When WOW Becomes Not-WOW

When Apple introduced the original iPhone last summer, it was a complete WOW experience. People expected a new phone, but their expectations were shaped entirely by their previous experiences with cell phones. As a result, Apple exceeded the market’s expectations. The company reinvented the cell phone and WOWed the market.

3G iPhone

Among other things, Apple redefined voice mail and Web browsing on a mobile device. The company married a phone to an iPod and threw in an amazing touch-screen interface to boot. The device has proven so popular that Apple has sold five million phones in the last year.

Today, Steve Jobs announced a new version of the iPhone at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). For the past several weeks, the press and the pundits have speculated about exactly what he would introduce.

The consensus seemed to be that the new iPhone would include 3G network capabilities, GPS, third-party apps, a push email and calendar system, a slimmer design, and a lower price. And, that’s exactly what Apple delivered. This time, however, they only met the market’s expectations. Consequently, my sense is that people were not WOWed. They were left a little, well, underwhelmed.

As I pointed out in my post last week, The How of WOW, creating WOW experiences is all about exceeding the customer’s current expectations. A year ago—before the first iPhone was announced—today’s announcement would have blown people’s socks off. But unfortunately, yesterday’s WOW experience is today’s expectation. For Jobs to have WOWed people today, he needed to exceed their current expectations. In my opinion, he didn’t do that. As a result, not-WOW.

Evidently, I am not alone. Apple’s stock price fell $4.03 or 2.17% today. The crazy thing is that the new 3G iPhone compared to any other mobile device is amazing. By any other standard—except Apple—this is a WOW product. (And, for the record, I do plan to buy one.) Such are the perils of delivering WOW experiences. You must keep raising the bar or people will be disappointed.

Update: The presentation is much more WOW when you watch it than when you merely hear about. Maybe I am just falling under the influence of Steve’s “reality distortion field.”

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  • http://gottabuzz.typepad.com/coffee Rick

    I think you nailed it – I want one, too, but there’s also that lacking wow-factor that blew it out of the water last year. Do you think we do the same thing with church? with books? when we lay it all out week after week, publishing after publishing, that this is the WOW book or service you need? Do we raise a bar that doesn’t need to be raised? Do we overinflate?

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    I must be easily wowed because I’m wowed. It’s HALF the price!!!!

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Colleen: I think the price is a WOW unless you’ve been following the industry press. They have been predicting the price cut for a month. In this sense, it was expected.

  • http://www.colleencoble.com Colleen Coble

    Ah. I hadn’t been following the news about it. I’d only heard snippets of the 3G thing. My problem is I’m in an area that isn’t serviced by AT&T but I’m thinking about using my son’s address. LOL My cell phone contract comes due next month.

  • Link McGinnis

    Can you remember the first time you kissed your wife-to-be? I had dreamt of it and expected it to be great. And it was!

    I had been told that the roller coasters at Busch Gardens were great. The dips, curves and twists were all part of my expectations. But they didn’t fail to “wow” me.

    You can hear about something all day long but you don’t get that WOW until you actually experience it.

    You can provide a WOW experience to your customer even if she’s already heard that it’s going to be legendary.

    BTW – stock prices move 2.5% on no news at all. I wouldn’t measure the Wow until it begins to sell.

    Just my 2 cents –

  • http://twitter.com/tommylane817 Tommy

    It’s much more effective when you see the presentation than when you read bloggers writing about it or even hear the live audio stream (which I did). The apps demonstrated in the early part of the video must be seen to be appreciated and they are nothing short of amazing.

  • http://www.faithandgrief.com Elizabeth M Thompson

    I think I can speak for all the non-techies who have not been following latest on the Apple 3G iPhone when I say, “Wow!!”

    You see at Apple they know who their front line customers are and they know who their next wave of customers will be. They have perfectly marketed the 3G iPhone to me! I would not have paid $400 for one, but several of my techie friends did. I’ve been watching and waiting and now, I am set to pounce!

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com Matt

    “And, for the record, I do plan to buy one.”

    Like we didn’t know that the instant Jobs made the announcement. :)

  • http://www.michaelhyatt.com Michael S. Hyatt

    @Matt: You know me too well!

  • http://www.christaallan.com christa allan

    This morning, I heard the voice over on the news as the new phone was shown. The exact words he used? “NOT WOW.”!

  • Ed

    I think you just discovered two fatal flaws in the WOW concept.

