MaRS Library Marketing communications for new technology and products
As an entrepreneur seeking to commercialize new technology, it is worth noting that marketing communications (MarCom) has something to offer you—all new technology share the need to stretch the boundaries of existing language, either by inventing new vocabulary or by giving new meaning to existing vocabulary.
New technology may demand new language
The need to stretch the boundaries of existing language follows from the fact that if you have created something that is genuinely new, whether it is a technology, a product or a service, it cannot have been described before so the precise vocabulary may not exist to do it justice.
This means that unless you create new language to describe your technology, it is unlikely that it will be perceived as innovative because people use language as a way of making sense of things: our vocabulary is a social representation of an actual object.
Imagine if the words “PC,” “email,” “software” and “web browser” didn’t exist. In their absence, even simple office tasks would be challenging to explain to someone else, yet they have been added to our vocabulary so recently that many of us can easily recall a time when those words didn’t exist.
If your tech product that is doing something completely new, consider:
- “Borrowing” expressions from other disciplines or industries
- Inventing new words to describe what is unique about your product
For example, think about the impact of the words “Xerox” and “Google” on our language. At one time, both names were assigned to new products, but have now evolved into verbs describing actions beyond the original product.
Marketing communications should clearly describe what’s unique about your technology
This is not to say that you should try to create words that don’t yet exist in the dictionary, but rather that you take great care from the outset when describing what is unique about your approach, your technology, your product.
However, if you do choose to introduce new vocabulary in branding your product, bear in mind that nobody else knows or understands it until you have demonstrated and explained what the new vocabulary means.
To avoid this problem, restrict the number of self-made words you introduce in order to avoid having to include language classes with your product; it might limit your potential.
The balancing act
The balancing act you have to perform when introducing a new technology to the market is to make clear that what you are offering is new—it is essential to attract the early adopters —and is relevant, which means that you have to offer context to which your target customer can relate.
Contextual relevance is achieved by establishing thought leadership as well as aligning yourself with other thought leaders (also known as key opinion leaders or KOLs) in the particular domain (for example, technology, business, medicine) within which you seek recognition.
Aligning yourself with other thought leaders is critical because new language is not something you can create in isolation: in order to generate meaning, the sender (you) and the receiver (customer) must understand each other.
To help develop new language, start-ups must engage in a consultative feedback process with those KOLs whose ideas implicitly support your approach. In this process, parts of the vocabulary you are using should originate from the KOLs themselves. Drawing on their blogs, websites, books or presentations allows you to ensure that your new vocabulary is understood as well as perceived as relevant.
The topic of marketing through influencers is explored in more detail in the article, Word-of-mouth marketing for startups.
Marketing communications and new technology: “Visuals” matter
While the choice of vocabulary is important in conveying your product’s newness, so is any other visual representation of the product, such as the packaging, logo, website, product design, brochures and advertising.
Visual representation can either facilitate and strengthen the sense of newness or can completely undermine it by implicitly communicating something different. In other words the non-verbal aspects of your market presence must be aligned with your verbal aspects.
Use your new technology’s benefits as the starting point to generate new language
While the notion of creating new language might seem foreign to most people, it is important not to think that you need to be a “spin-doctor” to succeed, far from it.
Any new language for your technology should mirror as closely as possible what happens in the real world. A truly innovative product delivers unique results that are either cheaper, faster, better or more convenient than anything else around.
It is the description of those unique benefits and how your product can help generate those benefits that is your starting point for generating new language. Most entrepreneurs spend time almost on a daily basis describing those facts to customers, investors and employees, so you probably already have some ideas and concepts with which to work.