We must help By:
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understand For new business enquiries, please
technology better. contact:
tel: +27 11 797 6314
If we do not, the
digital revolution will firstname.lastname@example.org
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MY BRAIN HURTS
Our jobs, house email@example.com ‘The new net boom’ announces Fortune.
tel: +44 20 7611 6425
prices, pensions, the In California, venture capital is flowing.
future of our nations The emailable version of this document is
After five years in the doldrums, tech is back.
all depend on the at pubs.yr.com/brain.pdf And it’s back big time
Last time it was only dotcoms, telecoms and computers
economic growth Podcasts and video podcasts to accompany that boomed.
this book are at pubs.yr.com/podcasts
that digitization is Today virtually every industry on Earth is experiencing
bringing. Hollywood is digitizing.
Airlines are digitizing.
Helping consumers Fast food service is digitizing.
to grasp technology Soon, with the arrival of radio ID chips on every package
in every supermarket, the humble food and drink
is thus the defining industries will digitize too.
issue of our time. But
But as the world again gets excited by all things tech,
perhaps we should pause.
MY BRAIN HURTS 1
And remember how things ended in 1999/2000.
When a trillion dollars of technical development crashed
into a mountain of user indifference, and tech entered a
Millions of people lost their jobs and their pensions.
And it could happen again.
How could it happen?
Digital technology gets twice as powerful every eighteen Lest we forget the
months. 2000/1 dotcom
And it’s predicted to keep doing so for the next two
No industrial change in history has happened as fast as
today’s digital revolution.
As this happens, we tend to forget that there is one part
of the digital world that hasn’t gotten any more powerful.
Not just in the past few years. But in the past ten
The mind of its user.
Strain on the brain
Each year, consumers are presented with new, more
complex digital products and services.
But each year, their ability to understand them does not
Twenty years ago, a phone was a simple device, with one In 1980, televisions had
dial. a few buttons and a
volume knob. No longer.
Many of today’s phones are packed with complex, badly
How many of these commonly used tech symbols do you recognise?
Do you know the precise meaning of any of them?
2 Y&R ADVERTISING
IMAGINE IF ALL MARKETING WAS Twenty years ago a television had one dial and a volume
knob. Today’s AV systems have tens of each.
LIKE TECH MARKETING:
The technology is leaving its consumer behind.
‘Hi honey, I’m home!’ And it’s getting worse
Meanwhile, technology keeps moving on at high speed.
‘That’s great dear! I’m cooking
Digital devices will be ten times faster and more capable
XRC-30 tonight.’ within five years, and perhaps one hundred times within Twenty years ago, phones
‘’Mmmmm – is that with quad- ten.
band 3G CDMA and a level 2 There is already a gulf between what technology can do
and what consumers - both young and old - can make it
‘Yes indeed – and would you like As technology surges ahead, this gulf can do nothing
a little 802.11g on the side?’ else but grow.
‘I’m licking my lips!’ Not funny
‘Now you just settle We may laugh when consumers fail to understand the
full capabilities of their phones, TVs and computers.
down with a nice
But the consumer’s failure to grasp technology is not
bottle of XC-L30K trivial.
and I’ll have it on It leads to the vaporization of venture capital.
the table shortly.’ It is the issue that is increasingly holding back the whole
‘That’s great digital revolution.
honey, I can’t Global growth, and the fate of nations depend on rapid
adoption of new technology.
wait to taste that
It is thus the decisive issue of the early 21st century.
MY BRAIN HURTS 5
THE DARK SECRET OF DIGITIZATION
The human mind’s inability to assimilate technology is
the dark secret of the tech industry:
• Research by consumer electronics manufacturers
reveals that consumers never touch most of the
buttons on the remote controls in their living rooms.
• Washing machine manufacturers report that however
many programs they build into their washing What does the button with two circles on it What exactly does ‘chaos defrost’ do?
machines, consumers rarely use more than two of do?
• Software companies keep building extra commands
into their programs, but quietly concede that
consumers refuse to use more than a small fraction.
• Banks offer a wide choice of funds in online
investment supermarkets, but find that most people
don’t even browse beyond the basic options.
The consumer simply doesn’t use most of what In the 21st century, you
technologically advanced companies build into their need a degree in rocket
products. science just to iron a
The consumer holds things back for decades
The inability of consumers to understand a piece of
technology can hold it back not just for years but for
Today, consumers marvel at how they can collect shows What do ‘SysRq’ and ‘Scroll Lock’ mean? Digital devices can get twice as fast - or as
confusing - every eighteen months.
6 Y&R ADVERTISING
only use a
couple of on their digital video recorder (like TiVo or Sky+) to play
buttons on back later.
TV schedules no longer dictate how they use their
leisure time, and they love the freedom.
But this isn’t the first time digital technology has made
It was already promising time-shift viewing back in 1980
with the invention of the video cassette recorder.
It’s just that no one over fourteen could program a VCR
to record the right channel at the right time.
