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Marketing Technology ; 3D TV At Home – Honey, You Cannot Be Serious?

Marketing technology requires imagination.

So imagine riding a roller coaster.  That’s how viewing The Polar Express on a 3D cinema screen felt as the train sped through gorges and swayed over mountains en route to the North Pole.  And hear the screams and feel the fear as several hundred rats surge over the edge of a stage and towards you in Disneyland Europe’s showing of Honey, I Shrunk the Audience.

The Polar Express (2004). Click to watch the 2D trailer

Will 3D TV be a heart-pounding experience like 3D cinema?

3D TV trials have already taken place in the UK, Japan, and Brazil (among others). And you may have your own views….

Marketing technology is difficult. Much fails. So how do you mitigate the risk of failure? It is important to think from the audience pint of view, and consider their needs, and try and fast forward into the future.

Potential barriers and drivers to 3D TV?

1. Wearing nerdy glasses :

Stereoscopy is the most widely accepted method for recording and delivering 3D video. This requires capturing stereo images in the right place to show convincing scene depth. The images are then coded for broadcast and viewing. In the UK, Sky used alternate lines of pixels for transmission. However, at the low-cost end of the spectrum, viewing with polarised glasses provides a work-around. Wearing glasses is a bit of a hassle and a tad nerdy. Viewing ideally requires purpose-built 3D televisions.

3D television - the technical bit simplified
3D television – the technical bit simplified

2. Access and Cost :

In the UK, Sky initially used their existing HD infrastructure to access some 1.6m+ homes (Oct 2009) with compatible set-top boxes though the compromise remained, to wear glasses. However, creating new 3D compatible tvs obviate the need for glasses. Thus far, several manufacturers have started producing sets with autostereoscopic displays. However, these are higher cost, and high cost is a barrier to demand.

3. Risk of technology redundancy :

The first tv sets require users to wear glasses before autostereoscopic screens become available. Further, 3D blu-ray and 3D tv broadcasts are likely to use different technologies. This means that standardisation or multiple technologies will needed within tv receivers to allow viewing of both blu-ray dvds and tv broadcasts on the same tv. Thus there is a high probability of technology redundancy. While this may not be an issue for early adopters it is a barrier to attract the masses.

4. Safety :

Watching 3D movies risks stomach churn. Audience trials are important to understand potential issues. Beyond this, clear guidance and reassurance is important to allay potential fears.

5. Ease of use :

The more complicated a system is to use, the greater the barrier to view. Therefore, easy-to-use and fool-proof equipment, or easy-to-plug-in add-ons to current equipment, will maximise viewing.

6. Experiential benefits :

So will the quality of the experience outweight the disadvantages? In the UK, the chief broadcast engineer at BSkyB, Chris Johns suggests that 3D could herald a step change in the same way that colour did versus black and white.

However, offering features rather than tangible benefits is a common error in technology marketing. Further, the demise of Betamax and the original BSB digital broadcasting company suggest that ‘quality’ is subjective, and does not necessarily ‘sell’.

The programme and film makers are key to delivering quality too. But what is quality? Watching a newsreader in 3D is unlikely to be as compelling as ducking out-of-the-way when a football  hurtles towards you.

So the challenge is to find what content works in 3D, and also both draws, and retains audiences.

Technology Marketing Inspiration

1. The trap with marketing technology is often that they are a collection of features trying to meet a need. As a result, the most common reason new technology fails is because it fails to meet a need. Most probably because the need simply doesn’t exist.  And if the need doesn’t exist you need to figure how to create that need. So use research to understand audience needs, and anticipate drivers and barriers to buy. No doubt some want to ride a roller coaster, but perhaps not every day.

2. There will always be some who fear new technology. So to kick-start demand, first, identify potential early adopters, and focus your marketing on them.

3. Understand drivers and barriers to purchasing and usage. And then communicate the benefits of the new technology while also addressing potential fears. Equally don’t underestimate the fears, they are often entrenched in past usage behaviour. And then work hard to over-come the barriers and solicit trial. For example, by providing free trial experiences. to address barriers such as affordability and access issues. Thus you’ll better help potential customers weigh-up the benefits for themselves too.

4. Plan for the long-term. The trouble with marketing technology is potential product redundancy, and also failure to consider where demand comes from, a competitor or …? So fast forward into the future. Consider how technology might or might not evolve, consider segments, and also develop marketing scenarios, beyond an initial product launch. By imagining the future and planning for the future today will help you grow and lead the market. And further maximise both short and long-term market share.

Guy is a leading UK marketing consultant with a background at major brands and in the media. He is Founder of The Marketing Directors, a successful research and marketing consultancy working with aspiring and global brands in the UK and beyond. He is co-author of The Marketing Director's Handbook with Tim Arnold.

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