Arun Sudhaman 11 May 2012 // 3:22PM GMT
A new survey of 6,000 consumers reports that people prefer technology which simplifies their life. Look beyond the obvious finding, though, and Ketchum’s new Digital Living Index offers a useful roadmap for technology communicators wondering how they can make their products resonate in an increasingly congested marketplace. To begin with, the report reminds us of the importance of localisation. This may seem obvious, but in the world of technology marketing, it is not uncommon to find one-size-fits-all global campaigns. Technology companies, more than most sectors, like their PR firms to handle multi-market assignments; there is nothing wrong with that, but they need to ensure that their communications take cultural sensitivities into account. That much is made clear by several of the Index’s findings. Smartphones, for example, get the most “love” in China, where people also value consumer technology’s ability to manage relationships and health. In the UK, in contrast, there is more affection for TVs, and people prefer to use technology to keep abreast of current affairs. Americans, meanwhile, use technology to signal who they are and attract people with similar values. These findings surprised cultural anthropologist Emma Gilding, who collaborated with Ketchum on the study. “I didn’t expect that, because the dominant narrative is that technology sells itself,” says Gilding. “The intersection between what people find appealing and the values of their experiences with technology differ profoundly by country and by cultural DNA.” Consumer-facing brands have long been aware of the folly of chasing the “global consumer”. The Digital Living Index suggests that tech players should pay close attention, because the cultural differences demonstrated by its results showcase the importance of highlighting a specific experience, rather than a universal product. As Ketchum Pleon EMEA technology MD David Vindel admits, this is difficult for technology companies, “because they are obsessed with making products superior to the competition.” So they fixate on speed, size, battery life and storage. People, meanwhile, want less jargon and more simplicity, and a better idea of how a specific product meets their specific lifestyle needs. “That’s the challenge for the PR industry,” adds Vindel. “It’s easy to do that in a TV ad, but a lot harder in pure comms.” You could make the case that companies which have failed to do this (Nokia, RIM) are having a harder time than those that have (Apple, Lenovo). It is a counter-intuitive conclusion for an industry that seems wedded to the procurement-inspired trend of global consolidation. More information on Ketchum’s Digital Living Index is available here.