Take a look at the number of new products launched at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show — more than 20,000 — and you can see the magnitude of the effort required by marketers to break through to consumers in the world of technology brands.
While most of the manufacturers of those products touted technological bells and whistles in promoting their wares, it seems what consumers REALLY want to know is how technology will simplify their life, according to a new global study of 6,000 consumers, the "Ketchum Digital Living Index," conducted by global communications firm Ketchum.
"The most surprising finding in the study is the overwhelming desire for simplification," said Esty Pujadas, director of Ketchum's Global Technology Practice. "It seems counter-intuitive when technology is always about being bigger or better or faster, but the data show that what people realy want is to understand how all of these devices can get them to their desired experience easily. Manufacturers need to use less so-called jargon monoxide and communicate more about the human experience, not just about the object."
More than three in four people (76 percent) say they are "not very satisfied with technology's ability to make their life simpler," according to the study. Across the six countries in the study (China, France, Germany, Spain, the U.K., and the U.S.), 50 percent of consumers value technology that provides simplification more than empowerment (40 percent), enrichment (23 percent), or personal values (15 percent). Consumers say it is more important for personal technology to be easy to use (54 percent) and to simplify their life (46 percent) than entertain them (35 percent).
The study did reveal some interesting cultural differences when it comes to consumers' experiences with technology. Chinese consumers, for example, are more likely to love household technology such as appliances, while Germans embrace mobile and home entertainment technology more than other cultures. French and Spanish consumers like technology that empowers them. In the U.K., consumers favor television over other technologies. U.S. consumers love technology that offers enrichment, such as entertainment and staying on top of the news and trends.
Overall, the vast majority of consumers (96 percent) "love" or "like" personal technology rather than "hate" or "dislike" it. The Ketchum Digital Living Index breaks consumers into four groups, based on the importance of attributes they rated and where they are on the technology love/hate continuum:
Enthusiasts (37 percent): The largest group are considered "Enthusiasts" who are passionate about technology and willing to give up simplification for empowerment.
Infomaniacs (25 percent): This group values getting information and discovering new experiences even more than relating better to people.
Pragmatists (22 percent): People who are less likely to love technology, but value it as very helpful in relating better to others, getting things done, and managing health and wellness.
Disconnects (16 percent): These individuals are "noticeably unemotional" about technology and place a high value on simplification instead of empowerment or enrichment.
Ketchum suggests five key takeaways from the study for marketers:
1. Focus on the experience, not just the object
By linking product features and capabilities with the experience each type of consumer wants, companies will show that they understand the consumer’s real needs and drive greater product adoption.
2. Take a page from consumer packaged goods companies
Consumer brands have been integrated into the human conversation far longer than technology brands -- Technology brands, on the other hand, tend to compare one micro-innovation to another, instead of integrating their product communications into the conversations of everyday life.
3. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room – simplification
All signs in this study point to simplification as an unmet need. Life today is complicated, and the study data says that personal technology is falling short of expectations as a helpmate in navigating all this complexity.
4. Understand the cultural DNA
Communications and marketing professionals that make the effort to understand the prevailing cultural framework for the audiences they are targeting and then develop culturally relevant communications will have greater success.
5. Segment by experiences
Segmenting by the values of human experience (for example, Ketchum’s four types of Digital Living natives) and layering in cultural frameworks enables companies to develop more relevant and compelling communications and creative programming.
Get a handy infographic that summarizes the study's key findings here.