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Starting a charm offensive

How businesses’ marketing and brand strategies must evolve to keep their audiences engaged and up to speed with the ever-accelerating pace of technological change.

Noted futurist and Google’s Director of Engineering Ray Kurzweil said in 2001 that humanity’s rate of technological innovation was doubling every decade. In his essay ‘The Law of Accelerating Returns’, he stated “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress.”

His statement is astounding, provocative, and almost impossible to imagine, yet we see the evidence around us every day. New ways of integrating technology into the everyday, and new ways to live, work, play, and communicate with each other have transformed our way of life on a global scale in an incredibly short period of time. To put it into context—it took 75 years for us innovate from the first steam train to the first automobile, yet in an equivalent time period we have been to space, invented multiple global communications networks, discovered new power sources, and are beginning to unlock the secrets of the human genome itself.

However, the path to technological innovation does not always run smoothly, and people do not always embrace innovative new products and services in a logical way— basing their decisions on factors other than simple technological improvements. History is littered with examples of new products that failed to find their place in peoples’ hearts and minds, from BetaMax video storage to Apple’s Newton and, more recently, Google’s Glass wearable device. Each of these had something new and innovative to offer, and yet are now seen as some of the business world’s most startling failures. Each of these results seem to have at least one thing in common—the audience wasn’t ready for them. Either they couldn’t see the need in their own lives that the product was looking to fill, they weren’t willing to compromise on cost, or the brand that manufactured the product or service wasn’t trusted or respected.

Although a business’ brand or marketing strategy cannot completely counteract these challenges—or create consumer demand out of thin air—a strong, strategic approach can help guide a customer through the benefits and opportunities of an innovative new technology. This ensures that your market has both the conceptual space to appreciate your product’s potential and the appetite to incorporate it into their lives, even if your new product or service isn’t the most advanced of its type.

Two of the worlds’ largest and most influential brands, Apple and Microsoft went head-to-head in the personal music player market with the iPod and the Zune. Each were broadly similar from a product perspective, but the Zune was entering a market dominated by the iPod. The Zune had brand on its side as both parent brands were equally well known. However, where Microsoft failed was that it could not effectively position its product as new or differentiated from the iPod; and customers were reluctant to embrace it. In his Zune retrospective, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo writes “To beat it [the iPod], Microsoft needed to offer something that would make Apple’s device look pitifully old-fashioned. The Zune HD didn't do that. Its physical design marked it as being different from an iPod, but that was pretty much the only difference. There was no reason to buy the Zune unless you wanted to stand apart from the Apple cult.” Many other factors contributed to the Zune’s demise, both external and internal to Microsoft, but a strong, innovative market position and brand strategy might have helped Microsoft turn the Zune into a success.

To help ensure that your latest or next product offering becomes a success, a strong brand and product marketing strategy could be crucial. We reflect on our top pieces of advice for any marketing strategy to succeed.



Any campaign needs to clearly and effectively demonstrate why your product has a place in your audience’s lives—either making something easier to accomplish or allowing them to do something they weren’t able to do before. In the latter case, be careful to judge the new capability correctly—avoid the Google Glass error of headlining a feature that no one wants!


Know how your customers like to learn

As well as understanding what your customers want from your product, it’s important to consider where and how they are willing to engage with it. A more complex product requiring a deeper explanation may not work in a smaller print advert, for example, and attempting to explain too much in a small space can put off your potential customers. Short-duration videos may be more effective.


New products may need new channels

When planning your campaign, make sure that you consider new and evolving communications as part of your planning process. People who join new social media platforms, for example, tend to be early adopters and more open to new products and services. Constantly reviewing these emerging channels and clearly evaluating their potential impact will help to position your brand as a true innovator.


What you love might not be what they do

With long development cycles and a lot of love, attention, and focus, your new product is ready for market. However, as you prepare to deploy, make sure your audience remain your central focus. For example, you may love your new product because of an innovative new software, but your markets love the combination of price point and look and feel. Don’t let your long days, weeks, and months of development blind you to the actual reasons your audience will choose your product!

Whatever your product or device, whether it’s brand new or tried-and-tested, a strong, coherent brand and marketing strategy can help to give it the best chance of success.