All this talk of ‘digital disruption’, ‘radical societal change’ and a ‘fourth industrial revolution’ makes me feel queasy. I only just transitioned from a paper shopping list on my fridge to the ‘aptly’ named app Out of Milk. Next week will I be expected to have a microchip installed in my forehead so my shopping list can be downloaded directly to my brain?
Thought leaders and innovators will be discussing what we can all do to prepare for the changes the Fourth Industrial Revolution will impose at the 2016 Canterbury Tech Summit on 15 September.
For some people, the fast-paced world of innovation is nothing but wondrous and exciting. But is the much anticipated Fourth Industrial Revolution really going to be as ‘game changing’ as it is in everyone’s imaginations (Utopian or Apocalyptic versions)?
The 4 Industrial Revolutions (by Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com)
A revolution is defined as a sudden, complete or marked change. I feel that in the past I’ve been eased into technology, like a parent gently guiding a baby to take its first steps. Technology evolved at a manageable pace for me – telephone, cordless telephone, cell phone, cell phone (with a flip top!), smart phone, (ridiculously) smart phone. But now the words ‘disruption’, ‘game changing’, and ‘paradigm shift’ are being flung about so fast they’re likely to take someone’s eye out. Although, that is kind of the point of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – a human-machine hybrid blurring the lines of the physical, digital and biological zones.
So will we have time to adapt to these new, exciting innovations? I believe so. In a world of e-readers and online news people still choose to read physical books and newspapers (albeit this audience is more of the silver-haired variety).
Fourth Industrial Revolution innovations are only now starting to trickle into the mainstream market.
The people frothing at the mouth for these disruptive innovations are Early Adopters – those mad people who try out new technology before the vast majority even know about it. Like this guy.
Geoffrey Moore’s tech marketing bible, Crossing the Chasm, argues that early adopters buy technology; while the majority buy products. A product is the technology plus everything else they need to actually make use of it, such as reasonable pricing and good support. This is what investors are looking for in a tech company – the potential for it to jump the chasm successfully and achieve a Google or Facebook size return on investment.
Moore’s technology adoption lifecycle teaches us that there is almost always a customer for new technology, but making money means appealing to the mainstream. Crossing the Chasm is built around a model that every technology marketer needs to understand: the bell-shaped technology adoption life-cycle.
Moore posited that any new technology goes through a cycle, initially being bought by a small group of real technical experts who see the benefit of the innovation and how to apply it.
At the other end of the bell curve are the ‘‘laggards’’, those hold outs who bought a cellphone only when everybody had one.
The much larger part of the market is the mainstream, the bulge in the middle of the curve, who buy a technology when it has been proven and can be easily purchased and used. This is where technology fortunes are made, but there is a real ‘‘chasm’’ between the early adopters and the majority, because selling to them is so different.
Much of the task of marketing a new technology is understanding how to jump this chasm from a small group of early adopters who pull a technology into the market, to the profitable majority who make the market. It is largely a shift from selling a product for what it is, to what it does for you.
So although all the focus is currently on the products themselves – the mechanical marvels and the exciting new possibilities they could unlock – innovators (and their investors) need to remind themselves that not everyone would be thrilled to have a robotic arm cleaning dishes in their kitchen or a drone delivering their pizza.
Although new innovations require new thinking, marketing those innovations requires a fundamental understanding of the benefit that product will bring to the customer. It’s time to take off the VR goggles and come back to reality for a minute. Marketing on the novelty of new technology alone is not going to make a business thrive. But solving an existing issue for a particular set of people just might.