NEW YORK CITY — At today’s big iPhone 5 launch at the flagship 5th Avenue Apple Store in New York, the number of marketers and hired hands rivaled the scores of people actually waiting in line for the hyped smartphone.
Every major iPhone or iPad launch attracts large crowds at the Apple Store. It’s a fabricated spectacle that the press, fanboys, and opportunists all participate in, working off excitement for popular products. Apple has its employees stand outside and cheer for those who waited in lines, even as those who wait for days are often sponsored by companies and not dedicated fans who wanted to be first.
At today’s launch, the spectacle was about far more than people in line. Employees of electronics re-sellers and mobile startups were out in large numbers, showing off their wares, and competing for the attention of people in line and the astounding number of journalists from major networks and tech-focused outlets.
“This is my fourth year being out here,” CNBC’s Natali Morris told me. “It’s the same dog and pony show each time. But this is supply and demand … and a lot of people are still excited about the iPhone.”
Morris is exactly right. But the question for marketers who show up is — can you channel the excitement people have for the iPhone 5 to get them interested in your product as well?
I spoke to several promoters today to get an idea of how big of a marketing opportunity this is for various companies. Here are some of the folks I spoke with:
BuyBackWorld — This electronics re-seller always seems to have a presence at Apple launches, with Greg Packer (the man in green in the top photo) representing the company in line. I interviewed Packer back in March for the launch of the third-generation iPad, and he loves the attention.
CoPilot Live — This GPS app was especially relevant at today’s launch because of all the complaints people have with Apple Maps. I’m not convinced that CoPilot is any better than Apple Maps, but some frustrated users may be willing to give it a shot after Apple Maps guides them the wrong way.
Escargot — This startup recently launched its Spixi project on Kickstarter. It offers a “jam-free retractable cable for smartphones.” Escargot employees handed out free iPhone screen protectors at all five Apple Store locations in Manhattan.
Gazelle — The popular electronics re-seller had a large presence today with “pop-up stores” in New York’s Grand Central Terminal and Boston’s Emmanuel Hall. These stores will trade-in people’s iPhone 4S 16GB units in good condition for $250 cash.
Gazelle also sponsored five people to stand in line for eight days at the 5th Avenue Store. Those people wore Gazelle shirts and received a free iPhone 5 for waiting in line.
Jessica Mellow, a New York-based freelance artist, was one of the five. She said she was happy to get a free iPhone 5. The two biggest drawbacks from the experience? Sleep deprivation and one day when there was a “torrential downpour.”
NYPD — New York’s finest were out in full force today, not only to make sure things stayed under control but also to hand out informational sheets. Since smartphones are often stolen in NYC, the cops want people to have info to keep their phones safe. The fliers explain how to turn on “Find My iPhone” and include a removable piece of paper that can be given to the police department to register your phone’s serial number.
OtterBox — Several employees from iPhone case-maker OtterBox stayed out all night and gave “survival kits” to the first 100 people in line. The company also ordered 40 pizzas and handed out slices to many of those in line. “We wanted to celebrate with our fans,” Jay Fenik, OtterBox marketing manager from Fort Collins, Colo., told me.
TwistPics — This startup offers a free photo-editing app that “makes texting more fun by mixing words and pictures.” Two members from the startup were handing out fliers to anyone in line that would take one.
Check out the gallery below for a full look at the insanity this morning.