Tech Marketing · These are questions for wise men with skinny arms

Tech Marketing

So I’m clearly late to this party, but I just find this too funny. Tech marketing tactics have bled into other areas with expected results, hilarity.

It wasn’t long ago I saw the video for books for kids video that called all of the silicon valley gadget fetish for what it is. The video was cute and ended on a warm note that people should get as excited about education initiatives as they do about consumer electronics. I thought the approach was clever, but I didn’t see it odd that this style of marketing applies only to products made for a single market by half a dozen companies. It just struck me as normal, this is what the (tech) media normally does with these products, so there wasn’t anything insightful there.

It wasn’t until I saw an automobile ad parody on SNL that I realized that other markets have similar hyperbolic rhetoric. For Apple, Microsoft or Google to have every product announcement start and end with innovative or revolutionary is clearly an overstatement, but at least they had a faint possibility of becoming something big by at least being new. It’s just not as far fetched to describe a head-mounted display or a portable all-in-one computer as game-changers. When a similar line is used for something like new cars or airplane tickets, I just laugh.

The car ad is clearly funny because of it’s seriousness, the famous actor is talking about grand ideas and morals when driving in what is clearly an unremarkable SUV. Overselling has been a tactic since forever, but this one struck me differently in the context of something like the Apple Watch. The watch was heralded at the launch event as a bringer of a new age of communication and convenience. Where sending a emoti-fish to a friend would be a necessary feature for life as we know it. I don’t think even half of the people watching the event found that argument convincing, but did the popular media parody it’s self seriousness? Maybe they did, but I didn’t bump into it, so I’m going to work with the assumption that it wasn’t in the popular conciseness.

The other ad I saw was for an airline that claimed to have revolutionized air travel 60 years ago, and now they are doing it again. Really? Reinvented passenger jet aircraft and the modern commercial aviation industry? Why can’t the advertising at least allude to the fact that lie flat first class seating isn’t the same as the mere ability to travel across oceans in an afternoon? Being in an upstart market where industry-defining is a moving target has it’s downsides as well; why not sell the upside of being in a mature industry that probably won’t see a revolution like that of younger industries.

Take the handful of upstart smartphone OSs, each could be described with any of those big idea adjectives and high ambitions for the future, but the reality is that all of them will fail commercially and adopting one as a consumer is a huge risk when there are already 3 that have fantastic support. When did revolutionary become a thing to chase in itself? Do people really go out looking for car and think “I’m looking for something innovative and genre-defining”? Maybe for high-end cars, which would explain Teslas.

Maybe I’m beginning to see the point behind the message here: sell people on the grand vision that you don’t posses, but actually exists at even higher levels on the luxury market. Cars being just superb driving machines, airlines being personal getaways, computers as efficiency monsters.

It still strikes me funny that when non-tech companies try tactics similar to tech companies, they get noticed (in popular media at least) as absurdest, but tech companies realistically don’t produce that much worthy of what they spout, but are given a free pass. It’s always fun to guess the next stop that the hype train will make, but I’m sure glad I’m not riding on it.