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Talking Tech

By: Marc S Levitt
Posted: April 26, 2013, from the May 2013 issue of GCI Magazine.

Effective marketing for things that you can see is easy. It’s what you can’t see that can be tough.

For beauty brands, the most common marketing challenge is communicating what the product does, whom it is for and why it works. Yet, what makes beauty products so effective is the technology behind them—but in marketing, the important technology stories are underplayed and often quite complex for consumers to easily grasp.

Truly smart, current brands can make their packaging, ads, websites and social media work well for them when they know how to “talk tech” effectively. And effective marketing connects fans to brands and turns interests into sales.

While some brands can accomplish this, the reality is that most brands drone on and on about their products in the least effective ways. Perhaps their techniques worked at some point in time, but today’s consumer is smarter, more brand-aware and has access to more options than ever before. Simply put, few people have time to decipher all the complex stories that are out there.

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me

Best moisturizer! Age-defying serum! New & Improved Detangling Formulation!

We see these claims all the time and have become desensitized to reading hyperbolic claims about efficacy. While such claims are fine to make, they hardly come across as meaningful points-of-difference. They run only skin deep.

Getting a consumer to read your marketing is more difficult than ever, and words alone cannot be relied on to do all the heavy lifting. Brands need to be more innovative in carving out a distinctive voice in the marketplace. Without a distinct voice, brands face a race to the bottom—a losing race, competing on price alone.

So how do you cut through the clutter?

Think Like a Consumer, Not a Manufacturer

Brands often want to focus on the tech stories meaningful to them; not the ones consumers necessarily want to hear. It’s a common mistake that often results in complex, dry and overly clinical stories that rarely spark an emotional connection.

The cycle can be broken when the marketing team gets out of the R&D lab or off the factory floor and spends more time getting to know the target customer. What are her needs? Where does she shop? What stories will really connect with her?

Answers to these questions will unlock a brand’s unique DNA, allowing tech stories to become meaningful ones to the target consumers.

Four Visual Strategies to Consider When Talking Tech

So what are the best methods to communicate these stories? From our experience at MSLK working with a variety of beauty brands, we’ve identified four effective visual strategies to help communicate technology:

1. Icons: Icons are symbols that communicate a single idea clearly and universally. Rarely are they meant to be the main focus; their role is to help consumers quickly scan and decode meaning. Whether literal (an image of a molecule) or metaphorical (a thunderbolt), icons can act as an at-a-glance shorthand for words.