It took twenty-five years for the electronics industry to
design a time-shift viewing device that ordinary
consumers could actually use.
This pattern is repeated in many other industries.
It is thus the pace of consumer comprehension, not the
pace of technological change, that will determine the
Even teens have litte idea pace of the digital revolution.
what most of the buttons
on their phones, Consumers struggle with new concepts too
computers and Consumer confusion also slows the introduction of new
audiovisual equipment do. technological concepts.
Sure, consumers can tell you they prefer HDTV to
ordinary TV, but when it comes to evaluating really new
technological ideas, they struggle:
• When the telephone was first invented, many of its
early users thought its main use would be to
broadcast orchestral concerts.
• When email first became popular in the mid 1990s,
many CEOs responded by putting an email terminal in
their telex room*.
• When television first arrived, early viewers thought its
Even since the beginning of the century, digital technology has sped up dramatically.
Computer chip speeds are already ten times faster. Download speeds are already thirty
8 * Telex was a key business telecommunication system before the arrival of fax. Y&R ADVERTISING
biggest audiences would go to the newsreels they Time for a change
had seen in the movie theater, not to game shows. This booklet challenges the way tech companies
1010 TRANSISTORS do things.
THE BURSTING OF THE
• And as Henry Ford put it in 1910, ‘if I’d asked my
109 PER DIE: LOG INTERNET BUBBLE
customers what they’d wanted, they’d have asked SCALE It argues that they should put the consumer first,
108 DIDN’T STOP
for a faster horse.’ not last.
The consumer absorbs new technological concepts 106 It uses Y&R’s intensive program of qualitative and
Since the internet bubble burst in
slowly, and with difficulty. 105 quantitative research, consumer observation and 1999/2000, technology hasn’t
104 analysis to set out some of the keys to successful stopped advancing.
Even young consumers struggle 103 communication. Many digital devices are now ten
‘Don’t worry about complexity’ say some tech times better than they were then:
SOURCE: INTEL None are intuitive.
companies, ‘we’re targeting digitally literate 17 year 2000 2006
olds.’ 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 Few are reflected in current marketing thinking on
the web, in consumer electronics or in telecoms. Typical 300KHz 2000KHz
Crap. MOORE’S LAW MEANS DIGITAL processor
The keys reflect the ways in which humans have speed
Young people may absorb tech concepts faster than TECHNOLOGY GETS BETTER
responded to technological advance since time
old people over 30, but they still struggle with how to FAST Typical home 56Kbps 2000Kbps
make things work. If a technology is digital, that technology speed
obeys Moore’s Law. As such, they risk being ridiculed by those within
• Y&R’s qualitative research has yet to find a Typical number 22 22
the technology community who regard any solution
teenager who knows what all the buttons on their Moore’s Law, first proposed by Gordon of peanuts in a
Moore of Intel back in 1968, states that that is more than six months old as being out of Snickers*
phone do. the number of transistors on a silicon date. * control
• Few can explain even a quarter of the functions of chip, and therefore the speed and
abilities of computers double every two But the eternal is eternal for a reason.
their parents’ DVD, TV or VCR. years – since revised down to every
eighteen months. And genuine marketing insights are no more abundant
• And Virgin mobile phones sell because they have
today than they were in the dotcom boom.
the only pricing plan 17 year olds (or anyone else) Chips have obeyed that law for the past
can understand. thirty-five years – and show all the signs Without an understanding of their consumer,
of continuing to do so for the next twenty.
technologies will struggle.
Even amongst young people, it is the pace of Put simply, anything digital can get twice
consumer comprehension, not the pace of as good, or as fast - or as unintelligible - The companies responsible for them will stumble, and
technological change, that will determine the pace of every eighteen months. industries will die.
the digital revolution. And they will do so however good their engineers,
But the tech industry has failed to acknowledge this. however smart their manufacturing - and however much
money they spend on their marketing.
It needs to rethink its attitude towards its consumers
and do so fast.
10 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 11
Even in high science, good names are
vital. The ‘relativistic gravitationally
collapsed massive object’ was
discovered in 1916. But it
didn’t grab the popular
renamed it the
THE 17 KEYS TO CONSUMER
around black holes
was subdued in France
because ‘trou noir’ was French
slang at the time for ‘asshole’.
‘When I listen to music, I like to hum along
and tap my feet’, they told him. ‘If other
people can’t hear the music I’m doing it
to, they’ll think I’m a psycho.’
Simplicity acts like a
To communicate the idea, he needed a product
missile into the
that could be understood in one way only. consumer
And that meant it had to have one function only. The consciousness.
record button and radio had to go.
1. THINK SIMPLE So he overruled the engineers. And his one-function
press and play device went into production.
If you want to get inside the Because his new product could only be used in one way,
consumer’s head, simplicity young people were forced to take Morita’s intention
is the key. seriously.
This forced the Walkman into the public consciousness,
In the late 1970s, Sony was developing a new consumer
and made it a worldwide hit.
