Communication for the over-hyped IoT
It is the first of the year, slot machines are ringing in my ears, and my feet are sore – must be CES. The show this year revolved around the IoT and adding connectivity to everything. Absolutely everything. I mean, you heard about the hair brush, right? But it doesn’t stop there – connected high heels, trashcans, fishing rods (okay, this one I totally get), and even connected toilets.
The thing about this ubiquitous connectivity is we (the consumer) have been hearing about it for quite some time. Just like Bond and Penny introduced us to the smart watch, and Kit introduced us to the smart car, the Jetsons sold us the IoT long before IoT was a thing. But this market segment is so far down the trough of disillusionment it is hard to see out, past the connected toaster, to the devices that truly can add value and make life easier. And for marketers, it becomes even harder to espouse the benefits of connectivity and their product, without coming off as insincere – to media, consumers, potential business partners and everyone in-between.
So how do you capture the attention of the disillusioned? First things first, lose the razzle-dazzle. The show floor at CES is all lights and exclamation points. And in person, that is may be okay. But in content and campaigns, this is deadly. Think about how suspicious your audience, be it media or the consumer, already is — they just heard about the life-changing effects of a connected diaper. The minute you oversell to the disillusioned is the exact moment you lose them. And, unfortunately, losing them now often means they are gone for good. You don’t have to look much further than Faraday Future to see this backlash in full effect.
Once you’ve de-revolutionized your content, take a critical eye to it for honesty. It is so very easy to drink your own Kool-Aid, eat your own dogfood, shovel your own…I mean, you know how it goes. Be very clear about what your product can accomplish right now; don’t make promises about what you are aspiring to be or do. This is a larger problem with products that are still in prototype or beta, but even companies already shipping products run into this. I was chatting with Bloomlife (a Bluetooth enabled wearable that monitors contractions during pregnancy) at the show and I asked about tracking fetal movement along with contractions. The woman I was talking with very candidly said they are working on it, and it is coming, but is not available now. It would be easy, since they are working on adding this feature, to say, “Of course, it certainly could do that,” and while this lands in a gray area, it wouldn’t have been honest. You will get there, but sell where you are, not where you are going. Bloomlife’s honesty is reassuring, and leads me to assume they have intentions of being around long enough to provide an update.
Last but not least, you absolutely must make your story personal and highlight your expertise. Technical and use-case focused expertise is the best indicator of whether an IoT solution will be valuable now, or relegated to a desk drawer in the near future. Be very transparent with your backstory and perhaps even braggadocios about your technical chops. Implementation and user experience are frequently the Achilles’ heel of connected devices. If you have personal experience with the problem you are solving, it stands to reason that you will have a better solution.
Just because consumers and media are disillusioned with the IoT does not mean this industry will lull, nor does it mean it’s over. Instead, it presents an opportunity for real success, not just hype. The potential of connectivity is pretty phenomenal. Watch the unnecessary fluff, be honest, and be personable. The cream will rise to the top. And in a couple years, we might not be living like the Jetsons, but our devices will add value to our lives with connectivity that is meaningful, rather than ridiculous.