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Published on January 10th, 2007 | by Tom

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The Bubble Generation is Cursed with Knowledge

My kids are cursed.  So are yours.  As part of that giant cohort of people to come of age after the Internet bubble burst, their curse is that they simply know too much.  Take technology, for example.  They have grown up in an online world, with mobile phones in their pockets, wireless gaming in their rooms.  They are completely comfortable with avatar worlds and MP3s and instant everything. 

Teen_group_1 And of course, the true curse of knowledge is that you can’t unlearn what you’ve learned.  They cannot now imagine a world without technology, without web surfing, and social media and shopcasting.  And, moreover, they cannot understand why things aren’t advancing as fast as they should.  They want it live, always on and they want it now.  That’s a species-level change in worldview in the span of a generation. 

The biggest challenge for marketers today is to keep up with the accelerating expectations of people who know too much. 

This week’s Consumer Electronics Show, for example, underwhelmed not because the products weren’t new and novel and worthy, but because we (read: a substantial part of the consuming public led by BubbleGens) have already intellectualized and even made emotional accommodation for these products.  In other words, we expected them already.  What used to amaze and mesmerize about new products shows was the world’s fair-wonder of the unexpected and the unforeseen.  Not much left on that front these days, I’m afraid.  Bill Gates’ snoozer annual CES vision speech was again battled by Steve Jobs spitting out a new rap on what makes stuff cool.  Not that Gates was wrong; we’ve simply heard it all before.  At least Jobs could radiate his reality distortion field and make us want utilities (mobile phones and set-top boxes) with a little pizazz.   

No, the real news of this week should be the emerging worry that we can no longer please our customers with business-as-usual results.  The bar has been raised several notches and expectations are now exceedingly high.  It is a recipe for disappointment and disaster.  The best thing we can all do as technology marketers is focus on the fundamentals.  We need to make damn sure the moving parts work, the quality of experience is high, the follow-through is there.  The competition has moved beyond technology now, to experience.  If we screw that up, the only place left is to compete on price.  Then the wheels really fall off the bus.

Long and short of it: Your customers know as much or more than you do today.  They know what to expect, they know what they want and what they don’t want.  You can’t fool them any more with flash and misdirection.  Time to stand and deliver an experience worthy of their knowledge.  That is, after all, the final curse of knowledge: knowing but not getting.  You’ve been warned.   

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