The device would allow people, for the first time ever, to Which means
carry round music easily and listen to it anywhere ‘The ideal A device that does one thing well is a much stronger
without irritating others. consumer proposition than a complex multifunctional
The device was designed to do this – and nothing else. consumer offer, no matter how advanced its specification.
‘But they will still want a record function’, said the electronics So if you want to get inside the consumer’s head, think
engineers, ‘and how about a radio?’
But Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, knew that he had
device has only 1. Simplicity gets remembered
a serious communication problem on his hands. one button.’ In the 1960s, offices flooded with new technology –
At the time, young people always shared music, AKIO MORITA, duplicating machines, golf-ball typewriters, telexes and
Even government can be
wandering around in groups with throbbing ghetto- FOUNDER OF SONY more. simple. Clinton’s 1992 election
blasters. But the only machine in that office with one-button team pinned these words to
He was asking them to wander around listening to simplicity was the photocopier. their hotel room doors.
music that no one else could hear. He knew they would Most companies that made office equipment in the
find the concept weird, and would resist the idea. 1960s are now footnotes in history.
14 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 15
Not so Xerox, the inventor of that photocopier.
2. Simplicity builds loyalty
Most tech products are so difficult to learn, that those
that are easy inspire great loyalty from their users.
Nokia gets the highest loyalty amongst mobile phone
brands because their 2006 models work without your
having to read the instruction manual – and in exactly
the same way as their 1996 models.
Similarly Canon’s Digital
Ixus cameras inspire
model works in
When they rent a car, most people can start But most new tech appliances do not work
exactly the same it up and drive it without problem. without reading an instruction book.
way as their two
3. Simplicity solves
Even when a product is
complex, it still pays to
market it simply.
When Microsoft was launching the
latest Word upgrade a few years back, their engineers A $30,000 car needs an instruction
unveiled a product with many new capabilities. book no more than 9mm thick. So
why does a wireless router need one
It had amazing mail merge, a 3D text graphics engine 30mm thick?
and web integration.
But Microsoft’s marketing didn’t mention any of these.
They focused all their efforts on communicating
Most people who use a computer less than The same is true of camcorders – many
once a month forget how to use it between families simply forget how to operate theirs.
16 Y&R ADVERTISING
something quite simple – its ability to make simple • Most national railway automatic ticketing machines
spelling corrections like ‘ist’ to ‘its’ and ‘hte’ to ‘the’ as you have simple dialogues – but leave consumers
typed. thinking they could have got a better deal elsewhere
And the world went to their IT helpdesk and asked for if only they’d known the system better. To satisfy
the upgrade. customers, you have to be transparently simple.
• Moore’s Law means that software can get twice as
4. You can never be too simple complex every eighteen months. Message to
For years internet search engines prided themselves on software designers: making it so is a bad idea.
The MP3 player market was flooded
Whilst other portals added complex offers and with multifunction devices that played
confusing navigation, the search engines stuck to one FM radio and told the time as well as
page. played music. Then Apple came in
and took 80% of the market with a
But all were trounced by Google with its one fill-in box, device that did only one thing.
and otherwise blank screen.
So if you want your technology to fly, think simple:
• Mobile phones are increasingly easy to make voice
calls on, now their software has been simplified. But
their airtime packages are still complex. Service
providers think they are providing ‘choice’ and
‘freedom’ by offering 25 different price plans. They
might attract more customers if they just offered just
one good one.
• Most online banking sites are simple – security fears
make banks keep the functions to a minimum. Not so
online share dealing sites. Some don’t display vital
information if your monitor isn’t large enough; others
are drenched with obscure finance-speak. If online
dealing is going to break into the mainstream, these
sites need a fundamental rethink.
18 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 19
As mankind’s first lunar
module approached the
moon’s surface in 1969, its
main computer crashed.
Today’s electronics consumer
is far less tolerant of failure.
2. THINGS THAT DON’T WORK,
Marketing money is wasted
on unripe technologies.
In 2003, millions of people were captivated by the
picture messaging campaigns of mobile service
And they upgraded their mobile phone to a camera
Then they charged up their phone, took a picture, and
sent it to a friend.
Very few of those friends ever saw the picture:
• The majority of the pictures were sent to phones
unable to display pictures.
• The networks hadn’t agreed common technical
standards, so any picture which crossed networks
• Many people who did receive the pictures never saw
them, because they didn’t know how to open them.
20 Y&R ADVERTISING
As a result, picture messaging failed in 2002/3. So
Compare that with the previous great mobile messaging So make sure your technology works before you market
technology, the SMS text: it:
• Mobile service providers didn’t advertise SMS, as • Is the home wireless network ready for the mass
they saw it as a competitor to their lucrative voice consumer market yet? Most routers require a PhD in
calls. computing to set them up.
• As a result, text messaging grew organically. • Internet telephony is also not quite ready for the
ordinary consumer. Congratulations to Skype, who
• Young people checked whether their friends had 2G When home networks break
are continuing to allow their service to spread virally, down, how do you fix them?
phones or not, and only sent texts to those who did.
rather than pushing it at an unprepared mass market.
