Sprint’s Genius iPhone 5 Pre-Announcement Marketing Campaign

The U.S.’s third-largest mobile carrier has played its hand in the iPhone 5 rumor mill better than AT&T and Verizon combined. Read how Sprint is already hyping the iPhone 5 before it is even a reality.

When it comes to the iPhone 5, it’s all hands on deck as far as keeping it a secret is concerned. While thousands of people worldwide are currently working to get the iPhone 5 ready for its impending release, the silence on the new device is uncanny: how does Apple manage to keep such a tight lid on their new products? we probably don’t even want to know the answer to that question.

And yet, Apple’s key partners in selling their iPhones — the mobile carriers — have developed deft pre-announcement marketing techniques for telegraphing the release of the new iPhone without completely spilling the beans on release dates and features. This year, the iPhone 5 rumor-mongering performances have been middling, with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdams giving a rather ham-handed performance to disappointed investors, which we talked about in another article. In a more candidly revealing moment, Sony CEO Howard Stringer seemed to spill the beans on the iPhone 5 getting an 8-megapixel camera.

But the command performance by an Apple partner in the iPhone 5 rumor mill this year has been Sprint.

Knowing that in the iPhone 5 they have a unique opportunity to propel themselves over an increasing gap with the duopoly of AT&T and Verizon, Sprint has carefully kept the thread of a Sprint iPhone 5 alive for well over a year now, when Sprint’s CEO innocuously commented on the iPhone: “We’d love to have it,” to all of the recent news and innuendo suggesting that the Sprint iPhone 5 is a done deal.

First, anecdotal reports surfaced that Sprint telephone customer service reps were tipping their hand to prospective customers that the iPhone 5 release was imminent. Then, there was the leaked Sprint memo rumor instructing Sprint reps to say “no comment” to customers with respect to the iPhone 5 — an omissive clue that carries as much weight as the reps admitting that Sprint is getting the iPhone 5.

The most recent rumor has been that Sprint has blacked out early October vacations for its employees, which coincides with an October 7th media event for financial analysts in New York City that will undoubtedly involve the iPhone 5. Of the blacked out vacation time, Beatweek’s Bill Palmer comments that “As such, employees have been informed that they must be available in early October. While that doesn’t guarantee the release date for the iPhone 5 is in that timeframe, it’s a clear indication that new partner Sprint thinks it will be.”

Let’s also not forget that all summer, Sprint has touted its unlimited data plan in the wake of Verizon switching to a tiered data usage system, thus giving Sprint a decided advantage is wooing iPhone 5 customers, since the amount of data swap with the iPhone 5 and iCloud still remains an unknown. Combined with the DoJ smacking down AT&T’s request to acquire T-Mobile — a move urged by Sprint — it can be said that they’ve had a lot of strong wins throughout 2011.

For Sprint, coming up with a way to let everyone know that they are getting the iPhone 5 without actually saying it has been more of a necessity than a deft marketing tactic. Keying on the advantage of their unlimited data plans and generally affordable service fees compared to AT&T and Verizon, the company has had to cement itself into the mobile carrier discussion in the U.S. ahead of the iPhone 5′s official announcement, so that prospective customers can begin to discern over switching to Sprint in order to capitalize on better pricing.

It remains to be seen what the long-term implications of Sprint getting the iPhone will have on the mobile carrier market in the U.S. For Apple, the move will allow them to compete against Android, Blackberry, and Windows smartphones in yet another major venue, thus cutting into their competitors’ market shares and increasing iPhone sales across the board. Whether the mobile market will become a three-way race in the U.S. because of the iPhone 5 is still unknown — but it’s bound to make millions of Sprint subscribers extremely happy.

By Michael Nace


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