The Myth of the Overnight Sensation
Like weight loss, it takes time and hard work for most products and services to achieve critical mass, yet time and time again many products are perceived and billed as overnight sensations. If history is any indication, the overnight sensation is generally a myth. For instance, e-readers are being touted as one of the top “hot” holiday items for this holiday. Amazon.com states on its website that its Kindle e-reader device is “the #1 Bestselling, #1 Most Wished For, and #1 Most Gifted Item on Amazon” meaning Amazon expects to sell quite a lot of these devices this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The Kindle is also the second product featured in CNET’s 2009 Ultimate Holiday Tech Guide and yet Kindle, in its initial incarnation, debuted over two years ago on November 17, 2007. This isn’t to say that Kindle and its like aren’t a great holiday gift; it just isn’t the “overnight” sensation that many will claim it to be as the device is on track to sell over 1 million units this year.
Twitter launched in 2006 and became a media darling in 2009. Wikipedia’s (another overnight sensation) entry on Twitter references 142 media articles, all penned in 2009 and everyone from Barack Obama and CNN to you next door neighbor were not only tweeting but also talking about how they were tweeting. Quantcast, a measurement company, has estimated (Twitter does not disclose usage numbers) that roughly 30 million people were tweeting in July 2009, quite a leap from Twitter’s traffic in July 2007 and 2008 for which estimates were merely a blip on the radar screen. Again, not quite the overnight sensation it appears to be.
Then there’s one of the most recognizable consumer electronics products: Apple’s iPod. The first iPod launched in October 2001 and sold a whopping 125,000 units by the end of December 2001. It wasn’t until 2004 – three years later- that the iPod dominated digital music player sales and you saw more than two million consumers were walking around with those now-familiar white ear buds in their ears, bobbing their heads to their favorite tunes. By April 9, 2007 Apple announced that it had sold the 100 millionth iPod. That’s a lot of iPods, surely enough to circle the earth several times over.
So next time you hear about an overnight sensation, keep in mind that it took a not only a product or service that did something new and different, but a whole lot of hard work by many people over a sustained period of time to create that “instant” hit.