• As compatibility grew in the mid 90s, text messaging
Networking computers • We’re still waiting for it – the video editing application
exploded all over Europe, Africa and Asia, with together can still stump for the common man.
billions of messages a year being sent by 1996. even the geekiest of
• Within a few years, texting was providing a new consumers.
revenue stream of 7% of revenue for mobile service
Picture messaging failed, despite hundreds of millions of
dollars of marketing because it wasn’t ready. Text
messaging succeeded, despite any
marketing, because it was ready.
Technology producers need to think
Sites like eBay and
further about this, making sure their Craigslist are hitting
technology is ready before they set newspaper classifeds
out to market it. hard in the US.
Before a technology is ready, no In Russia though, lower
amount of marketing will make it means that classified
happen. advertising is still going
Afterwards, not even silence can strong.
22 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 23
When watches ran fast and slow
A similar thing happened with timekeeping in the late
At the time, everyone had clockwork watches, many of
which lost or gained five minutes a day.
Daily conversations revolved around the correct
time, and adjusting watches and clocks.
3. WHAT WORKS NO LONGER MATTERS ‘Do you have the time please?’ was a standard
Then digital quartz crystal technology arrived,
When a technology finally promising precise timing.
delivers on its promises, The accuracy of clocks and
Precise timing caught the popular imagination. watches was a popular topic
marketers should watch out. The dialogue of 1960s TV series reflects the of conversation for the two hundred
years upto the invention of quartz
The late 19th century was a great time for farmers. widespread belief at the time that ever more precise
digital watches. Nowadays, it’s
New technology – in the shape of traction engines, timing was the way of the future: just not an issue.
harvesters and milling machines - was arriving on farms, ‘Negative, captain, the shuttle is landing in 24.8
making them more productive. seconds.’
Farming journals spoke of a new ‘golden age of farming’, ‘You have eight minutes and three seconds to
of new heights of food production and of farming at last live Mr. Solo.’
becoming an important, economically vital industry. ‘Arrival in two point three eight six minutes
But that’s not what happened. affirmative, Virkar.’
Over this period, agriculture fell from 60% of GDP to But by 1980, everyone had a super-accurate quartz
under 3% in some industrial nations. watch, everyone knew the precise time.
Farmers lost their power to affect change. Farming And the timing issue – and with it the craze for precise
became a small part of the economy. timing - disappeared.
Once the problem of adequate food production was The ungrateful consumer
solved, it ceased to be an issue. When the main benefit of a technology is delivered,
24 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 25
consumers stop being grateful to companies for
providing that benefit.
And simply forget that that benefit exists.
So watch out
Consumers stop being grateful fast:
• Mobile network service providers were the darlings of
Europe in the 1990s as they let consumers talk to
their friends anywhere, any time.
But now that call quality is perfect, and everyone has
a mobile phone, European mobile service providers
are rapidly becoming perceived as little better than
the state landline companies that preceded them.
• In the 1920s, managing a steady flow of electricity
into factories was such a critical issue that most
companies had a main board electricity director.
Once electricity supplies became secure, he
disappeared. Does the same fate await CIOs, now
that corporate PC and email systems all work?
• With 24/7 global email and intranets, information
flow within companies has now become so fast that
information is no longer the critical factor holding
them back. So are we now in the middle of the
information age – or are we watching its end?
Mobile phones which read barcodes on the bottom of ads will shortly be the wonder of the West.
But they are already taken for granted in Japan.
MY BRAIN HURTS 27
4. BEWARE THE COUNSEL OF NERDS
Winning technologies are
those that appeal to ordinary
people, not just geeks.
When Kodak introduced its point-and-shoot Box
Brownie camera in 1900, American photographers
laughed. They wanted better pictures – and that meant
more sophisticated cameras. Kodak’s new offer was
little more than a box with a hole at one end.
But Kodak had inspired the average American to think
that perhaps he could now take photographs all by
As there were a lot more ordinary Americans than there
were photographers at the time, the brand rapidly came
to dominate its market.
Tech company employees often
Similarly with AOL in the 1990s regard mainstreamers as dinosaurs.
Throughout its early days in the mid 1990s, the online
community laughed at AOL, with its no-brainer sign-up
Some nerds choose to carry a selection of pens in their shirt pocket. Corporate health and safety
manuals warn that this habit can be lethal in the event of an automobile accident.
28 Y&R ADVERTISING
process, and cutesy low-tech imagery. As an AOL user
you were regarded as pond life in chat rooms. An AOL
email address was social death.
But AOL had inspired the average American to think
that perhaps even he could take the on-ramp to the
cyberactive infobahn thing everyone was talking about.
And as there were many more ordinary Americans out
there than wired people at the time, AOL rapidly became
the main dial-up way of accessing the internet.
Ten years later, AOL remained attractive to many
millions of ordinary Americans – and one of the biggest
money earners on the web.
