CES Lesson for Marketers: Winners Know their Customers

In Jason Hiner’s recent post,“Tablets: What Amazon and Apple know that all the CES tablet peddlers are still missing,”he argues that the added features found on many tablets, like high-res cameras, USB ports, HDMI connections and blah, blah, have not won the hearts and minds of buyers. He also points out that many tablets are very PC-like, yet not useful like a real computer. I agree with Jason that creating tablets that mimic PCs is a fool’s errand and that adding every conceivable bell and whistle does not add much appeal. So, with the exception of Apple and Amazon, most of the other tablet manufacturers have created products that are neither laptops nor tablets nor gaming platforms; really, they don’t do much very well.

So, what did Apple and Amazon do that the others did not?

It seems to me that Apple and Amazon talked to consumers or at least looked at what and how they do things online.  Apple and Amazon came at their new product development process from the consumer point of view.  It would appear that they asked questions like: What are people doing with their current technology? What do they like and not like? Are there places that the current technology options inhibit what consumers want and like to do? What could we create to better enable consumers doing what they like to do? How can we improve their experience?

I somehow envision the other tablet manufacturers sitting at long conference tables in various global locations saying things like: “We have this huge investment in technology. So, what other spin-off products can we develop that won’t take much R&D time and leverages technology we have today?” Ta-da—tablets that act sort of like PCs are born.

So, getting back to Apple and Amazon, they figured out how people would use their tablets.  And it came down to two words: content and usability. Amazon and Apple are good at both, although their strategies in each area differ.

Today, tablets are being used to access the content “I” am interested in; access the various types of content formats (email, music, video, apps); offer me a way to curl up on my couch with my content, bring it on a plane or in a car, or take a bathroom break. (Staples Tablet Survey Talks about Usage Statistics)

In an article from Business Insider (Here’s How People REALLY Use Tablets) posted at the end of November 2011, the research showed that consumers spend 40 percent of their time browsing the Web and 21 percent use apps. With a tablet, a person can create his or her own universe of information. For many people, the tablet is their personal device customized to whatever is important to them. Unlike my laptop, which is often a work device that also gets used at home, when I launch my Kindle Fire, the device immediately becomes My Kindle. Over time, it becomes even more about me.

Apple, building on its iTunes success, experimented with “my” content long before the first iPad hit the streets. Both Apple and Kindle provide ways for iPad and Kindle Fire owners, respectively, to access all sorts of information in any number of formats. And the functionality built into these devices is just right for curling up on my couch or my seat back in coach to engage in my stuff.

The moral of the tablet story is: Marketers—know your audience. Don’t just create cool tech toys. Give consumers something they can use and enjoy.


by Carolyn Ladd
Vice President Account Planning and Digital Strategy

Cross posted at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network