Bits, Bytes and Branding

Good marketing can make an average product sell better. But to sell like hot
cakes, products need great marketing. And a hot cake appeals to the sense of
taste and creates an associated feeling of pleasure. It does not emphasize the
calorie count of the cake.

The need to add an emotive experience to a product is rapidly gaining
relevance for IT products also. Traditionally, IT products have focused on
knowledge–exemplified by technology specifications. Such messages target the
consumers mind but not the heart. They miss the emotional resonance with a brand
that needs to emerge as a key brand differentiator. This traditional,
unidirectional approach worked in the past when IT was a plausible
differentiator. Today, this is not the scenario. And it will change rapidly in
the future, especially for the home segment. Consider the following:

Features are homogeneous today. They do not lend themselves to any unique
positioning. Brands are built with huge marketing outlays but they do not create
distinct images in the minds of the customer. Eventually, the price or the
salesman’s pitch, becomes the purchase determinants. But what happens when the
prices hit rock bottom and the sales pitch sounds the same?

key is in letting the customer do it by himself and experience what
these products can do for him in real life


The computer as a tool has also changed character. It is no more a business
or work tool. It is also not just an educational aid. Its role in recreational
and entertainment is increasing rapidly. Is the bits and bytes branding enough
in such a scenario? No. It is like trying to sell a shirt on the basis of the
fabric’s tensile strength. A life style product has to be sold as much by
style as substance. Sometimes even more so.

A possible solution is Experiential Marketing. A 360 degrees experience that
engages the heart and mind of the consumer. Something that offers sensory,
cognitive, relational and positive interactions with the product at every point.
It is a powerful concept being used in the West–especially in the retail and
entertainment sectors. IT marketers can integrate it with their existing
efforts. Today many computers are bought without actually looking or touching
the real product; leave aside actually working on it. It is only after one has
purchased and installed the computer does one get a feel of the whole product.
Is that not incomplete? Why should a customer be not able to test operate a
computer just as he test rides a car?

There are many ways to create customer experiences. In Atlanta, Whirlpool has
its ‘Insperience Studio’- a place where Whirlpool has all its products
displayed and visitors can try any of the products they want to. They can cook,
bake cakes, do their laundry, fry eggs–whatever takes their fancy with the
products on display. They can even walk in with their architects to figure out
what product will fit best in their homes. They just cannot buy the product.

A similar approach can be taken for IT products. Printers today claim
lifelike prints. So why not a studio where a customer can walk in with a
photograph, scan it, print it, email it or just get one taken. Or maybe morph
one with Tendulkar or any other idol. Maybe even make a personalized greeting
card out of it and send it as an email attachment. Or walk in with an old family
album and walk out with a CD of digitally enhanced pictures? Want to sell Wi-Fi?
Why not let a customer place his drinks order from a PDA/laptop without a waiter
coming to the table? Or why not a ‘digital restaurant’ where among other
things the customer can select the music of his choice from a computer console.
And as the music plays his photograph is flashed on a screen.

It is not that creating experiences has never been done before. But by and
large the Indian market is not organized for such experience sharing. The
products are displayed, but you cannot touch or feel, let alone try out. The
applications demonstrated–if at all –are not personalized and the customer
cannot relate to them. The opportunity to experience is far too infrequent. And
in most cases there is nothing innovative about it. The key is in letting the
customer do it by himself and experience what these products can do for him in
real life.

Without that, low prices and lower margins will remain the rule.

Shyam Malhotra
The author is Editor-in-Chief of CyberMedia, the publishers of Dataquest.

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