Technology, Introduction of

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Advertising plays a vital role in introducing new technologies to consumers. When a new technology is launched, the primary function of the early ad campaign is to establish a comfort level with unfamiliar products. A successful ad campaign creates awareness of, interest in and positive feelings about the new product. Such a campaign also encourages trial of newly introduced items and ultimately supports their regular use.

One of the most noted, innovative campaigns launching a new technology was Apple Computer's "1984" campaign to introduce the Macintosh personal computer, via agency Chiat/Day. The new product was innovative and expensive, and most consumers were unaware of its potential advantages. The 60-second "1984" TV spot was designed to make the public aware of the product and to arouse curiosity about it prior to its formal introduction. The communication objective was to inform consumers that although small in size, the Macintosh was tremendously powerful. The spot generated $100 million in Macintosh sales during the 10 days after its only airing, on Super Bowl XVIII in 1984.

To launch new technologies, marketers often use advertising that encourages consumers to feel discontented with the status quo—a technique known as marketer-induced problem recognition. Once consumers perceive a problem, they are motivated to seek a solution.

In the late 1990s, for example, ads for Canon copying machines showed a rabbit trying to eat a lifelike picture of carrots—thereby demonstrating both the ability of Canon's digital cameras to create a natural-looking image and the quality of its color copying machines. The ad suggested that existing office equipment could not produce comparable images and sought to motivate the purchase of the entire line of Canon digital imaging products.

Campaign success

The success of any ad campaign for new technology is dependent on:

  • Communicating how the new technology is different from that already available.

  • Positioning the brand difference by which new technology will be marketed. In particular, differentiation must be based on a specific product category to which the new technology belongs.

  • Linking product differences with the benefits consumers are seeking in their purchase.

  • Providing supporting evidence of the compatibility of the new technology with existing products and demonstrating its simplicity of operation.

In addition to the fact that new technology often requires a significant investment on the part of early adopters and innovators, it also demands that users acquire new knowledge and learn new techniques of operation. New technology is also often characterized by complexity, rapidity of arrival on the scene and discontinuity with the past. These characteristics tend to significantly increase the risks perceived by consumers when deciding to purchase a new, largely unknown item.

When Philips introduced its Flat TV in 1998, Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG-created TV spots emphasized the product's specifications, excellence and its resemblance to fine art. Ads for Sega's Dreamcast video game console characterized the product as a "thinking machine," a reference to its capacity for "learning" how an individual plays and responding to those actions. The campaign by Foote, Cone & Belding, which included three 30-second TV spots, emphasized that this feature not only makes a game more challenging with each play but also differentiates it from other, similar products.

Ads to educate

Some new technologies require basic education before distinctions can be made among brands. In the late 1950s and early '60s, when the first jet aircraft replaced the DC-7 in commercial aviation, various airlines created commercials designed to reassure the consumer of the safety, smoothness and comfort of the new Boeing 707s.

One airline demonstrated smoothness by balancing a nickel on end during flight. This and other advertising sold the concept of jet air travel by emphasizing selling points common to all carriers. At that early stage when the market was being created, competing companies decided it was in their interest to sell the category first and the brand second. As jet travel became the standard, brand differentiation became the main goal of advertising.

Similarly, in the 1970s competing makers of microwave ovens spent several years educating consumers about the advantages of this new form of cooking. When consumers had become familiar with the technology and the market was established, advertisers then turned to competing for shares of that market.

The introduction of new technology requires marketers to employ every possible promotional technique to facilitate the consumer's adoption process. In the late 1990s, the growing interest in integrated marketing communication encouraged Apple Computer to use public relations as its lead marketing tool. Its award-winning campaign, "Think Different," was created by TWBA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif.

Public relations figured prominently in the advertising of Apple's iMac products. Massive media coverage preceded the appearance of the iMac in stores. The successful campaign quickly made iMac the country's top-selling computer in 1999. Other techniques that emerged at the turn of the 20th century—such as Internet marketing and relationship marketing—are also likely to have an impact on the way new technologies are introduced into the marketplace.

Selling services

Technology advertising can sell services as readily as it sells products. IBM Corp. in the early 1990s was struggling to make itself relevant as the business world moved from IBM’s high-priced mainframes to low-margin PCs sold by scrappy rivals such as Dell Computer Corp. (later renamed Dell Inc.). IBM sought to redefine itself as a provider of "solutions"—a supplier of hardware, services and whatever it took to solve a business customer’s problems. IBM communicated this with a TV and print campaign that debuted Jan. 1, 1995, with the theme: "Solutions for a small planet."

The campaign, from Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, was notable for its success in creating an umbrella for IBM’s brand, hardware and services. Instead of simply running an ad to push the latest product, IBM promoted its ability to solve problems by pulling together products and services to get the job done. The campaign helped redefine IBM. In 1994, hardware accounted for half of its $64 billion in revenue; services brought in $17 billion (and software and financing made up the rest). By 2003, hardware revenue had fallen to $28 billion—but services revenue grew to $43 billion, or nearly half of IBM’s $89 billion in revenue that year.

The "Solutions" campaign eventually gave way to IBM ads built around the Internet-centric theme of "e-business." But "Solutions" helped redefine technology advertising.

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