Has mobile hardware and software reached a stage where there’s nothing else revolutionary to make and market? Most new devices and platform updates these days are at best an incremental update from the ones already being sold. So how do you make the new phones and tablets stand out from the others?
One way to do that is to dream up a great feature, add it to the device and market it via TV, magazines and social media. This gives the manufacturer a great lead in terms of standing ouside the crowd of devices flooding the market. People want that feature which gives them an edge over their friend’s devices for boasting rights.
Wireless charging, Fast Shot cameras, pushing the envelope on megapixels, faster processors and bigger screens are some examples where manufacturers have been able get one up over their competition. New and improved operating systems and good design and body colors with more bling are a good crowd puller as well.
Marketing & Buzz Words
Another is to hype up standard features with marketing buzz-words which catch the consumers fancy. This technique has been a tried and tested staple of Apple Inc (Retina Display, Face Time – do you want more examples). These buzz words seem to resonate with the consumers, and thrown in with a great marketing pitch, they drive up the hype about that device. Fans can’t have enough of it. But not all manufacturers have the perfected this technique.
However much company folks and fan followings of each platform or brand cry hoarse, each platform has ‘borrowed’ features from the others. I won’t call it stealing, because sharing is a true part of innovation. Companies can go at each other’s throats with patent suits, but the fact still remains, unless key features make it to the other platforms, users on each platform end up missing something or have to make do with a sub-optimal experience. Let’s not get into the who sued who and won news items which are a rage these days.
No, I’m not against the idea of patents, I’m just in the mindset, that given the pace of the technology industry these days, the current patent laws need drastic changes. Depending on the country you’re in, the patent term can range from 10-20 years. (Additionally, it takes upto 3 years from filing the patent application to getting the patent granted). That’s an eternity for today’s fast paced industry. Ideas and technology go obsolete in a year or two, and are considered ‘pre-historic’ if they’re more than 5 years old. So why can’t technology patents have a shorter term?
That’s one side effect of the frenetic pace of development of technology. Meanwhile, there are certain key areas that are struggling to catch up. People often complain about how battery technology needs to catch up and be ready for current portable device usage. Unfortunately, this isn’t an area where developments and innovations happen overnight; and even if they do, they aren’t usually ready for consumers for a long time! (As it currently stands, it takes around 15 years from the start of research on new battery chemistry to it being available for use in consumer electronics). OEMs are rushing to make other components more power efficient in the mean time, which leads to more power efficient processors and SOCs, displays and wireless radios.
Since most high-end phones and devices have comparable processing muscle, the memory and storage, cameras and platforms, the marketing teams seem to be having a tougher time getting their products to stand out. How’s this affecting their campaigns?
Over the past few months the marketing muscles of some of the major players seem to be taking aim and taking shots at their competitors in advertisements, product launches, websites and social media. Now why is that? Have they run out of sellable and hype-able features? Recently we had Apple denounce Android tablets during the iPad Mini launch and Amazon retaliating to that, Samsung taking poking fun of the iPhone 5 in their Galaxy S3 Ad and Nokia didn’t miss capitalizing on the Apple Map Fiasco. From the looks of it, everyone seems to be ganging up against Apple. But that’s changed – now we have infighting among Windows Phone manufacturers to deal with as well. This has become a mainstream markting activity as far as we can see this year.
My shout out to the marketing folks out there – if you really have to stoop down to denouncing a competitor’s product in your marketing campaign, does that mean your product isn’t good enough to stand up on it’s own? If you need to belittle the competition in order to get your product up there, I don’t think you’re doing a great job at marketing in the first place, or is it that your product is just not good enough?
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