Your audience loses its brain
What AOL and Kodak understood, and what most tech
brands don’t, is that as a market develops, levels of Not all software is designed by
nerds for other nerds. On the
understanding, and comfort do not rise. On the contrary, computer map on Virgin Atlantic
they fall. flights, a dancing Elvis appears
First come the nerds, with love of technology, and their as you fly over Greenland.
intuitive sense of how it works.
Then come the early adopters, excited by the
technology, but with slightly less knowledge.
Then the mainstream flood in, with their fears and
Jeff Bezos at Amazon focused firmly on the But a year later, when online purchasing became
Finally come the laggards, who just don’t want to feel left mainstream. mainstream, suddenly Bezos’s planning bore fruit.
out. When he first launched Amazon in 1997, he Unlike at most other online retail sites, the
Over time, as the market floods with new, less tech savvy included a phone number for people who didn’t feel mainstream knew when they had placed an order at
confident about transmitting their credit card Amazon. They knew they had an alternative if they
consumers, the average level of understanding in the
details online, together with rapid email didn’t want to transact online. And they knew when
market falls rather than rises. And amongst advice- confirmation that an order had been accepted, was to expect the package.
hungry new entrants, the level of tech savvy is even being processed and had been mailed out. And so whilst all other online retailers were losing
lower. None of the geeks and nerds who were Amazon’s the mainstream’s trust with their bug-ridden
first customers used the phone number; most payment processes and chaotic fulfilment, Amazon
found the emails a nuisance. gained it.
30 Y&R ADVERTISING
Companies need to tune their offer to these successive
waves of less and less techy consumers. As time goes
on their marketing has to get more basic, not more
• Online banking portals worked fine for their first
users in the 90s. But the sort of people who are
trying online banking for the first time now aren’t that
comfortable with software interfaces. They need to be
simplified to cope.
• Similarly with microwave ovens. They worked fine Mainstreamers are different:
when they were bought by tech-savvy early-adopter In the early days of video in the
housewives in the 1990s. But now they’re 1970s, cash-strapped mainstreamers
mainstream. Brief to microwave designers: come up plugged their new VCR into their old
with a microwave as idiot-proof as a regular oven. And the real benefit of a VCR to them
• Vodafone are currently marketing simplified-interface was that they could, for the first time
mobile phones aimed at mainstream people over in their lives, experience the luxury of
changing channel without getting out
forty. Could such an approach pay off in the digital
of their armchair.
camera market too?
Are you a mainstreamer or some other type of person?
Find out in our online personality test at http://4cs.yr.com/diys
MY BRAIN HURTS 33
5. THINK INFECTION
How fast a technology
passes from person to
person is decisive to its
Between 2004 and 2007, two new devices appeared in
the living rooms of the world: the flat panel TV, and the
The flat panel TV rapidly became a must-have item
across the world, despite its high prices.
But the DVR grew much more slowly over the period -
despite the fact that most DVR owners say that it has
revolutionized their lives, and despite the fact that any
satellite TV subscriber given a DVR never gives the
The reason flat panels have a much higher consumer-to-
consumer infection rate:
• In 2004, the flat panel TV was the high status item in
early adopter homes. He talked about the amazing
The most successful technologies spread virally from person to person.
34 Y&R ADVERTISING
picture quality; she endorsed its The DVR is growing much more slowly because no one
minimalist lines and space-saving can express quite why it’s so good.
And they repeated their sell to every
If you want the world to accept your device quickly,
visitor to their home.
concentrate on making it more infectious:
• By 2005, the world was sold on flat
• The iPod spread fast because even if you put yours
panel TVs. Mr Average was inviting
inside your jacket pocket, your white headphones
his friends round to watch football on
were still visible to everyone around you. Other MP3
it, and extolling its virtues to them. Photography only took off when
player manufacturers need to think up a similar people learned to ask their audience
Compare that with DVRs over the mechanic. to pose and say cheese.
• It was the ‘my friends are’ section of the homepage
• In 2004, the first TiVo and Sky+ At airports, retailers, and that made MySpace spread like wildfire through
owners were amazed by their devices, and found nightclubs plasma schools and colleges. Everyone went out and asked
themselves suddenly no longer watching live screens are spreading
like wildfire. their friends to sign up and link to their page,
television. because otherwise it would be obvious that they
• They tried to communicate their experience to their were simply not popular.
friends, but couldn’t. Their friends just thought they • The Blackberry spread fast because every email it
had a digital version of a normal video player. sent included ‘sent from my wireless BlackBerry
• In 2005, DVRs had become more mainstream. But handheld’ by default. Why don’t other
again, owners struggled to rave about them to their communications systems brand their output?
friends. ‘It lets you pause live TV.’ was the best they
could do. ‘How often do I want to pause live TV?’
came the reply.
Today, in 2006, DVR owners continue to struggle to
articulate what the DVR has done for them - despite the
fact that they have moved into a completely new world
of on-demand television.