    A) There are a finite number of WOW’s in the universe. Case in point: a runner breaks the 4 minute mile – WOW! Someone breaks that record – WOW! Eventually the record is broken and re-broken – Ho Hum. Meanwhile, the human body can only run so fast. No one will ever do the mile in zero minutes.

    When asked what he wanted, John L Lewis said, “More.” There’s only so much “More” to be had and, the more people get, the more they want.

    Secondly, if expectations are created in advance, the WOW is diluted or destroyed. Case in point: Financial analysts are predicting that company X is going to have a banner year and earn $Y per share. Company X has the best year in its history, exceeds all its previous metrics, but still falls short of $Y per share – No WOW.

    Let’s see how excited people are when Amazon introduces the new and improved Kindle.

  • Wayne Zeitner

    Mike, I’m pretty sure the fall-off in Apple’s stock price had to do not with the iPhone itself, but with Apple’s decision to give up revenue-sharing from its telecom partners.

  • Bruce Stormer

    While I understand and agree with what you say about expectations and WOW for us in New Zealand there was a WOW because we have not had the iPhone reach our shores yet. But yesterday a launch date was released (July 11) so now we (along with about 11 other countries) get to experience the WOW of an iPhone becoming available on our local mobile network for the first time soon.

  • http://www.salberg.org Lawrence Salberg

    Gotta say that I think the announcement, unlike some other venues, was done at the WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) that had 5,500 developer (code geeks) present. Considering that over half the 1.5 hour presentation was done by someone other than Jobs and covered the nitty-gritty of the Software Developers Kit for the iPhone, I feel it’s reasonable to assume that “big bang pow”, followed by your “WoW” was not really the message being sent to the average consumer. It was indeed big news to many of the attendees and interesting to them, but the price point drop was, I think if anything, an inducement to bait any remaining skeptics into considering throwing their company’s weight behind development for the iPhone – to demonstrate that soon, almost everyone will have an iPhone.

    It’s likely that you, like me, are just almost over-hyped prior to any announcement being made by Apple, thanks in part to stellar huge announcements in recent years and no thanks in part to the Apple fanboys hyping up stuff constantly on Digg (without merit quite often). We have, in essence, become numb.

    If Jobs had announced a personal iPhone for $99 each, would it had been any bigger? If he had demo’d an iPhone app that could make you a millionaire overnight, would we really have been shocked? Not me. Excited, yes? Shocked, no.

    As for the day traders who haven’t a clue about a company’s actual long-term potential, I wouldn’t even give any credence to their slipshod actions. And I’m real curious — if they are pulling money out of a company, are they backing someone else (if so, who?), are they just pulling out of the cell phone industry as a whole, or are they just thinking that Apple can’t make any more profits than they’ve already made. If the last option, they are fools. Maybe they missed the 70 country bit? That’s a lot of iPhones. I don’t travel to them countries, so I don’t care, but if I was a stock holder, I’d be licking my chops.

  • http://schoolforthegirlscourage.blogspot.com Rebecca

    I think we should not judge some thing before we see it.
    That is a good lesson.


  • Jake

    I believe the limitation of the “wow” is in the language itself. If you say “wow” for the first, and then it is improved, it is simply redundant to say “wow” again. The language needs a word to go past “wow” for the improvement on “wow”. Maybe we could borrow an expression from the Scots such as “Cow Wow” for the next move up.

  • Jake

    I believe the limitation of the “wow” is in the language itself. If you say “wow” for the first, and then it is improved, it is simply redundant to say “wow” again. The language needs a word to go past “wow” for the improvement on “wow”. Maybe we could borrow an expression from the Scots such as “Cow Wow” for the next move up.

  • Steve

    A real WOW would’ve been if Jobs had figured out a way to end the exclusive contract wit AT&T.

    Imagine the buzz had he welcomed customers of ALL wireless carriers to get an iPhone at the new affordable price! Many, like me, would get one in a heartbeat.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/paulmerrill/ Paul Merrill

    The big NOT wow part of the new phone is the extra $10 a month AT&T charges for using it.

    The $60 of the old one was already out of my budget.

    Consider yourself lucky for being able to afford either.

  • Cynthia Thompson

    I disagree with you……Apple is one company that continually WOWs me! Every time I use the Iphone, I am WOWed. When I see someone else use another type of phone, the Iphone continues as a WOW for me. Apple’s stock is a WOW for me. As a lover of music, the Ipod is a huge WOW for me! And I will purchase the new Iphone this summer and give my old one to my daughter. Believe me, she will be WOWed. I have to admit that my local Apple Store is not a WOW, but others where I have shopped are awesome. Thank you, Apple and Steve Jobs