As marketing conditions change, it has become more obvious that some of our most sacred marketing concepts simply don’t fit today’s marketplace, and their continued use can be more of a hazard to managers than a benefit.
Lightbulbs have largely been the bellwether of technological development—from filaments to LEDs and to smart, WiFi-connected lightbulbs that can be turned on and off at the push of a smartphone app. TCP has been in the connected lighting space since 2013, when it released its first smart lightbulb to consumers at Home Depot’s Black Friday sale. The product is relatively simple: It’s a traditional or LED bulb that connects to a software hub, or “gateway,” that controls light dimmers and switches through users’ mobile phones. The company sells a range of products, from individual bulbs that are controlled through a smartphone app to full commercial lighting suites that include complex timing and output programs.
Lesley Matt, director of marketing at TCP, says that the challenge in marketing IoT-connected devices to the consumer market is twofold:
1) Customers must be knowledgeable enough about the benefits of IoT to invest extra money in those products.
They must know how to choose the right software program that will connect those devices to their smartphone, tablet and computer.
“The biggest challenge that we see is how we communicate the benefit of spending that additional amount of money to purchase a premium product. It’s very difficult,” Matt says. “Everybody’s interested, everybody wants to see it and play with it, but they’re not quite ready to purchase it just yet. It’s very challenging to get the consumer to understand us saying, ‘Here’s my piece of the technology, here’s how it could work in your home and here are the other alliances that we have that you can connect together.’ It’s incredibly difficult.”
In-store displays go a long way, Matt says, to show consumers how the products work and how they’ll be worth the investment when used in homes, especially those that already have a foot in the door in terms of installing connected devices like appliances and heating systems. Matt’s team also uses social media to boost interest within that target connected-consumer market.
TCP also does commercial applications in hotels, restaurants and retail spaces. According to Matt, the scale of the infrastructure needed to install connected lighting systems for their much larger commercial clients, like hotels and retail stores, leads to a different set of sales and marketing challenges. “That side of the fence is starting to look more at smart technology as its total energy management solution,” Matt says. “In hotels, for example, they want to be able to allow the guests to go through and control not only their light levels but also their television and their blinds and thermostat all through one device.”
Educating potential customers on how the technology works, and how it will save them money, is even more pronounced in the commercial space, Matt says. That’s where Matt’s sales team comes in. TCP’s sales team educates both their commercial clients and their retail buyers on the basics of the IoT: how connected devices save money by learning people’s habits and turning off electronics when not in use, and how property managers and regular consumers can choose and connect their connected products to a central control hub on their mobile devices.
This video from TCP engages customers by using video for lighting label education.
The information comes in the form of educational content that breaks down technical jargon, and Matt says that fully functioning displays in some distributor locations help commercial clients grasp how the systems work. “Our marketing is a lot of education. It’s a lot of getting that prospect to understand how this technology works, what the features and benefits are, what it can do for their application and if it’s the right choice for them. My team has to understand the needs and goals they’re trying to meet by doing this. … We have to ask them, ‘How do you want all these things to react together, and what’s your end goal?’”
TCP’s largest hurdle will remain, for at least the next year, in unraveling technical jargon for potential customers, says Manjiry Tamhane, CEO AMEA and worldwide COO at London-based marketing consultancy Gain Theory.
“There are so many acronyms for consumers to wade through and understand what the right product is for them—that’s a big challenge. The challenge goes to marketers to help them sift through that, simplify it in a language that consumers can understand and, therefore, be confident when buying into a product.”
-Manjiry Tamhane, COO of Gain Theory
The content Matt and her team have created that breaks down that jargon for both commercial customers and consumers is helping TCP overcome that challenge.
J.R. Little, global head of innovation at London-based digital media and marketing firm Carat, agrees. “That’s both the opportunity and the challenge. The opportunity is that brands can be more useful than they’ve ever been before. The challenge is in communicating the benefits to customers.”
But, Little warns, companies like TCP have work ahead of them to help consumers get over the perception that implementing connected devices is too daunting a project to take on. “What we’re experiencing is the ‘cutification’ of the Internet of Things so that people embrace it more,” Little says.
TCP’s focus on education helps the brand compete with big-brand competitors like Phillips and GE, whether that’s in-store displays on the retail side or knowledgeable salespeople on the commercial side, Matt says. “We’re never going to be able to go out and do a multimillion dollar advertising campaign. That’s not who we are or who we want to be. … But by continuing the message of providing that right solution, we compete very well against the big brands.”