The flat panel TV succeeded rapidly because consumers
found it easy to infect their friends with the need for one,
36 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 37
THERE’S NOT THAT MUCH GOING
ON IN THE WORLD APART FROM BEX
THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION, SAY Google 99.8
ECONOMIC HISTORIANS TiVo 99.7
We still drive around in automobiles, Nike 99.4
invented in 1899, fly around in jumbo jets iPod 98.6
from 1968, and worry about atomic Starbucks 96.8
weapons invented in 1945.
6. BUYING IS ONLY THE BEGINNING Our best scientists spend their time
exploring Einstein’s theory of relativity
Crate & Barrel
from 1915 and the theory of quantum JetBlue 87.2
Successful technologies are mechanics from the 1920s. Ben and Jerry’s 87.1
Because not much else fundamental is Gap 86.7
those that consumers happening in the world today, digital
rethink their lives around. technology brands are some of the most Subway 85.6
energetic brands in the world, when Mini Cooper 85.0
Most tech marketers advertise and promote heavily to measured on Y&R’s global BrandAsset Target 74.7
get their consumer to buy their products. Valuator study.
Louis Vuitton 71.0
Once that consumer has left the shop, they see their job But not all tech brands are equally
as done. successful.
Some tech brands are less energetic than
But the success of tech products relies massively on others, and the thing that drags the also- Samsung 64.1
whether consumers adopt the product for everyday use rans down is often consumer confusion. BlackBerry 61.2
or not. Imperfect marketing drags tech brands’ Banana Republic 59.6
No tech product succeeds long term if the consumer energy levels down in three key ways: The Body Shop 56.6
buys the product, takes it home and puts it in a drawer. • Lack of consumer understanding of Heinz 54.7
where a tech brand is heading in a
Whether they integrate it into their lives is what separates philosophical sense drags down its level MasterCard 52.8
a successful tech product from the rest. of VISION. Chipotle 52.0
• If consumers do not recognise and Domino’s Pizza 51.9
Integrating the video camera respond to a brand’s innovation
For instance, most Americans or Europeans using a
Sierra Mist 43.8
activities, this drags down its level of
video camera will stand motionless, zooming in and out, INVENTION.
producing boring video. • If the brand doesn’t exude a sense of
buzz, this pulls down its level of Delta Air Lines 40.1
Give that same video camera to a young Japanese
woman, however, and the reaction is completely
DYNAMISM. Tostitos 32.7
On the right are energy levels for 30 J Crew 32.2
brands in the US.
Google is top of the pile.
38 Y&R ADVERTISING Source: BAV USA Jan-Dec 2004
different. Many will start narrating as they use the video
camera, interviewing people as they film them, and
producing their own personal documentary.
The result is much more compelling and shareable.
And so video cameras have become a much more
central part of young Japanese life than they are in the In Japan, young women
into their lives much
more readily than in the
Integrating the homepage West.
It’s also the difference between ordinary homepages
and the homepages people create on social
networking sites like FaceBook, Bebo and MySpace.
The web homepage has been around for years, but
never became a vital part of anyone’s life, because,
after the first few hits, no one’s friends could ever
be bothered looking at it.
It was only when MySpace decided that
homepages were a social networking tool – and fifty
million teenagers realised that they would never
get another date without looking good on
theirs - that the idea took off.
Many tech brands should think harder about how The period 1900 to 1940 saw the appearance
of the automobile, the airplane, electricity,
they want people to use their products. radio and many other technologies.
Then they should publicise their ‘usage These technologies changed our grandparents’
instructions’: and great-grandparents’ lives out of all
• Computer manufacturers need to
articulate better how their modern In the period 1980-2006 there has been much
media-centric computers can change
Apart, that is, from the rapid development of
their users’ lives. They currently say digital technology.
‘Store hours of TV’. It’s not enough to persuade non-
owners to buy.
• YouTube.com is attracting a lot of people who
want to share the movies they’ve made with
their webcam or MP4 recorder. But it has not
yet defined how non movie-makers should use
its site. They need to sell the ‘YouTube evening’ 7. THE SECOND GENERATION USES
as a more compelling alternative to TV.
• Camcorders are getting smaller and more robust. DIFFERENTLY
Congratulations to Samsung on positioning their
latest tiny camcorders as extreme sports recording The true impact of
technology on a society may
Cooool. take a generation.
When mobile phones first became popular in the early
nineties, the first generation of consumers to use them
found they were a very useful part of their social lives.
If they were late for a dinner appointment, they could call
their friends and apologise from their car.
If they made a mistake in an arrangement, they could
call the other person and find them.
The second generation are different
But the next generation to use them do so differently.
They no longer make plans in advance, because they
don’t need to. They know that all their friends can be
contacted at any time because they all have mobile
phones with them.
And so they just arrange their evening by phone on the
42 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 43
For the first generation of users, mobile phones were a
helpful aid to their existing social lives.
For the second generation, mobile phones have
redefined their social lives.
Similarly with PCs
A similar change happened with PCs.
When the first generation of companies bought PCs in
the 1980s, they regarded them as a better form of
typewriter, and put them on their secretaries’ desks.
