3 Communication Lessons from iPhone Launches

It seems like every 6 months Apple does it again.  Somehow they are able to capture the imagination of literally millions of people to get them to line up at their stores to purchase the latest version of their devices.  It’s breath taking.  It’s beyond just a successful business and is moving into a cultural defining experience.  ”Have you stood in line for an iPhone?”  Just this past Sunday I heard of a kid who is going as a “Mac Genius” for Halloween this year!

What lessons can we pull out from the way that Apple rolls out it’s new iPhones for the way we roll out launches at our churches?

  • Earn the Right to be Heard Again. // When the first iPhone came out the world celebrated that Apple sold 1 million units in 74 days. The iPhone 3g took just 3 days to get to 1 million units.  The iPhone 5 sold a staggering 5 million units in the first 3 days. Apple has successfully released multiple generations of a “wow experience” to it’s users.  This has earned them momentum and creditability for every subsequent release.  Apple does more than just hype it’s release … it delivers on an excellent experience.  They are known for that delivery and therefore people believe the hype the next time around.  Are we delivering an experience that matches our hype? Is that event really “an amazing spiritual growth opportunity?” Will the kids day camp really “make memories that will last a lifetime?” When our execution matches our communication it creates a virtuous loop where people are more willing to listen to our communication in the future.

 

  • Their Solution Matches Our Problems // Apple has always had a keen ability to see through the typically “technobabble” and actually communicate to the public that their solution solves our problems.  The features of their products line up with real world needs (or wants) of real people. They are masters are connecting the dots between what they have made and how that will help us in our lives. Are being clear “what’s in it for our them” or are we simply describing our solution to our people?  Do people really want a 10 week study on Biblical financial stewardship or do they really just want to know how to get out of debt? Our small groups are great places to meet people, grow spiritually and serve the community … but do folks in our church perceive that they want to meet people, grow spiritually and serve the community? Do we spend enough time explaining the benefits of our ministry to people and not just the features that it includes? Our communication needs to framed primarily from the place of those people listening to it and not from our position as the communicator.

 

  • Hype Works. // Apple focuses the release of products to generate hype.  They understand that the picture of people standing in lines to buy their product is a powerful image for creating purchasing momentum and craft their launches around that hype.  During a previous iPhone launch they even set up a temporary store within walking distance from a massive tech/culture conference to make sure that those clients could stand in line and wait for a phone. When Hollywood releases a movie they gear their marketing efforts to focus a response from the public on opening weekend. Even authors have picked up on the fact that generating a lot of initial sales for their books is a way to earn credibility and sales. Do our launches create this sense of urgency? When we announce the upcoming massive community service opportunity do have laptops waiting the lobby after the service to sign people up right away? Or what if when students signed up for that retreat they received a killer t-shirt they’d actually want to wear to build interest and identification? If it matters to the future of your church … generating and focusing anticipation needs to be a tool in your communications belt.

 

Our “product” is so much more important than a 0.5 inch bigger screen on a smart phone. Our job is to help people connect with Jesus in a way that sees life transformation that ripples beyond them to their family, community and the world!

I look forward to the day when people are lined up around the block to get into your next ministry initiative! 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Kevin Persinger — 03/30/13 7:27 am

Brother just came across your stuff on vision room. Wow good stuff ..get tired of hearing same old thing all the time ..you are putting some good stuff Out there ...I am working on outreach in my comm. this summer ..we are working hard on this ...but u have fire me up to make sure my Execution matches my communication that I communicate to the church and the comm...but what I communicate only what I can Execute ...wow ..I need to make sure my talk matchs my waLk ...but also DreaM big ...and Execute big ....thanks...Pastor Kevin ?.let me know u got this ...thanks

Mr. Steven Finkill — 11/05/12 8:23 am

Great article about Apple, the masters of buzz-generation. Especially the first point is critical, though. Creating buzz about something that isn't buzz-worthy will only hurt you in the long run. You've got to start by DOING something that is buzz-worthy. For some of the churches I've been a part of, that has been the main challenge.

Recent Comments
I love Ed's writings and heart. I am frustrated by these articles, however. Much of the missiological basis of the Church Growth Movement are not mentioned, and the origination of the formulas are not substantiated. Also, the Movement via Wagner, started mentioning the importance of health over 3o years ago. I wish these articles were better researched and less sweeping in their generalizations. Things like E1, E2, E3 evangelism, group multiplication, relational networks, faith, health, and the care to measure the right things are largely missing here. Perhaps Ed has earned the right to generalize, but I still was disappointed. But keep researching Ed! Ed and Thom have continued on in the spirit of the movement by doing quality research, and for that I am deeply grateful.
 
— Gary Westra
 
This discussion will continue, for sure. I am tasked with the online worship ministry do our church at FBC Trussville and it is proving to be an important piece of the overall ministry. As in most things In life and technology, balance is in order. Many of our older adults prefer the "live" service online rather than a week or even day-later DVD or downloaded service. They tell me it is important for them to be a part while the service occurs. This is key because if a person simply wanted the message or music or to see the pastor because they "like" him, then it would not need to be live. There is a sense with our people that they need to experience the worship with their church family in real time. Theologically, folks will have issues. This is a disruptive technology for church. But I would hope that before we toss it all away we would approach it with wisdom and humility. Personally, I would like to see the Church grow through small, cost-effective ways like this and not just brick-and-mortar.
 
— Robby
 
It seems this was written awhile ago but I would like to respond. Mr. Surratt makes great points. Points that should be taken seriously by all churches. I just do not think these points are the main reason people are not coming back to churches. Who knows the exact reason why anyone does not come back unless they tell you, but I can say with certainty the reasons I do not return are usually the same. 1. Love, tolerance, and acceptance. (unbelievers, baby Christians) Church members seem to want their guests or potential members to behave a certain way. They want them to conform to the system that is already in place. In some ways this is understandable. In other ways, it is isolating to the guest. They want to feel loved and accepted the way they are. They want to be told everything is ok no matter their past. They want to be given time to work out their immediate more pressing issues without having to worry about what to wear and how to talk (church speak). 2. Love, tolerance, and acceptance (believers, unchurched) Many times, these people are looking for what fits their already preconceived ideas of what "good churches" are. These preconceived notions are difficult to overcome and some of them were addressed in Mr. Surratt's article. But I can tell you that a truly loving, a truly tolerant, and a truly accepting church can overcome most of these things. You may never be able to overcome a taste in music, or a theological difference, but most everything else can be healed with Love. 3. People can see the business aspect of the church. I see it almost immediately when I walk into certain churches for the first time. I think people understand that a church has many aspects of itself that are business oriented. I just believe they dont want to experience these aspects when they visit. How many churches are so focused on growth, in numbers of bodies, that they forget the growth of the heart? The American church is now fully Americanized. Its a show and a numbers game. People come to church, especially new comers, CRAVING to fill a void in their life. If you are offering the same thing they can get in the real world, how are you any different? There are plenty of other reasons people do not return and many may not be avoidable. However, the church as a whole needs to reevaluate the arena in which they are playing. The simplicity of the Gospel is good enough to fulfill the hearts of the unbelievers and restore the prodigal's to a relationship with Christ. Love thy neighbor as thyself and love thy God with all your heart.
 
— Shay Wallace
 

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