Tech: Be spectacular to get noticed

Brands must opt for the compelling if they hope to use technology to get consumers' attention

The most underwhelming email I've received this year contained these words: 'Ford is now offering free 3D holograms to PeerIndex users to commemorate the launch of their new Ford BMAX'.

It's basically a fancy version of the old 'dinosaur hologram' you used to get in cereal packets, but of a family car. I didn't take Ford up on the offer.

It's easy to get caught between two stools when you use technology in marketing. We want it to be interesting and attention grabbing, but also something everyone can do: to justify its cost, it has to offer reach figures that compare favourably with other channels. So, we try to find something enough people can 'participate' in.

Yet we don't have to be so restrictive if we use technology correctly within a communications framework. Instead of finding one place along the line between cutting edge and mass adoption, think about doing two things.

Real-life

First, do something spectacular. This is becoming harder, especially when everyone has a smartphone in their pocket that James Bond would be jealous of. It often means doing something in real life. Nike's 'Film room' in New York, for example, let kids analyse the signature moves of their basketball heroes. It filmed them trying to replicate a move and then gave them a poster of themselves in action (http://bit.ly/yzT7Py).

Second, make the story of what you do accessible, so that your marketing has the best possible chance of reaching a lot of people. Yes, it's about wowing consumers with the technological boundaries you are pushing, but that's best achieved by telling a compelling story.

You need to put as much effort into the story of the technological wonder as you do the technology itself. Gillette's 'Light it up' projections in Boston before the Olympics are beautifully captured in the video of the event (http://bit.ly/RNqePo).

It comes back to the simple question that Ford forgot to ask: will people actually care? It's worth remembering sci-fi author Arthur C Clarke's third law: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic'. Bring the magic, or nobody will care.

John V Willshire is the founder of Smithery, an innovation works for marketing and product development. Follow him on Twitter @willsh or at smithery.co/blog

WOW FACTORS

Three examples of brands hitting home with consumers using spectacular technology:

It's going to be easier to amaze people if you're a technology company at the top of your game - Samsung's Smart Window stole the show at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES). See http://bit.ly/z7C7iV.

You don't have to be a tech company to have a tech research lab, of course - this incredible 'interactive plant' demonstration from Disney Research labs is amazing: http://bit.ly/MnIFYy.

Spectacular doesn't just have to be about cutting-edge tech - it can be about sheer effort, as US alternative rock band OK Go and Chevrolet proved with this collaboration: http://bit.ly/yAAqmQ

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