The following is a guest post from Senior Development Editor Barry Richardson.
I’m sure you’ve heard all about the iPad by now. The versatile tablet computer—smaller than a laptop, bigger than a smart phone—has enjoyed runaway success, rapid acceptance, and an almost missionary zeal among early users. Apple sold 3 million iPads in 80 days, 300,000 the first day they were available. Testimonials about the iPad have spread rapidly by word of mouth. I’ve heard friends, family, and co-workers rave about their new device and everything it can do, how portable it is, how it’s better than any other device for reading e-books, etc. More surprisingly, people who haven’t even bought an iPad—but who used their nephew’s or tried one out at the store—are also wildly enthusiastic. Some people who had no interest in the iPhone—“Who needs all those bells and whistles”—are ready to embrace the iPad.
The sensational response to the iPad—starting well before it had even come to market—clearly illustrates the core principles of a marketing strategy called “coolfarming.” In a recently published AMACOM book, Coolfarming: Turn Your Great Idea into the Next Big Thing, author Peter Gloor explains the step-by-step process that goes into creating a phenomenon like the iPad. (In fact, he references Apple more than once in his wide-ranging book as a shining example of “cool.”)
Coolfarming involves developing and nurturing innovative, cutting-edge ideas from the ground up—planting cool ideas and helping them grow. The goal is to be ahead of the pack with the latest product or service, something brilliant and original, something so cool it makes the user feel cool just for having it. The iPad is the very definition of cool. The underlying product has to be good to start with, but coolfarming means creating, testing, adding on, fine-tuning, and starting to get the message out about the product—or even the product itself—to a select group of interested people.
The key to building a better product and generating excitement is to enlist the help of dedicated, passionate collaborators. These people already are enthusiastic in the earliest stages of the new product’s development. Their input is sought for suggestions on improvements or added features—things they would like to see or what they think is missing. By the time the product reaches the end of the development stage, there are a number of eager supporters swarming around it, getting out the early word.
Is coolfarming a new idea? Not at all! One of the leading practitioners of coolfarming was Thomas Alva Edison. Time magazine recently published a special issue on Edison, which theorized that for all his amazing discoveries—the electric light bulb, the phonograph, moving pictures, etc.—his greatest achievement was Menlo Park, the research lab where he assembled other creative geniuses responsible for developing a large number of inventions that transformed society. Menlo Park was an “idea factory,” —a classic example of coolfarming—generating successful new products by harnessing the power of innovation and collaboration from several sources. Steve Jobs would have fit right in.
Thank you Barry!