Small Business

How Amazon's Bezos Sparked Demand for Kindle 2


Eight techniques to craft memorable messages about a new product

Amazon's (AMZN) new e-reader, the Kindle 2, begins shipping Feb. 24. The press conference and subsequent interviews CEO Jeff Bezos used to play up the launch of the product include several techniques that may help improve your pitches. Here are eight Bezos messaging techniques that you can incorporate into them today.

1. Set the stage.

Put some thought into staging the event around your product. Make sure it complements your story. Amazon chose a giant rotunda in New York's Morgan Library, which houses some of the world's most important literary and musical works.

2. Provide context for numbers.

Bezos said the new Kindle is thin, really thin—0.36 inches. But how thin is 0.36 inches? Without context, it's hard to visualize. So Bezos showed a slide comparing the Kindle 2 side-by-side with a pencil. You'd be hard-pressed to tell which was skinnier. Then he took the comparison a step further, pointing out that the Kindle 2 is thinner than the top five best-selling 3G mobile phones.

3. Conduct a demo.

Anyone can show slide after slide with photographs of a product. That gets boring fast. Great presenters conduct demonstrations as part of the experience. Bezos didn't waste much time in getting to it. About ten minutes into his New York press conference, he pulled out the device and read excerpts from books that had been downloaded. He then surprised the audience by letting the device speak for itself, showing off its new text-to-speech feature.

4. Paint a picture for customers.

Customers need to be able to see themselves using your product. Bezos helped the audience do just that. While demonstrating the text-to-speech feature, he said: "Any book, blog, magazine, or personal document can be read aloud to you. If you're in the kitchen cooking and want to be read to for a little while, or you're on your commute to work and you want to be read to for a little while, Kindle can do that for you. Let's listen…" The audience then heard a computer-generated voice reading the Gettysburg Address.

5. Show customers using or talking about the product.

We've addressed the importance of customer evidence in previous columns. Especially when corporate and household budgets are tight, nobody wants to spend money on an unproven product. Amazon has the benefit of showing successful sales for the original Kindle, but to underscore the appeal of new features, Bezos played a video showing real people touting the gadget. Of course, you wouldn't expect them to make anything but positive remarks, but when you see what appear to be regular consumers having fun with a device, it leaves an impression.

6. Share the stage.

In addition to showing real people using your product, think about sharing the stage with a partner. Bezos told his audience that Stephen King's novel Ur would be released exclusively to Kindle. The announcement might have been a footnote to the presentation if Bezos had not invited Stephen King himself to read an excerpt from his novel. While you're not going to have King co-present with you at your next business pitch, find ways to bring a partner along, whether in person or digitally via quotes or video clips.

7. Use analogies.

After his press conference, a number of reporters asked Bezos why Amazon would create a dedicated reading device when the same functionality is available on today's smart phones. "The best analogy I can give you would be a digital camera on your cell phone," Bezos told Brier Dudley of the Seattle Times. "I love having a digital camera on my cell phone because I always have my cell phone with me. But occasionally I want a real camera. If I'm going to take pictures of my kids, I want a real camera. If I want to read for two hours, I want my Kindle."

8. Articulate a powerful vision.

Every product should have a vision—a picture of a better future made possible by that product. Bezos' vision was was concise, clear and compelling: "every book ever printed in any language in under 60 seconds." At 59 characters, his vision fits easily into a Twitter post, or tweet.

Bezos' goal was to create excitement around the Kindle 2. By thinking through elements of his presentation (the setting, which features to demonstrate, finding the right partner, etc.), he and his marketing team helped ensure that the new product would be greeted with the maximum interest and enthusiasm.

Carmine Gallo is a communications coach for some of the world's most admired brands. He is a speaker and author of the new book, Fire Them Up! (John Wiley Sons).

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