More Important: Technology or Audience?

I’m working on an augmented reality solution for a medical client of ours and I’m once again struck by an interesting dichotomy, one that I find recurring in every “emerging” solution I’ve launched:  the balance between pushing technology and utilizing its strengths vs. creating a solution appropriate for the audience.

One school of thought is to push the limits of the technology.  Since it’s new and often times experimental, we should try to use it for what it’s worth.  If it’s touch screens, push for it to be multi-touch, allow the user to “throw” items, work in video hosts and multiple pathways – all make for rich experiences and play to the strengths of that particular technology.  If it’s mobile integration, customize everything, send coupons/messages, utilize the Bluetooth and/or GPS.  If it’s augmented reality, play as much as you can with the real world object and use it to base as many interactions between the two worlds as you can.  In all cases, we’ve got this technology, it has so many possibilities, push them to show how strong they are.

But then you have the other school of thought – how is the audience really going to interact with them?   I understand that we can’t underestimate the audience.  When I was in college, in screenwriting classes, I heard over and over again – “don’t underestimate your audience.  They’re smart.”  Same thing applies here, especially since this sort of marketing is more experiential.  But we can’t overestimate them either.  From my point of view, and most people around me, we know how these technologies work and we’re anxious to play with them.  We’re in the minority.  Most people, particularly over a certain age, don’t feel completely comfortable in front of their computer and don’t fully understand the capability of that device.  Same thing with mobile phones.  Forget about something that they’re required to go up and touch, especially if it doesn’t look touchable.  Or something that they’re required to hold up to a webcam.  I’ve seen over and over again that in most cases, you have to keep it simple, which is counter to really utilizing these emerging technologies to their full extent.

And this is so indicative to where we are in the industry right now.  This sort of marketing and experience – IOOH – is intimidating.  I think people see the hassle or the “weirdness” of it all instead of seeing its potential – a new way of learning and communicating.  We can create experiences through these types of technologies that can make people’s experiences outside of their home much better, much more seamless, much more effective.  By and large, they just don’t know it yet.

So, I’d just say, it’s always important to think about the capabilities of these technologies.  Always know what they can do, but create solutions – regardless of how “much” it utilizes the true power of the technology – that are most appropriate to your audience.  The basic fundamentals of marketing still apply – know who you’re talking to before you come up with a solution.  To be most effective in this new field, keeping it simple will pay more dividends and help out in the long run, more than whiz-banging people right off the bat with this newfangled technology.  We can be just as capable of creating innovative solutions.   

Thoughts?  Let me hear them.

5 thoughts on “More Important: Technology or Audience?

  1. Dave Haynes

    Totally agree. We see this mistake over and over, and over. People thinking the DOOH or IOOH product is the technology. But it’s not.
    It’s what’s on that screen, or the engagement that’s enabled by the gadgetry.
    Good post, as always. See you next week in LV.

  2. Mike Cearley Post author

    Thanks Dave. I think this would be a good topic for our discussion next week. Looking forward to it!

  3. David Weinfeld

    Great commentary on a common issue that companies face in examining new technology. More often than not, they get consumed by “shiny object” syndrome. They end up wanting to do something cool or techy “…that will blow people away.” The problem here is that treating emerging technology as a WOW-enducing gimmick only serves to reduce its value. The oohs and ahhs are nice, but true utility ensures success.

  4. Stephen Ghigliotty

    It is dangerous to presume you can know the intended audience so much that you can fully tailor the message to the specific medium (or screen) easily.

    In this age of multiple screen interaction, the devil is indeed in the details. (via an iPad)

  5. Mike Cearley Post author

    Indeed, Stephen. It is a complicated string of questions to really get to the best alternative for any solution and the audience is only part of the discussion. But I think, even if you don’t go to the full extent of researching audience behavior (and all sorts of other audience data), you can help brands shape a more effective solution by first understanding who they’re talking to, even if you understand who they are in general terms. For instance, doctors don’t necessarily need a complex, highly interactive augmented reality experience in a tradeshow booth. I’ve seen time and time again that they are intimidated by using touch screens in that environment, much less something that requires more of themselves like augmented reality. For me, I’ve found it to be an effective exercise if the discussion around any sort of “emerging” technology solution is centered around the audience instead of the technology – it just helps me focus the discussion in a productive way.

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