Product Hype

Many of us at Lenovo have been monitoring the recent forum conversations touting a new generation of ThinkPad. It's been interesting to read the comments, and I have been thoroughly impressed with the resourcefulness of people in taking a simple picture and extrapolating so much information from it. (That doesn't mean they're right). Check the discussion out here or here. Wired Magazine had a great article this month on Immersive Games in which companies are creating puzzles, riddles and treasure hunts for their fans to solve. Individuals have no chance themselves of solving the puzzles, but the collective wisdom of people around the world can do some pretty amazing things. I think this quote from the article sums it up nicely.

Our assumption," says Sean Stewart, the game's head writer, "was never that there's a continent of people who love nothing better than to do spectrogram analysis. But there are always a few, and if you make a world that's compelling enough, there'll be a lot to do even if you're not interested in the really arcane stuff."

I haven't even begun to do justice to the article, so I'd highly recommend checking it out. Fortunately, Wired puts its articles online. While Lenovo has not created an immersive game, looking at the posts reads like a game is unfolding. First, a picture appears on an obscure site in a foreign language not familiar to most people. Second, taking that picture, fans are able to do some pretty creative things with it like determine product dimensions. I've got to applaud the creativity of overlaying the picture posted on the forums with of a picture of a known size, matching up the ports and then extrapolating product dimensions. Third, start a massive hype cycle in which people start filling in the blanks. Soon everyone is an expert, and since "he heard from a reputable source that…," the story quickly grows and spreads. Fourth, (and we're not quite to this stage yet), out come the fanboys and the bitter naysayers. The naysayers claim that this is going to be the worst product ever and bankruptcy for the company is nigh. Sell your stuff on eBay now before it becomes completely worthless. On the other end are the groups where everything is rainbows and kittens. "This is going to be Lenovo's BEST product ever…We're entering a new era…Battery life of 36 hours!..." The reality often is somewhere in the middle. I've got to admire companies who can keep products secret ahead of announce. Apple and Nikon are great examples. Their mentality is, "If you tell, you're fired, and then we'll sue you and make sure your garbage never gets picked up again." The downside to extreme secrecy is that Apple will never be a true player for large companies until the company starts offering a product roadmap. Business customers don't tolerate not knowing when and how product changes will occur. They need this information to plan their roll outs of thousands of machines. On the other hand, I've often thought that we make too much information available too early. Customers like when we do this, but honestly, whether a product weighs 1.6kg or 1.8kg is immaterial for deciding when to transition products from one generation to the next. Plus, when we disclose too early we stall sales. Take a look at the forums. Offer your own speculation if you'd like. We'll be watching closely.