But the next generation of executives in the 1990s were First generation corporations used
all computer literate. email to allow their managers to
And so their companies gave them the PCs, and gave
the secretaries pink slips.
When digitization hit, first generation But then Britain’s Arctic Monkeys made
Similarly with email musicians called their lawyers. themselves famous through MP3 downloads.
First generation CEOs used email to improve
communications across their management structure.
Next generation CEOs used the improved information
flow to flatten command structures, cutting out the
layers of management that were no longer necessary.
With both PCs and email, the first generation of
companies used them to make their existing structures
The second generation redefined their structures around
Second generation corporations
the new technology. eliminated the managers.
Watch the way the second generation use technology
for the way it will really impact the world:
• Current TiVo users still do most of their viewing live,
And singer Sandi Thom made it through Today, savvy record companies use CDs as a
webcasts. medium for selling ringtones.
44 Y&R ADVERTISING
as they have TV schedules etched into
But no one will remember TV schedules if
they don’t have to. And so the next
generation are likely to use their TiVos
differently, collecting most of their viewing
to watch when they want. Classical ad
industry watch out.
• Current drivers use satnav as an aid to the
mental maps they already have in their
8. CONSUMERS LEARN ONLY
heads. But who will bother to memorise a
map if they don’t need to?
Expect the next
generation of motorists to THROUGH DOING
be completely lost when
Like the generation of schoolkids who forgot how to their satnav breaks down. Every tech device or service today comes with an
add one and one to get two because they were
instruction manual, which can be up to five centimetres
allowed calculators in their math exams, expect the
next generation of motorists to be completely lost
when their satnav breaks down. Tech manuals are so incomprehensible that some
manufacturers pray silently that someone will write a ‘for
Dummies’ book to explain how to use their new device.
But the problem goes beyond this.
Observations show that most consumers never read the
instruction book, no matter how well written.
The only way most consumers learn is by handling a Instructions for using
payphones in South Africa
device and trying to make it work. The only way most are visual, because South
consumers learn is by doing. Africans speak eleven
‘Plug and play’ was therefore never a manufacturer different languages. Other
telecoms companies could
strategy. It is just a consumer reality. learn from this.
46 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 47
Consumers fear the confusing
What’s more, consumers know they don’t read
So when they look at a new device and they don’t
understand how it works, they tend not to buy it.
This means that one of the most useful roles of
technology marketing is to explain what a thing does in
advance. If consumers feel they understand a device
before they buy it, one of the biggest fears they have is
This is why tech stores like CompUSA and Germany’s
Saturn chain allow consumers to ‘play’ with their wares
Consumers aren’t just playing with them – they are
working out how to use them – and thus significantly
increasing their likelihood to buy.
Similarly with games – giving away the first few levels
for free creates a huge market of hooked users, who
simply have to finish.
• The vogue for ‘usability testing’ – rooms full of
students surfing to websites and exploring the user-
friendliness of their navigation and payment systems
happened too late in the internet boom to make a
difference to the companies that used it. Usability
testing needs a revival.
• Most DV camcorders have a ‘demo mode’ for use by
retailers. The camcorder cycles through
demonstrations of its main features to the delight of
browsing customers. All well and good – but a demo
48 Y&R ADVERTISING
mode for use by forgetful owners would also be
• And not just in audiovisual equipment - a demo mode
would be massively helpful in office phone systems
• The latest camcorders have ‘easy’ mode buttons that
allow users who have never read the manual to use
them. More consumer electronics devices, from 9. PRICE DICTATES PERCEPTION
satellite receivers to microwave ovens need such a
Consumers value things
according to their price.
‘If the car had developed at the same speed as the
computer’, say Silicon Valley geeks, ‘Today you’d be
driving from Los Angeles to New York in under four
minutes. And the car would cost you less than twenty
The boast reflects the flipside of Moore’s Law: that
digital technology tends to halve in price every couple of
years or so, and keep doing so for decades:
• $3000 plasma panels from 2003 sell for $500 today
• $1000 camcorders from 2003 now sell for $300.
• $300 DVD players from 2002 now sell for less than
As PCs become cheaper, they are
the cost of the cable that connects them to the TV.
increasingly being sold by hard
Coping with such price falls, and resulting changes in discount food outlets.
consumer expectations and perceptions are amongst
the most difficult issues in tech marketing:
• Consumers who bought a state-of-the-art computer
50 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS
in 2002 have difficulty accepting that their machine
today is virtually obsolete.
• Indeed, consumer expectations of price falls
are often the biggest barrier to sales today:
many consumers say they didn’t buy a 42 inch
plasma to watch the 2006 World Cup on
because they thought that plasma screens
would halve in price by Christmas. In Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner,
2019 Los Angeles detective
• On the other hand, consumers are often so Harrison Ford interviews an exotic
good at finding uses for cut-price technology dancer who performs with a snake.
that marketers need to be careful: ‘Is that a real snake?’ asks Ford.
