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Why It Is Smart For Tech to Play Dumb

Gordon Kelly

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house iphone

Did you know that as of this week David Beckham works for Samsung? Or that will.i.am has been 'director of creative innovation' at Intel since January? What about Lady Gaga's 'product development' job at Polaroid? Yes, they are all fatuous. Yes, they are marketing gimmicks. But they are also symbolic of something hugely encouraging...

beckham

First let's wind you up with some quotes.

"I'm very proud to be part of the team that brought the Olympics to my home city, London," said David Beckham in a vague statement following his no doubt lucrative deal with Samsung. "It is one of the greatest events in the world. Working with a globally respected brand, like Samsung, our aim will be to help more and more people to enjoy and share the excitement of the London 2012 Olympic Games."

"Nearly everything I do involves processors and computers, and when I see an Intel chip I think of all the creative minds involved that help to amplify my own creativity,” said an equally out of his depth will.i.am. "Teaming up with the scientists, researchers and computer programmers at Intel to collaborate and co-develop new ways to communicate, create, inform and entertain is going to be amazing."

Do we really think David Beckham can teach Samsung something about user interfaces or will.i.am had anything to do with Intel's 22nm 3D transistor breakthrough? Of course not. Why we hate these deals is because it offends our tech sensibilities that some random celebrity can receive a monumental amount of cash (and no doubt a huge number of goodies) for knowing virtually nothing about technology and smile all the way to the bank. Prada dumbphones? Swarovski encrusted TVs? Thankfully they are all part of a positive bigger picture.

In short technology advertising is getting dumber because technology has become popular. Pandering to the masses has its downsides, but it is representative of the fact that today it is chic to be a geek. Mainstream tech knowledge may not have passed much beyond The Gadget Show, but at least The Gadget Show exists... on mainstream TV... for people of all ages. Besides knowledge isn't everything. The point of gadgets now is they evolved to the level where almost anyone can use and enjoy them – even two year olds. Computer games are not the domain of mole-eyed nerds, top titles generate income on a par with Avatar. If you're ever more frequently asked for tech support from friends and family members remember this is because more non-technical friends and family have been encouraged to hop on the tails of the revolution. David Beckham may have done that.

Ollie Williams

May 8, 2011, 8:02 pm

I assume the title of this article is meant to read 'lady Gaga' as opposed to 'lada Gaga'. That is unless you lot have a secret love affair going on with old soviet-bloc automobiles.

Pbryanw

May 9, 2011, 8:49 pm

Good spot :) I wonder as well, if TR could bump the news section down slightly on the front page, if only so you can show how many comments there are for these features (like for product reviews and news items).

Gordon394

May 10, 2011, 7:02 am

Title is meant to read: 'Why It Is Smart For Tech to Play Dumb' - it seems there is a problem with feature titles showing up correctly, but fingers crossed it is now fixed.
@Pbryanw - yes that is a good spot. We'll leave it up to the developers to decide. It seems Features moves around the page at present, so once this settles down it should be easier to fix layout.

Daniel Gerson

May 12, 2011, 1:12 pm

All good points in the article. But I think we need to get a sense of 'cause and effect'. This article is really about advertising, and not really about Tech.

Big companies like HTC have started advertising more, and it's presumed that this is because 'they have to do with when they get big'. But where is the scientific evidence to suggest that this true, not simply because this is what other big companies do?

Here's a more likely scenario, than the 'Marketing actually works' argument: As a company grows, it has to hire more and more people, and delegate company functions out to departments out of necessity because Jack of all trades individuals don't scale. As this process happens it starts to lose it's original corporate culture... simply because, for most, it is an uphill task to both hire thousands of new employees, AND guarantee that they are converted from their previous aggregated corporate culture. This is especially true, if the original shareholders are diluted.. and so incentives are gone.

What happens next is to look at the incentives of the new Head of Marketing. Is it in her incentive to ask for less money and people for her dept, because the scientific evidence is noisy that marketing actually works better than word of mouth? Or using that money to discount product price? NO! You do what everyone else does! It's easier to fear that you are wrong, than have the guts to take a stand! This will always be the case with most big companies!

The fact that you can find exceptions (like Google) in retaining corporate culture (by having industry controversial -outside the norm- hiring practises) doesn't negate the argument. Not many companies can retain practises like diverting 20% of their work week. (Example of corp cult, not marketing).

Returning to the article. One can be in favour of the trend of tech adoption and still disparage silly acts of marketing. I don't think you've made a good case of linking 'cause and effect', that these marketing acts HAVE ACTUALLY improved tech products or the industry.

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