At the beginning of January, everyone in the tech world, including myself, descended upon Las Vegas for the annual Consumer Electronics Show. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, CES’ show floor is a launchpad for 20,000-plus new products. And this year it seemed like almost all of them were smart.
Among the myriad drones, TVs, and wearables, the smarthome or, to use an ever bigger buzzword, the Internet of Things, was everywhere. In the Belkin International booth, we showcased WeMo, our growing ecosystem of approachable home automation products, but we were far from alone.
Startups, appliance manufacturers, consumer electronics giants, and even car companies were showing off their versions of the smarthome, connected car, and so on, vying for attention and dollars.
Looking at it from a consumer perspective, what is clear is that if 2014 wasn’t the year of the smarthome, 2015 will be.
Approach with caution
So, what does this mean for marketing and PR pros? For starters, approach the term smarthome with caution. When I hear it, I find it hard not to picture a suburban white colonial house, with two stories and a family with a dog living inside. But that’s not the reality for a large number of people – especially tech-savvy Millennials.
Calling it the smarthome automatically excludes a large part of the population, which for a category still trying to hit the mainstream, isn’t a good approach. As marketers, we have to strive to be more inclusive. Smarthome technologies exist for everyone – including renters and apartment dwellers. We have to do a better job at appealing to them and that starts with the terminology.
Focus on solutions
Don’t get too caught up in the tech. Focus on consumer benefits. People are not looking to go out and buy a smarthome; they’re looking for simple solutions to everyday problems.
The tech industry can be quick to resort to speeds and feeds in marketing, but technical jargon can alienate potential customers, making it sound more complicated than it is. Keep messages consumer-focused and tout the benefits your technology can provide. This is a better way to reach mainstream buyers.
Finally, don’t be afraid of change. The smarthome market is akin to the Wild West. A ton of players, technologies, and standards are competing for mindshare in an industry where technology changes at lightning speed. The winners will be those who adapt better.
This goes for marketing, too. If something isn’t working, change it. Make sure you’re transparent, authentic, and empathetic. And remember to enjoy the new marketing frontier – I know I am.
This article originally appeared as a column on PR Week