How the Digital Revolution is leaving the consumer behind

I’ve had my hands full with some exciting stuff at work so it has made my writing a little infrequent as of lates.  But nonetheless, I still wanted to to share some things that have caught my attention lately.  

At the top of that list is a great presentation called “My Brain Hurts” by the folks over at Wunderman.  I hadn’t had a chance to read much of their work in the past, but recently came across their “How To Think Digital” presentation from Cannes.   Wunderman has a really interesting site, especially their “Pick Our Brains” and “Take Our Stuff” sections where you can see all the white papers, presentations and blogs from the Wunderman Network.  This is a great example of how an agency becomes a strategic leader and partner for a brand in today’s Web 2.0 World.

Now “My Brain Hurts” is a great look at how the digital revolution is leaving the consumer behind.  Or in other words, how geek marketers like me are pushing the technology faster than consumers are keeping up.  It is a great presentation and one you should really read in its entirety.  In the meantime, here are their 21 summary points from the deck:

  1. Digital technology gets twice as fast, and as capable, and as powerful every eighteen months.
  2. Meanwhile the mind of its user has not gotten anymore sophisticated in the past ten thousand years.
  3. One result is a widening gap between what technology can do, and what its users – both young and old – understand it can do.
  4. The other result is a growing confusion amongst consumers, as they lose touch with how their phones, computers, DVRs, VCRs, TVs, SatNavs, GPSs, home medical equipment and MP3 players work.
  5. As consumers and technology diverge, there is a growing risk of a crash. And as digitization is now critical in all industries and all parts of the economy, that crash would be economy-wide.
  6. Helping consumers understand technology is not easy. They struggle with the demands modern devices and software make of them, and fail to absorb new tech-based concepts.
  7. The key need is for simplicity. Simple devices and software that do one thing, not several can have an electrifying effect on consumer mentality, clearing minds, and changing the way consumers think.
  8. But a technology must work for it to be able to do this. So many – like mobile phone picture messaging – were launched when they didn’t.
  9. We must also be conscious of the fact that consumers are rarely grateful for the changes tech brings to their lives. Once something works, they forget it exists.
  10. We must also be careful not to listen too closely to nerds – the early adopters who buy tech when it first comes out. Their thoughts are not those of the general population.
  11. We should think more about how technology spreads from person to person in the population.  The resulting infection rate will determine how fast a technology takes off.
  12. We must recognize that whether consumers fit a technology into their lives or not is the true measure of success – and that the real impact of a new technology on a society may take a generation.
  13. Consumers do not read instruction books. Period. Tomorrow’s tech launches need to recognise this.
  14. Digital equipment also can get twice as cheap every two years. For the consumer, price is a positioning tool – and something that costs next to nothing can also be perceived as being worth next to nothing.
  15. Consumers are also visual creatures: after a while, they forget that invisible technologies – like WiFi – exist
  16. At the moment, the tech world is buzzing with words like ‘convergence’. But beware: convergence devices do not necessarily contain a strong consumer benefit.
  17. Beware also of the conviction within tech companies that all technologies need to keep developing. True for the company that makes them.  Not necessarily true for the consumer.
  18. For a tech device to fly, it needs a valuable use, a ‘killer app’. Watch out for consumers developing their own – unexpected and often unwanted – uses for a technology.
  19. Study videogames carefully – they are taking consumer time away from television because they are much more compelling than television – just as compelling television took share away from passive radio and press in the 1950s.
  20. Watch out particularly for women. They are increasingly the key consumer of communications technologies.
  21. Watch out also for people in emerging markets. There are four billion of them, and they often use technology more effectively than people in richer countries.
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3 Responses to How the Digital Revolution is leaving the consumer behind

  1. 5acrefarmer says:

    YES, YES, YES to all of the above! ! ! !
    I love new technology but I’m just an average person without the time, desire or brain power to learn everything or even barely keep up with it all. Technology is just a tool that I can use to get something done not something I want to love for its own sake.

    You could possibly add to the list the difficulty for consumers to actually see products they may want to buy. I recently had to weird situation whereby I went up to Sydney (Australia’s largest city) and could not find one store that I could walk into and see, hold and ask questions about a PDA made by a big name company. Even the store that liked to call themselves “The **** Store” and specialised in this one particular brand, did not stock one PDA at all ! The distance between the consumer and the manufacturer is getting bigger.

  2. The result of all this is a big hole and amazing business opportunity for designing simple, intuitive, and still powerful hardware and software. For all the power users out there, there are just as many people who have relatively simple demands to make upon their technology. I worked at a Cell phone dealer for a while and it was amazing how many people come in and ask for a phone that didn’t have “a camera and all that extra stuff”. Most of the time they would end up with a phone that was more powerful and complicated than they needed but not powerful enough to please the true geek.

    We need people to make intuitive technology that hasn’t lost any of it’s punch and capability. That is one of the biggest strengths of the iPhone. Besides being extremely cool, it is also much simpler and easier to operate and figure out than all the Blackberry’s and Palms out there. If people start creating a business model around this technology that isn’t difficult for average people to use, there is a lot of potential out there.

  3. […] this post by Dave Knox from P&G (and the Wunderman presentation “my brain hurts”) about leaving the customer behind […]

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