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Word of Advice to CES: Keep it simple

Posted by: Nirm Shanbhag on January 13, 2011

Having spent the last few days at the Consumer Electronics Show, aka CES, I have one request to the technology industry: Please, for the love of 3D, the Cloud, and the tablet army, keep it simple.

You see, for every brilliant idea from Silicon Valley’s geniuses, there is also a not so brilliant idea from Silicon Valley’s marketers: a brand. Yes, we can debate whether a feature name is a brand, but if it has a ©, ® or ™ after it, it’s close enough. I mean, think about it — does it really matter to you if your Zoink Tech® Amoeba 4G™ smartphone has a Super Paraview™ display?  Or that the shiny new tablet you’re eyeing features a 1.2Ghz, tri-core Phantom® CPU with SimuNet Technology™? I get that these companies are looking for ways to get the attention of the press, that they’re interested in one-upping the competition, that some analyst, somewhere at a Bloomberg terminal understands why this matters, but are they building their brands for the consumers who actually buy these things or for themselves? From what we’ve seen at CES, I’d say it’s the latter.

So, is it that brands just don’t have a place in technology? Quite the contrary, brands matter more in technology today than ever before. In fact, you could argue that they matter more in technology than they do anywhere else. The consumer electronics industry, the computer industry, the mobile industry, even the automotive industry all depend on companies continually leapfrogging themselves. This means that each generation of offerings are somehow more complicated than the last. What’s more, the pace of that change — the pace of complication — is moving at an ever-increasing pace. Faced with so many choices, with so much change, there is simply no way that a real consumer can keep on top of it all. 

That’s where brands come in. Just as Intel simplified choice in the personal computer industry 20 years ago when it said there are PCs with Intel® processors and then there’s everything else, it is time for the rest of the tech world to catch up. By creating brands that stand for something bigger, something relevant, and something distinct, tech companies can make it easier to engage consumers each time there’s something new. A strong, enduring brand can make it simpler to go from V1 to V2 to V3. A strong brand can make it possible for a consumer who visits an AT&T store once every two years to select their product from the 30 devices that weren’t there six months before. Simply put, a strong brand can drive choice and driving choice drives sales — and driving sales is what keeps every marketer employed.

So, to all the marketers who were at CES, and even those who weren’t, please keep it simple. You’ll thank us if you do.

Stay tuned for more on CES in the next couple of days...

Category: Digital and social

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