Technology for Dummies
THE “DEATH TOUCH” is easy to spot. In fact, everyone knows at least one person currently suffering from this distinct, in-born malady. Its unmistakable symptoms render the afflicted party unable to move, fiddle with or handle a piece of technological equipment in any way without breaking, freezing, deprogramming or otherwise harming it.They probably shouldn’t even stand near that new flat-screen TV. Can’t be too careful.
In the past, the Death Touch was terminal. However, with an influx of easy-to-operate functions on devices that were once off-limits, those with the Death Touch are able to live normal, healthy and technologically fulfilling lives. Now, distributors and end-users alike can demonstrate and appreciate high-tech promotions, without fear.
Lesson 1: Design Directives
User-friendliness starts at a item’s infancy. “When we design a new product, we always factor in two things: It has to be ‘idiot-proof’ and it should consistently offer the user the same experience,” said Ahmad Aqqad, vice president and managing director of Kent, Washington-based JMTek-CorporateKey. Since intuitive operation is key with any promotion, a methodical design process is essential. “We find that most products simply need to be logically thought-out,” explained Nate Bettinger, manager of sales and marketing for Chicago-based Pingline.
The result? Aqqad noted the company’s digital photo frames require bare-minimum operation. “With just one click, you can operate five different features,” he said. Plus, instruction manuals are always useful add-ons. One-step programming (drag-and-drop, plug-and-play) is also a major factor in usability. “Our MP3 players will play any MP3 file, so you don’t need to use software to convert songs,” Bettinger said, adding, “Our photo frames will play images straight off the [memory] card that you pull out of your camera.”
As far as inherently easy-to-use products go, USB drives, digital photo frames and MP3 players are always good choices for beginners. ›››
Lesson 2: Show and Tell
Both Aqqad and Bettinger agree, doing a product demo is the best way for a distributor to make the sale. “If you can add value through a demonstration, you’ve almost locked yourself in,” said Bettinger. And since many of today’s presentation aids are already technology-based, showcasing a product serves a utilitarian function, as well.
“Gadget appeal and usability [are] what makes tech products so attractive,” Aqqad maintained. Being able to portray both in one fell swoop gives an item that already has a high-perceived value a level of tangible practicality. Bettinger explained that preloading a USB drive, for instance, “can change what was ‘just’ a USB drive to a dynamic and paperless way to introduce a product, distribute a catalog, leave your contact information, direct someone to your Web site or educate them on existing products.”
Lesson 3: Audience Engagement
Promoting a new senior center with MP3 players might seem a little ambitious, but generally speaking, technology products can fit a variety of heretofore untouched demographics, said Bettinger. “The public has been quick to adapt and accept new products,” he added. In fact, according to a recent study from TNS Compete and the Consumer Electronics Association, consumers aged 50 and above use various technologies at a rate comparable or equal to their younger counterparts. “Most people own at least one USB drive, a digital camera and/or an MP3 player, and the learning curve is fairly quick for those who do not,” he explained.
As with any constantly evolving sector, the pressure to stay current is always present. However, with certain audience segments, upgrading might only be necessary in some cases. “Demographics are certainly key, but the most important tool is asking the right questions to determine how experienced [the] audience is with technology,” Aqqad said. One such question, he noted, is whether or not the target has grown out of the current product (for example, young adults might currently want Blu-ray players as opposed to DVD, but can never have enough USB drives).
Lesson 4: Rewards Outweigh Risks
In a business climate that might need a push to justify extra expenses, new innovations coupled with the fact it’s now common to have more than one of the same item are creating new opportunities where there once was hesitation.
“It has become accepted in both retail and promotional industries that the product you buy now may be outdated in a year or two,” Bettinger said. “Clients are more likely to place a repeat order based on a higher capacity, bigger screen or more functions.”
Not to mention, eco-minded products have made their way into the promotional technology arena. Bettinger noted the addition of such items as solar- and hand-powered chargers as well as recycled plastic and wooden USB drives. As a bonus, said Aqqad, some can stay at a relatively low price point. At his company, environmentally friendly items can be priced as low as $2.
And in the unfortunate case the end-user already owns a promotional gadget, it’s likely to still have value. “If you already have an MP3 player and you receive a second one, you will not throw away the new one. You will either keep it for the gym, for the car, or give it to your friends or family,” Bettinger said. As such, branding stays top-of-mind for a very long time.