It ends with the user

People matter Technology is all about the value it creates   -  SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

In a new wave of advertising, companies focus on how their technology touches the end-consumer: the people who are going to use it



Have you heard of smart diapers? Chances are you can guess what they are even if you haven’t come across them. Yes, they analyse the baby’s poop and tell the adults that the child may be dehydrated or having a urinary tract infection, or more. They work through a QR code on the diaper that can be read on an app on the mobile phone. Or have you heard of Cute Circuit, a London-based fashion brand of wearable technology — clothes that display tweets, make phone calls and even relay warm hugs sent by a mobile phone?

These are just two instances that telecom infrastructure major Ericsson has cited in its current TV commercial, Capturing the Networked Society. It attempts to show how technology is altering the way people collaborate and communicate, how mobility and the Internet are being used to make an impact.

Transformation

This is part of a wave of advertising in which companies that are really business-to-business (B2B) firms focus on how their technology touches the end-consumer rather than on their own customers — the firms that would buy their technology. HCL and IBM are the two other companies that have launched such campaigns in recent times.

Why would B2B companies look at advertising with a business to consumer (B2C) eye, spending millions on mass media? The companies say their technology is all about the value it creates for end users and hence the campaigns aim to communicate that.

Ruchika Batra, Vice-President (Communications), Ericsson, says, “As a company we are transforming ourselves to become an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) player from a pure-play communications company. We need to become a trusted partner to our partners/customers, and we need to strengthen our brand’s presence.”

Sundararajan M, Chief Marketing Officer, HCL, says the company had taken the B2C approach in its advertising for the last nine years. The customer can view the company from other perspectives and not just from the salesperson’s; besides, it talks to a variety of audiences that interact with the brand — customers, retailers, employees, influencers.

“It gives the brand some softness as B2B discussions tend to be cold and hard. Consumers are becoming aware, you can shoot off a mail to the CEO if something doesn’t work right. Barriers are breaking down, and the decision-makers who buy our technology need to hear good things about us.” This year, the 38-year-old HCL has diversified into healthcare, skill development and talent care business and hence the new campaign was launched.

Jessie Paul, CEO of Paul Writer Strategic Advisory, a marketing advisory firm, says the real reason lies elsewhere. Earlier, B2B was marked by person-to-person sales but the business has grown much bigger. The buyer or customer is not relying on the seller for information but resorting to the Internet for information and reviews about the product. There are many small and start-up firms that can provide the same services, so a TV campaign is the best way to overcome the competition, which cannot afford the same scale of advertising. “Tiny firms can now enter the mindspace but don’t have the reputation. The only way an Ericsson can beat a start-up is through credibility,” she explains.

Being seen on TV

Moreover, the actual customer size itself — the Government, major software firms, small and medium businesses — is big enough to warrant a mass media presence, she says. Buyers and influencers want to buy technologies from big and influential companies and in India, that means being seen on TV.

Marketers seek to build their brands with all stakeholders — customers, prospects, influencers, policy-makers, employees, and so on.  So a brand campaign may not be targeted only at clients, but also at some of these other stakeholders.  

In the case of B2B, particularly IT services, even a large firm may have less than 1,000 customers, making it unnecessary to use mass media but they may have lakhs of employees, and in order to attract future hires it would be viable to use mass media.  “For example, UST Global, a multinational IT services firm, is a sponsor of Chennai Super Kings. It provides them with a unique engagement opportunity with customers but also greatly boosts their brand energy with employees,” says Paul.

Published on November 27, 2014

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