Observations from the Election for IoT Marketers

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librariansQuite a number of articles have been written since the U.S. Presidential election (to be followed, no doubt, by many books) on communications strategies and lessons learned. Some provide excellent food for thought for tech industry marketers, especially those of us who spend our time thinking and writing about the Internet of Things.

We were particularly intrigued by the recent Wall Street Journal column, “Trump’s Win Has Ad Agencies Rethink How They Collect Data, Recruit Staff.” Bottom line: Have marketers become out of touch with consumers?

One of the article’s key takeaways was that many marketing programs are oriented toward aspirational, upscale urban elite imagery and are out of touch with the same people—rural, economically frustrated, elite-distrusting, anti-globalization voters—who propelled the businessman into the White House.”

Robert Senior, worldwide chief executive of the creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi, assessed: “The election will have spooked the liberal elite away from high concept, ‘make the world a better place’” advertising to “a more down-to-earth ‘tell me what you will do for me’ approach.”

Namely, the WSJ article also chronicled how one tech company, HP, is now re-evaluating use of research techniques like online polls and looking to increase use of techniques like personal interviews and ethnography—trying to “understand how people live by visiting them in their homes or work environments.”

This is borrowing an idea long the province of industrial design consultancies rather than advertising agencies, i.e. contextual research. This is where trained researchers observe how people live and interact with products and services, both existing and newly designed. It would be a refreshing outcome of the recent election if marketers started spending quality time with those whom they are trying to understand.

It’s so easy just to poll people about their choice between a couple options, but those numbers can be volatile unless the purchase is habitual (Coke vs. Pepsi),” one Forbes columnist noted. “The secret to understanding how people really make choices is to understand their ‘jobs to be done,’ in other words what they’re trying to get done in their lives that a product (or candidate) can help them achieve.”

There is little disagreement that widespread adoption and ultimate success of smart home products centers around the ability to create real value for real people. As we know, to date, the industry at large has failed to offer consumers many compelling solutions: i.e. the notoriously connected appliance that can play music just because it can—and with a hefty price tag to boot.

So, it’s an interesting exercise to analyze this election. But as many marketing journals and columnists have cautioned: trusting this unprecedented election as a marketing model for the rest of us might be faulty indeed. The best lessons to take away are probably broad marketing lessons.

Here are a few bits of wisdom – and most are rooted in marketing basics:

  • Know your customer. Get the best consumer data and analysis possible by leaving your bubble and working directly with them.
  • Target a niche. If you try to appeal to everybody, you’re in danger of appealing to no one.
  • Keep the message simple.
  • Focus on solutions vs. a laundry list of product features.
  • Realize that the better product doesn’t always win, but the better marketing strategy often does.

And most importantly, manufacturers of consumer products should realize that IoT provides them the best opportunity for mass, ongoing contextual research by acquiring and analyzing user and product usage data in real time! So many companies are just focusing their efforts on getting products connected without looking forward and realizing what a game-changer IoT-based data really is. That’s why Arrayent provides an IoT business transformation workshop for all of our customers, to help them understand the far-ranging implications that IoT data provides to their companies, products and consumers.