just in its industry, but essentially all industries. What other company's special events get so much attention? The closest analogy I can think of is something like the annual State of the Union address. The press speculates on what the President will say, the President says something, and then the press talks about what the President said. It's a days-long story.
But Apple--as surprising as this may be--isn't the leader of the free world. That it captures so much media (and, thus, consumer) attention is exceptional.
Remember the Mobile World Congress? Don't feel guilty if you're not sure what that is. The event, hosted annually by the GSM Association in Barcelona, concluded just last week. It's a massive mobile industry exhibition and conference--and Apple doesn't participate. It's not coincidental that the four-day event attracts only a mere fraction of the mind and media share that a 90-minute Apple event will generate. In skipping out on the Mobile World Congress, Apple doesn't harm itself a whit; it scored a week's worth of coverage by sending out invitations for an event taking place a week later.
How Apple does it
So why do Apple's special events attract such extensive excitement and coverage? Put simply: Apple's earned it. In general, the company--at least in the modern era kicked off when Steve Jobs returned as CEO--is fairly stingy with when it doles out these special events, and clearly aims for each one to contain multiple "Wow" moments.
Remember that Apple didn't schedule a special event to announce Mountain Lion; the company privately briefed various tech journalists in private. It could have scheduled an event like 2010's Back to the Mac unveiling of Mac OS X Lion, and that surely would have scored the same degree of press coverage before, during, and after. But the less frequent Apple can keep such events, the more special those events become. Clearly, there's no immediate risk of Apple Event Burnout yet, and I consider the non-existence of a Mountain Lion event a preventative measure.
By ensuring that each event is, to use a favorite word of Apple's, "magical," the company keeps us (consumers and reporters alike) coming back. It's not just about good marketing, good keynotes, and reality distortion: The key is that Apple continually uses its events to showcase truly amazing and innovative products. Each Apple event is only as good as the products unveiled during that event; for the most part, those products are very, very impressive.
To explain why other companies can't recreate the hoopla that surrounds Apple's events, then, is actually pretty simple: Other companies can't consistently create products as hoopla-worthy as Apple.
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