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RE: How to sell new technology 13 November, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in marketing.
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Faris at Talent imitates, genius steals has some thoughts on selling new technologies. He points out how most tech companies are in essence run by engineers who love technology for technology’s sake and how this leads to the kind of technobabble communications that have typified the industry for so long.

This kind of speeds and feeds approach of course means very little to those outside the early adopter community. In mass markets, most people’s eyes simply glaze over when faced by the likes of a “256MB PCI Express ATI RADEON X1300 Pro graphics card” or any of the other components that make up many of today’s tech products.

Personally, I think much of the industry has moved on from this approach (with differing levels of success). With many of the features reaching near parity and an influx of marketing talent, the pitch has moved on from the “my Dad’s bigger than your Dad” contests of old. It’s no longer about who’s got the most gigabytes, dots per inch or maximum write speed. Today, in the mass market, it’s about who captures the imagination.

The thing about really new technology is that, for the most part, customers have no previous experience of it to base their judgements on. This is why many tech companies get so frustrated with research that either fails to ‘give them the answer’ or that spectacularly fails to predict customer reactions to new products in the real world.

In Faris’s Wii example, while most people understand the concept of a games console the idea of motion sensitive controllers is new. Nintendo looks to get round this by giving the viewer a vicarious experience of the Wii product. The issue for me in this example is that it feels a bit too sterile. The people on the whole are too styled, the rooms too set-like. And, for the most part, the experience they convey is (for me) underwhelming. If I put myself in their places, I come away with “that’s interesting” rather than “I must have one!”

Contrast this with the Playstation Double Life ad:

Now that engages the imagination. Yes, it’s of its time and I don’t think the same approach would work quite so well now. But it brought the product to life, created empathy with existing gamers and aspiration with non-gamers.

The real challenge in selling new technology is to give customers a compelling picture of their future lives (at work or play), one that is both inspirational and grounded.

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