The Mercury 1-2-1 mobile phone company thought The snake is an artificial living
they were doing their customers a small favour copy.
when they offered them unlimited free evening calls ‘If I could afford a real snake,’
between their mobiles in the late nineties. replies the dancer, ‘would I be
What they didn’t expect was for their network to be
jammed by customers who chose to go out drinking
for the evening, leaving one phone permanently on
in their baby’s cot at home as a baby monitor.
The speed of falling prices are of massive importance
to any tech based marketer:
• Lexus built its reputation around the many
electronic devices and features which were
fitted as standard in its vehicles. Today though, Airtime is so
cheap in 2006
the cost of these features has fallen dramatically, and
that mobile phone
many are now fitted as standard on mid range companies can
saloons. Lexus needs to develop new reputations – offer free airtime to
and to do so fast. couples without risk.
75% of the cost of running a newspaper lies in its distribution: printing, delivering and chopping down trees.
Digitization is allowing newspaper proprietors to cut all of these costs - but the indications are that
consumers value news they receive for free less.
MY BRAIN HURTS 53
• As average voice revenue per user continues to fall
for mobile phone companies, they need to encourage ‘Talk for hours,
people to spend more time on the phone. Young
women already rate their boyfriends by how not minutes.’
frequently they call and text them; Perhaps marketers
should start to suggest to them that the ultimate sign HUTCHINSON WHAMPOA
of commitment is the always-on relationship – where ‘3’ MOBILE PHONE AD
an (exceptionally besotted) couple agree to sleep,
eat and work with an always-on phone connection
10. THE VISIBLE WINS
• ‘Information wants to be free’, said internet Consumers place little value
visionaries in the nineties. They may as well have said on things they can’t see.
‘Information wants to be worthless.’
When Karl Benz’s first automobile hit the roads in 1889,
people called it ‘the horseless carriage’. Every previous
form of road transportation they had seen had horses in
front. The striking thing about this one was that it didn’t.
Similarly when the radio first appeared. Unlike
gramophones and telephones, it had no wires attached.
So people called it the ‘wireless’.
But the names didn’t last.
After a while, the lack of horses and wires faded from
the public memory. As wireless devices
And people started calling the wireless a radio. consumers will forget
And the horseless carriage an automobile. that wires ever existed.
Over time, consumers stop valuing, and eventually don’t
even remember, things they can’t see.
It’s a lesson technology-based companies have often
failed to heed. If consumers can’t see your product or
54 Y&R ADVERTISING MY BRAIN HURTS 55
service, it stands a much lower chance of long-term
• Consumers can’t see satellites. So they failed to get
hooked by satellite phone technology. In the late
1990s, the Iridium consortium had a network of forty
satellites orbiting the earth, allowing phone coverage
across the whole planet. It was a pretty cool idea. But
the consumer didn’t buy - because all they saw was
a handset the size of a brick.
• Mobile network service providers suffer from being
invisible. As a result, mobile handset manufacturers
became stronger brands than mobile service
providers across the world.
The smart mobile service providers in the nineties
were Orange and Vodafone, who insisted on putting
their logos on phones connected to their networks.
France Telecom paid $45 billion for Orange in 2001.
That’s how much that brand was worth.
• The Blackberry wireless handheld device took the
corporate world by storm in 2003. But the Harman/Kardon took an
Blackberry’s marketers were careful not to market invisible ingredient brand -
the computer speaker -
their device as a ‘wireless network technology’. They and turned it into a
simply sold it as a handheld device called a desirable object in its own
Blackberry. And the question on the lips of owners of right.
all other PDAs was not ‘How do I get my PDA to
connect?’ but ‘Why can’t I have a Blackberry?’
So make yourself visible
Digital marketers need to work out how to make their
activity visible to the consumer, and then brand it:
Breaking into your neighbour’s unsecured WiFi network is the yuppy game of the mid 2000s.
But WiFi is invisible. As it becomes more widespread and more reliable, people will forget that it exists.
MY BRAIN HURTS 57
• Can you see WiFi, GPS and BlueTooth? Don’t bank
on these brand names being in perfect health in
• Congratulations to Dolby Labs for getting their logo
on every piece of hi-fi equipment for the past thirty
years. But surely they could have done more with
such a famous brand?
• Digital technology means consumers use ATM
networks to withdraw money from banks nowadays,
so no one goes into their branches any more.
In the 19th Century, banks spent a fortune on a good
visual appearance, decorating their branches with
marble and other fine stones. Today, they need to
spend some money making their ATMs look a little
• In today’s online world, the one visible thing a bank
offers is a credit card. And the logo that guarantees
acceptability of these cards is that of Visa, not the
Visa is thus the world’s strongest financial brand, and
could play a powerful role in cross-selling the
insurance and investment products banks are
currently struggling with.
ATMs are banks’ sole point of
contact with their customer
nowadays. They need a design
Airlines make their frequent flyer schemes visible through cards and luggage tags. Tech companies need to
consider how to make their offerings more visible too.
MY BRAIN HURTS