Apple vs Google: who launched it better?

The launch of Google's new Pixel phone provides an interesting challenge to Apple, especially when it comes to launch marketing, says Matt Lawton.

Ask 100 people what recent product launch they recall and you’ll hear a lot of them talk about Apple. They’ve become the cliched reference point when it comes to product launch success even for people who don’t watch Gruen.matt-lawton-five-by-five-sydney

Such is Apple’s notoriety that it may have even transcended being useful to marketers as a blueprint – to emulate its success seems the impossible task. How did this happen and how should its rivals be competing in the high stakes world of launch marketing?

Launch marketing. It’s a thing. Journalists flown from around the world to attend a launch event in San Francisco. Live streaming executive presentations, carefully co-ordinated ad campaigns and hands-on demos. It’s definitely a thing and Apple wrote the rulebook. But perhaps what it did most effectively was to establish a consistent calendar for launching new products.apple-iphone7

We now know that every October/November there will be a new iPhone. Better, sexier, more powerful than its antiquated predecessor that’s now so scratched and boring. Apple learned from the world’s largest entertainment franchises that had already established this pattern.

Think of how Call of Duty habitually refreshes its product offering every November. Consumers know it’s coming and so defer alternative purchase decisions or slate it for purchase and everybody else falls into line around it. Apple dictates the tech landscape in exactly the same way.


So if you’re Google, what do you do? Its new Pixel phone launched yesterday and drew a mixed reaction based on how it acknowledged Apple in a lot of what it revealed and how it revealed it.

Handset colours and certain design features all speak to the elephant in the room. I read a comment on social media that summed up the sentiment of one camp: “If you compare yourself to your competition, you’ve already lost.”

The other side of the argument is that the comparison will be made regardless of whether one acknowledges the elephant so why not take the opportunity to own that narrative?google-pixel-and-pixel-xl

Samsung’s brand equity, with phones at least, seems to be built around lifestyle, and that’s supported by features such as waterproofing, etc.

Apple owns sexy, genius tech. So where did this leave space for Google to evolve out of its rather nerdy Nexus territory? Pixel goes head-to-head as a product with the iPhone in terms of its look and feel and the advancements it brings, so to me it makes absolute sense that Google chose to square up to Apple and slap them in the face.

There’s a sense of confidence in the launch of Pixel that you don’t often see when a cage is rattled by an aggressor who often turns out to be spoiling for a fight they know they can’t win but they’re hoping for some limelight to be shared.

In this case, Pixel’s features usefully solve nagging issues such as data storage, herald a new world of VR and meet the obligatory need for camera improvements.

This allows Google to launch Pixel, very confidently, directly against the iPhone, and launch it in a similar way. If it can disrupt the metronomic marketing machine of Apple and establish its own, it may just be able to claim some of that brand equity Apple have had locked down for so long.

Matt Lawton is the managing director of Five by Five, an independent launch marketing agency


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