I’m want to tell you about B.U.C. Inc.  When I was inhigh school, my economics class was paid a visit by a representative of a localbank.  He was there to assist our teacher with an activity to teachbusiness management principles.  The exercise involved breaking our classinto groups and allowing each to make decisions about how to invest theresources of a mock company that supposedly made pens.  B.U.C. was thename my group chose to give our company.  I don’t remember what B.U.C.stood for, but I’m sure it is appropriately juvenile.

The exercise worked as follows: each group decided how toallocate company money into line items for research and development (R&D),production, sales and marketing.  The resulting percentages from each teamwere entered into a software program that simulated a competitiveenvironment.  After each round, the teams received a report on how theircompany was performing, including data on revenue, inventory levels and marketdemand.  In the first round, B.U.C. decided to invest significantly inR&D…and little else.  Our hypothesis was simple: if our product wasbetter, it would sell better.

After the first round, our team was in dead last.  Wewere surprised, but determined that we must not have invested enough in R&Dand increased investment in the next round.  After the information wasanalyzed for the second time, B.U.C. remained in last.  B.U.C.’smanagement team was scratching their heads, but we decided to stick to ourstrategy.  After a few more rounds, we had moved out of last place, butwere still in the bottom of the pack when the bank representative paid ourgroup a visit.  He pointed out that our numbers showed that we haddeveloped the best product on the market, but we were spending little topromote it and were not producing enough to meet current demand.  In thelast two rounds, B.U.C. tripled its sales and marketing budget and doubledproduction.  And we won.  B.U.C. became the market leader for itsinnovation, but only after it made an appropriate investment to market itsproduct.

I’m reminded of this experience as I read the news andcontemplate the future of the communications industry, post the so called“great recession.”  The fallout from a decade bookended by the collapse oftwo major marketplace bubbles has many of us searching for answers. What’s safe now?  What’s the next opportunity?  How has themarketplace changed?

What’s true.

People’s behavior has changed.  Consumers are spendingless. Companies are evaluating budgets with much more scrutiny.  Thedotcom era and the real estate meltdown have one thing in common: they werefueled by hype and irrational exuberance for products that did not perform asadvertised or live up to expectations.  People have become much moreskeptical of what they see, hear and read.  This last statement is ofparticular concern for those of us in the marketing and communicationsprofessions.

Up for debate

Today’s technology marketplace is rife with hype and ahype-saturated market creates indifference, or worse, distrust.  Today,claims of the latest and greatest innovative breakthroughs abound and peoplehave tuned out.  For some, as Airfoil’smost recent POV paper argues, even the mere mention of the word“innovation” can be enough to turn your audience off.

What matters most.

The claim that people no longer value innovation isfalse.  In fact, the marketplace continues to reward innovativecompanies.  The most successful companies have learned to communicatebeyond claims of innovation – they’ve backed their claims with facts,demonstrated the benefit and value of their products and services through casestudies and storytelling.  Success in marketing technology in this newdecade isn’t the result of magic or mystical silver bullets.  The ruleshaven’t changed, the marketplace is just enforcing them again. Fundamentals are key.  Invest in research to inform your strategy. Invest in marketing and communications vehicles that do more than list offfeatures and deliver a call-to-action; dedicate time and resources todeveloping clear communications that engage and inform your audience. Tell your story.

Kevin Sangsland