Over the past few days, I have been trying to focus on what I do and where I feel me and my company’s expertise lies.
I enjoy creating effective materials that use equipment simulations as part of marketing and training efforts. When I say “simulation” to any group of people (who will stand still for more than a few seconds), that word seems to eclipse the importance of whatever other words surround it. However, as I quickly follow-up as an example, “good simulation-based training” is foremost about ‘good training’, not something to be judged necessarily on how accurate the simulation is.
While the field of “simulation-based training” is roaring along, I have yet to hear the phrase “simulation-based marketing.” Based on some shoddy and incomplete research (i.e., doing hasty web searches and looking at the first few pages of results), I have yet to see this term used. Feeling somewhat presumptuous, I wonder if I am the first person to use this term.
When I say a ’simulation-based product marketing piece,’ I mean “a presentation designed to engage viewers with the product, in which the product is reproduced to some level of interaction, for the purposes of selling to, or persuading them to buy it.”
At its core, and this relates to our work over the past few years, is the notion of “Product Engagement” (PE). I have seen people use the term “brand engagement,” but I haven’t seen as much attention to “product engagement”, though clearly this concept is at the heart of pretty much all types of sales. Often we talk about “putting the product into a prospect’s hands,” or giving a prospect a “hands-on feel” for the product. ‘Product Engagement’ could be a way to measure how successful a presentation is at giving the prospect the feel for a device. Not to carry this too far, but PE doesn’t have to relate to a simulation — it could be an assessment of an experience with the actual product itself.
In the same way a simulation or model always makes assumptions about what it is representing, the engagement is never quite identical to using the product in an on-the-job experience (except, of course, using the product in an on-the-job experience).
The idea of PE highlights an important distinction between sim-based product marketing and what could be considered a broader, sim-based product training. In training, ultimately, our goal is to transfer correct performance using the device in realistic conditions. In marketing, our goal is to give the prospect confidence that they know how they will perform.
Here are two posts I think that relate very well to this discussion:
- Devin Day – ‘Authentic Product Engagement‘ (Nike)
- ShiftControl – ‘Selling Product Engagement‘ (Coke)
The materials I see on the web relate to how products can be linked into games and into social media. At the forefront of this area, like most, seems to be the B2C manufacturers, though a post I made a few months ago about Malvern Instruments is one demonstration that the B2B community wants and needs this approach.
I think there is a confusion between ‘engaging the viewer’ and ‘engaging the viewer with the product’. I think that is why so much interactive marketing today focuses on games and game-like elements, because they misdirectedly (is that a word?) believe that the goal is to engage the viewer and then sneak the product in somehow. When I hear discussions around the idea of ‘product placement’, it almost seems like a dirty secret that the manufacturer is placing its product in a position, hoping the viewer notices it–but doesn’t notice it too much.
This seems ridiculous to me. I believe that if one makes a marketing piece about a product and lets the viewers interact with the product in realistic situations, situations that highlight the competitive or unique features of the product, then the viewer engagement will take care of itself–those viewers who are interested in the product will be retained, and those interested simply in the ‘fun’ aspect will not. Isn’t this the core group that the marketer wants to attract?
I think that one of the neat parts about simulation-based marketing is that the concepts and materials fit so well into other important business categories, namely training (for sales reps, customers, service technicians, etc.) and even product design and manufacturing (designing products that can engage users). The path, then, being set is to align processes along having users interact with the product. If one has confidence in the superiority and quality of one’s products, isn’t that the best way to sell it or learn how to use it?
I think that the same concept I’ve presented regarding ‘product marketing’ could be viewed in a larger context of purely “Simulation-Based Marketing.” My vision is that the broader concept does not necessarily involve equipment or devices (though it could), rather, it is about re-creating the ownership experience (hence the ’simulation’) for a prospective customer.