‘Why?’ The old question we should ask new technology

New technology can prove very tempting for marketers, but Rob Morrison warns that we should ask ‘why?’ Before allowing it to seduce us.

It’s true. New technology is seductive. I can completely see how, as marketers, we get excited by reaching our audience in sexy, new ways.

It’s one of the reasons most of us chose a career in marketing – instead of economics or accounting or finance. Who wants to do the same thing over and over again? Business is supposed to be exciting, right?

So 3D printing? Oh yeah. Delivery drones? Awesome. Driverless cars? A bit scary but sure. Internet of Things? Sign me up.

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While we’re at it let’s advertise in new ways too – give me a geo-targeted mobile Android app, and re-marketing social content connected with tailored digital outdoor.

But there’s the trap.

Remember, there was a time when the humble banner ad was new and no-one had commercialised social platforms. In fact David Ogilvy talks about when direct mail was so new it was his ‘secret weapon’. He even confesses that he made lots of mistakes when he first started writing for television – he disastrously used Eleanor Roosevelt for Good Luck Margarine.

If the great man can admit he got new media wrong then we should all be very, very careful with the current batch of ‘experts’. Because there are lots of cowboys who will tell you they can deliver against your business problem.

Social ROI? Sure.

Leads from events? Yep.

Natural search? We do that.

Truth is, as marketers, we have more options to spend less money than we’ve ever had before. But more choice doesn’t mean better choices. So here’s the question to keep asking: ‘Why?’

Why will my target audience care? Why will they engage? Why will they take the next step towards purchase? Why will they choose our brand to solve their problem over a competitor? Why will they listen?

And when you ask, be wary of any answer that involves the words ‘cool’ or ‘high-tech’ or ‘radical’.

The core of marketing is still people. And people don’t fundamentally change. We’re still inherently selfish (with apologies to Gandhi). We still want brands to solve something for us. To make us better. Or stronger. Or wiser. Or more confident.

Maybe the best way to demonstrate is by example. In 2014 we helped IBM deliver the first commercial use of the Oculus Rift in Australia. At the time this was a piece of technology so new there were only four in Australia. Was it cool and high tech and radical? Damn straight.

But it’s what we did with it that was critical.

IBM wanted to demonstrate their ability to deliver useful data in real time. So how did the Oculus deliver that? We took the data from the last serve delivered on Rod Laver Arena and let our Oculus Rift user face it. In 3D. In virtual reality. To see if they could do what the players on court could do.

It had a purpose. A people purpose. It was successful not because it was cool. It was successful because it answered the question ‘why?’


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Rob Morrison
BY Rob Morrison ON 19 July 2016
Rob Morrison is creative director of OgilvyOne.