Quick: Steal these strategies from the Mailbox App launch

By on February 8, 2013
mailbox app waiting line

I preach about creating anticipation for your product launch – especially in the brutal, highly competitive world of mobile apps. Waiting until your product is in store and available before creating awareness is a sheer sign of failure. Your product will be lost and momentum will be hard to achieve.

Why is momentum so important?

The idea to launch with a bang is not new. The television, movie and music industries have been doing this since inception. We’ve all watched trailers and heard clips of upcoming song releases – these are normal practices for us now. The goal is simple: To create awareness that something is coming, to create anticipation as it draws near, to create lineups and buzz the day it is launched (on a completely separate note, I can’t wait for the next Star Trek and Iron Man films – you?).

Building demand is not easy but the few that get it right shoot out of the gate, roll into top ten lists and momentum swings in their favour. This is where success breeds success. In the app world, getting into “new and notable” in any store often means 10′s if not 100′s of thousands of downloads a day.

The algorithms of the various app stores work differently but they all come down to deciphering just a few things – all revolving around momentum. For example, having a swell of downloads on launch day and then a swell of great reviews on launch day plays well in the eyes of people who recommend and review apps. Without momentum on that first day, your trough of despair happens before it should.

The Mailbox Way

Talk about anticipation. Orchestra, the company behind the off-the-charts-not-even-released-to-the-general-public app Mailbox is killing it when it comes to momentum. The app JUST launched, they have rolled it out to a number of thousands of people and as of this writing (7:48ET on Friday February 8th), they have roughly 520,000 people waiting patiently in line to download the app.

How did they do that?

First and foremost, they have apparently recreated email. I haven’t used it yet but the early reviews (STRATEGY #1) from digital influencers are astounding. I can’t stress the need to create awesome and valuable experiences in mobile or, well, your app won’t win.

They then started taking reservations (STRATEGY #2) well ahead of the actual launch date. I signed up about 3 weeks before launch to secure a “reservation” number. Brilliant. I got a text message with my unique code and was told that I would be notified when my account was activated. Apparently I wasn’t alone. ANTICIPATION achieved.

Then they built a reservation system for the app and told people to download it to secure their space in line (STRATEGY #3). Let me say that again: They got people to download the app to hold their place in line. Not to use it, yet, but to get a number.

The reservation system in itself creates even more anticipation and build up. First, when you launch it, it asks if you have a reservation key (people like to feel elite). If you do, great, if not, fine, you tap a button to enter the queue. The screen you see next looks something like this:

mailbox app waiting line

mailbox app waiting line

Anticipation achieved.

The social game on this has been orchestrated to perfection (STRATEGY #4). They created a Twitter hook that, if you send out a Twitter post saying you downloaded the app you will leapfrog people you know ahead of you on the list. How many tweets have you seen in the last 24 hours? How many Instagram photos of the countdown dashboard have you seen? The way this was built makes it easy to share, consume and compare against others. Anticipation created.

The more subtle approach is when you first launch the app and it starts an accelerated countdown (for you) and the accelerated count up (for the suckers behind you). This reinforces a perceived value of your place in line, almost making it a status symbol. That counter of people behind you never stops going up – does it.

The downside – there always is one

There is already grumbling on the Internet about the wait and this could backfire on their plan if they don’t roll it out fast enough. But the sheer fact they’ve created this kind of anticipation, had this number of downloads – all without even being featured on the AppStore in neither “New and Notable” or “What’s Hot” is a brilliant strategy.

This kind of unique approach (which won’t be unique for very long) is a perfect example of how important it is to have a launch strategy. Borrow what you can, do what you need to do in order to launch with a bang. The alternative is, well, there isn’t one any more.

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About Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of UNTETHER.tv and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to schedule a 30-minute chat.
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