Magazine article Marketing

The Consumer Is Key to PCs

Magazine article Marketing

The Consumer Is Key to PCs

Article excerpt

Drop jargon and focus on 'technologically disenfranchised' PC home users. Mike Hewitt on last week's Marketing seminar

Would you be surprised to learn that the market for personal computers is now twice the size of the new car market? So were delegates to last week's Marketing conference, "Marketing Technology Into The Home", when Microsoft's UK deputy general manager, John Leftwich, kicked off his presentation.

Leftwich's was one of many voices predicting a surge in computer sales to home users. By 1998, 21% of the population will be PC users - that's 12 million of us, compared to eight million today. For the manufacturers and retailers of computer kit, that raises a huge marketing challenge: how to switch focus from the business customers who have traditionally provided the bulk of their sales to the home users who will drive profits in the future?

To a man, the day's speakers drove home the message - familiar to consumer goods marketers but new to many here - that establishing a brand personality matters. Nigel Long, managing director of Butterfield Day Devito Hockney, described a group of consumers which he called "the technologically disenfranchised". These are the consumers who "have yet to be sold the benefits of the technology that is currently available, never mind what is coming."

It's not a small group: a recent TGI Lifestyles survey found that 64% of people "don't try to keep up with new developments in modern technology." This group has yet to be sold the benefits of technology in the home, but, as speaker after speaker made clear, most technology marketing still majors on features, not benefits.

Chris Moss, the man who launched the Orange mobile phone service and now runs The Inspiration Partnership, pulled out some especially bad examples. Even Virgin, the company which has humanised so many other products from condoms to PEPs, was reduced to focusing on features like "486 DX 33 processor from Intel" in its PC company's literature.

Consumers, he stressed, don't speak in jargon. In getting ready for the launch of Orange, language such as "On-Screen Icon" was ruthlessly expunged from the support material: it's a computer-speak term, so familiar to technical marketers that few had realised that the typical consumer wouldn't be used to it. …

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