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Talk sense, not tech

Talk sense not tech

In a moment of what seems like madness now, I ended up in the TV section of a certain major high street retailer on a busy Saturday afternoon. Having recently had a call from Sky offering me a deal that sounded too good to be true I thought I’d check out the competition and what TV technology is out there.

In the last year we’ve seen the TV market shift up a gear. Technology is one of those hotly fought areas as to who has the technological advantage to improve viewing experiences, and bring the choice the consumer tells us they want (but doesn’t necessarily know what to do with it when they get it). We’ve had Youview with its open platform, backwards EPG and content add-ons enter the market and make a splash, or a ripple depending on how you look at it. Freesat has released its new bit of kit called <freetime> which is a similar piece of kit to Youview, a step up from the PVRs of old but yet to be noticed by the public at large. Virgin Media with some big spending marketing have been successfully promoting TIVO and building the base quickly, whilst Sky relies on its trusty HD box.

To be fair the guys on the phone from the call centre did a good job of selling me Sky – they were friendly, chatty and quite honest in their approach. They reeled off a load of features that I’d get, but after a while I realised that this list of things they mentioned would mean very little to some who don’t work in the media industry. Rather than trying to find out the type of viewer I am and what features would best suit my viewing habits and needs, I was bombarded with a list of features.

This is true of most technology purchases – next time you find yourself in a TV department of a local store go around and look at all the different logos and descriptions manufacturers use to describe their features. In the desire to appear to stand out and appear cutting edge manufacturers are guilty of creating a bewildering array of phrases. There’s ‘Full HD’, ‘True HD’, ‘Live colour’, ‘Motionflow’ to name but a few. In the context of a consumer it all becomes a bit meaningless as the question they want answered is – ‘is it any good?’. Our work for Sony previously highlighted that this confusion can lead to a lot of lost sales and can actually set people back in their purchase journeys.

Once you actually buy the technology and get it home it’s another matter though. All of a sudden the list of things the sales person told you about get forgotten and old habits kick in. As I was chatting to someone the other week about their shiny new Freesat box, it turns out they were feeling a bit let down by the purchase. They’d spend a bit of money being upsold in the store to the new box and were only using the same features as before. It was only when someone pointed out that they could access iPlayer and a load of other content from the past 7 days did they start realising the true potential of what they had and their experience was suddenly enhanced. So the lesson is – just selling technology doesn’t mean people will fully use it. We’ve seen this a lot in our research, new products that promise to revolutionise the world but consumers buy it but fail to discover or use some of the features. This then makes the job of the marketeers harder as their job doesn’t end when the technology leaves the shop / arrives at the customers home. There’s a need for continued education on how to maximise the use of the features (assuming the features are wanted and fulfil a need in the first place).

Sky had a powerful message in its HD marketing campaign that said “seeing is believing”. This premise is true for new TV technologies – consumers need to see it in action to be educated on its use. As a lazy consumer myself it is often only by accident that I seek out new features on my TV or set-top box. It takes some strong messaging to cut through to get people to explore the technologies available and it has to be pretty obvious and easy to use to get people in. Companies that can utilise the power of consumer advocacy fill find this task more easily – by getting customers to educate others on features and benefits of services can be an effective way at educating new customers. They talk in the language of their friends rather than looking sceptically at a marketing campaign. They can also showcase the technology in action and explain how it’s personally benefitted them.

So for those manufacturers looking to launch a new bit of kit that will enhance / revolutionise consumers’ lives, here’s some golden rules…

  • Be clear about the benefits not just the features
  • Say it like a customer – talk to them in consumer friendly terms not technology terms
  • Stop making up new phrases and terms to show how cutting edge you are – it doesn’t make your product stand out and be understood. The performance and quality of the kit you’re selling should do that
  • Let your customers do the selling – utilise the advocates to help do some of the selling and educating of particular features
  • Evolution for the right reasons – building new tech features because you can and they’re cool doesn’t mean it’ll work. Forcing a consumer to change their behaviour is hard and sometimes they need small steps to change
  • And finally, promote the key features based on customers’’underlying needs that will genuinely enhance their experiences – some features will appeal to different groups so tailoring your communications by segments will help sell the right features to the right people
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