There are few markets that move as swiftly as the consumer electronics market in terms of which brands and products are on top. The innovative must-buy product of today can be forgotten by tomorrow, while something that seems like a great idea can sink without a trace if its launch marketing isn’t effective enough at finding an audience.
The technology involved in consumer electronics always needs to be at the forefront of innovation, but so does the marketing, because it’s also trying to appeal to an audience that expects that level of invention and imagination. Trying to market a product with advertising, branding and strategy that’s all been seen and done before is not the way to inspire anyone to believe that you’re offering anything new or important.
Consumer Electronics Brands That Failed To Adapt
Being on top in the consumer electronics market is only a fleeting sensation if you aren’t doing the right things to stay there in terms of product development and marketing. Just ask BlackBerry. It launched its phone in 1999 and by 2013 there were 85 million subscribers out there, with the likes of President Obama and Hillary Clinton amongst the most famous users. But by March 2016, its numbers had plummeted to just 23 million and that September BlackBerry announced it was ceasing phone production altogether, focusing on licensing software.
“We are focusing on software development, including security and applications,” said BlackBerry’s John Chen. “The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners. This allows us to reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital.” IDC analyst John Jackson added that the move was “entirely sensible and probably overdue”. He concluded: “Software revenue and the margin profile associated with that is where the focus should have been, and now can be.”
BlackBerry’s problems were two-fold. Firstly its products were very quickly left behind in terms of design and functionality by Apple and Android phones: BlackBerrys simply looked clunky in comparison to their sleek rivals. Secondly, its marketing left it lacking enough of an audience. At its peak, its core users were business executives (who jokingly called it a CrackBerry because they felt so chained to their phones) and teenagers who used BlackBerry’s messenger service.
These two very disparate user groups made it hard for BlackBerry to find a real niche and both were lured away by other brands and software because they had built up no brand loyalty. As the first iPhone and Android models came onto the market and gained the sense of cool that BlackBerry had never managed to achieve, both execs and teens moved swiftly on, without looking back. The brand’s failure to adapt either its product or the way it marketed it meant that few former users probably even noticed the announcement of its step away from production last year.
The Story of the Microsoft Kin
Microsoft hasn’t gone through the same transition as BlackBerry, but it has had its fair share of product launches that went wrong because of the marketing. Do you remember the Kin? Don’t worry, not many people do, and that’s how Microsoft would probably prefer it. The Kin phones were launched in May 2010 and by the following August they were long gone from everywhere but bargain bins and ‘Whatever Happened To…’ articles.
The launch struggled from the start. The Kin ONE and Kin TWO were publicly described as being aimed at the 15-30 market, with advertising that tried to make it seem very trendy, but it failed dismally. The campaign hit controversy right away with a video showing a young man putting his phone down his top to take a photo of his chest. This approach saw Microsoft accused of encouraging sexting.
Ultimately the Kin suffered from not being able to target its audience properly. While that, in part, is a creative problem, it’s also a technological one. With reactive and automated marketing solutions now very much in play, it’s easier for marketers to understand what their audience is interested in and target the campaigns around those things. This, in turn, could help companies avoid situations like Microsoft had with the Kin.
Consumer Electronics Brands That Managed To Adapt
While BlackBerry and the Kin floundered, one tech giant has gone from strength to strength through its adaptability and innovation in both product development and marketing. Apple was struggling in the late 90s, with its desktop computers not generating the revenue needed to keep the company going, so it innovated and created the iPod, marketing it as the future of music, whilst constantly improving on look and functionality.
Rather than resting on those laurels, and aware of the costly manufacturing process of the iPod, Apple kept on innovating and developed the iPhone. So while the iPod has gone the way of the BlackBerry phone, Apple continued to thrive and while its product launches are met with less universal enthusiasm these days, it remains the market leader at what it does thanks in no small part to smart marketing. The fact that the new iPhone X has been largely well received so far is testament to this.
If a brand like Apple still needs to pivot its business model and how it markets its products, then it’s no surprise that an 80-year-old consumer electronics company like Canon also needs to give itself a face lift. Earlier this year it launched a new ‘Live for the story’ campaign that took in influencer marketing with Zoe Kravitz and was aimed at aligning the brand and its cameras with customers’ experiences instead of focusing on the cameras themselves.
“Experiences are what matters and this is where our focus is,” said Lee Bonniface, senior director at CIG Marketing. “‘Live for the story’ has been developed to inspire people to do just that. Through every element of Canon’s repositioning we are encouraging people to be ready to capture stories they are creating every day.” This strategy may not have been hugely innovative or original, but it showed that even a brand that has been in the market for as long as Canon can reposition itself when it comes to how it markets its products.
The world of consumer electronics is a fast-paced one where one single marketing misstep can be fatal for a product and potentially a whole brand. But it is also one that encourages innovation and rewards adaptability, because the customers expect both of those things from their favourite brands – so there’s no incentive to play it safe as that can be just as damaging as a gamble that backfires. That’s what ended BlackBerry’s reign as a major player in the smartphone market.
Ultimately, any consumer electronics brand that’s looking to get to the top or stay at the top needs to keep on innovating with its marketing just as much as with its product. Time will tell whether Canon’s new campaign will help rejuvenate its appeal in the market, but we can certainly already say that it’s been more successful than the Microsoft Kin launch campaign at the very least.
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