Marketing: How is PC hardware marketed differently than games & entertainment software

Marketing Aficionado

What’s kept me in marketing for close to twenty years now?  I’ll give you one word – fascination.  Marketing is such a fascination for me personally that my focus becomes even more acute when the TV cranks up the latest marketing masterpiece, like a new pharmaceutical commercial.  And this is coming from a guy that doesn’t have high cholesterol, irritable bowels or a leaky bladder.  I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in their purple pills or snake oils, but these commercials exemplify the transformation that has occurred within marketing, and I find this shift positively mesmerizing.

As a past computer hardware marketer I have to tip my cap to the guy who came up with the current formula for marketing today’s treasure trove of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs.  What a precarious balancing act.  Your messaging has to introduce the product, inform the consumer, disclose some pretty uncomfortable side effects, sell the product with an air of credibility and all the while hold the average consumer’s rapidly diminishing attention.  I don’t know if Solomon himself was ever faced with such a daunting thirty second challenge.

Marketing Lifestyle

Like it or not (and the pharmaceutical numbers show we like it) lifestyle marketing is here to stay.  We like lifestyles of the rich and famous.  We like warm sunsets, beach houses, warm mugs, cold glasses, and rooftop parties.  So, you may be asking, what do elixirs, bowels and bladders have to do with computer hardware, entertainment software or video games?  Well, once you’ve popped this little blue pill in your mouth I’ll tell you.

Rank Brand Advertising Type
#1 Apple $1.2B Software
#2 Microsoft $2.3B Software
#3 Google $3B Software
#4 Coca-Cola $3.5B Soft drinks
#5 IBM $1.3B Hardware

Table: The World’s Most Valuable Brands – Forbes Magazine, 2015 Rankings

Back in the dark ages, before the internet, marketing and messaging to consumers was all about the product.  “… it slices, it dices, it makes 10,000 julienne fries in less than ten seconds.”  Product, product, product, this fast, faster than before, this much faster than ever, and this much better than the other guy’s.  Product marketing was matured and perfected before our very eyes in the computer hardware space by the likes of HP, Dell, and Intel.

Lifestyle Marketing Influences on consumer buying behavior that represents what a person values out of life
Product Marketing Process of conveying goods or services to customers

 

Fast forward to 2015 and consumers are more inclined to stream entertainment from an Internet service than tune in to live TV, and consumers won’t come near a spec sheet.  But a lot more has changed than a consumers’ preference to hold a smartphone in their hands instead of the TV remote.  Computer software and digital entertainment like video games are massive, multi-billion dollar industries, and their approach to marketing software and video games has transformed across the board.  Marketing software has grown away from the cliché product oriented messages many of us grew up hearing and can quote verbatim in our best monster truck rally voice to the kinder, gentler lifestyle marketing approach.

Hardware: The Last Bastion

For years, Moore’s Law and product oriented messaging defined how computer hardware was marketed.  We had the PC and its accessories “arms race”.  Which one ran the fastest MHz, which printer could spit out the most pages, which monitor supported the highest resolution or which 3D graphics card had the most memory.  Everything was black and white with a number or a rating clearly illustrating which one was better, and higher numbers were definitely better.

chart

Chart: Internet HW & SW applications, past 50-year trajectory – Chief Martec Online, 2014

 

Now get ready because here’s a metric ton of irony for you.  Marketing the very devices that spawned and grew the internet has now completely changed because of said internet.  People, or is it just Americans, care less about MHz, PPM, and FPS.  Maybe it’s because more and more often the numbers used to market those products started coming with a disclaimer like, “actual mileage may vary.”  Whether it’s mistrust, a higher degree of consumer sophistication, or a dumbing down with message simplification the verdict is in.

Product Marketing so popular with the Tech Hardware Industry isn’t Dead

Product marketing (PM) clearly isn’t dead, after all.  LinkedIn shows almost 90,000 Product Marketing jobs are available with each one expected to pay an average salary of $84K.  But PM is hardly in the driver’s seat, it’s probably more accurate to say that product marketing, so prevalent with tech hardware for so long, is in the backseat feeding the baby while lifestyle marketing drives along the autobahn.

A Call of Duty: Black Ops III commercial I recently saw may be the harbinger for the next wave in marketing.  This commercial magnum opus features “Kevin” and fuses the traditional hardware oriented product marketing elements with today’s lifestyle marketing approach.  The product is shown prominently: game art, features, combat, villains and characters, just like you would expect from a traditional product marketer.  But the lifestyle messaging also shines through as they emphasize the fun and exhilaration possible, the lifestyle experience playing the game with the nerdy player, “Kevin,” appearing in actual game play footage wall running, maneuver fragging and hero dropping.

Hardware and software marketing, once diametrically opposed in approach, have now settled on the same page, borrowing from the big drug companies and their lifestyle marketing philosophy.  But just like the technology we’ve grown to love, innovation continues on the marketing front, and we’re likely to see more fusion between traditional product marketing and cutting edge lifestyle messaging.

Further Reading:

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