What people want most from their smartphones, tablets, home theater and home appliances is simplicity, according to the new Ketchum Digital Living Index, conducted by global communications firm Ketchum. The study showed that 76% of consumers said they are not very satisfied with technology’s ability to make their life simpler. Responses from 6,000 consumers in six countries revealed more prefer technology to be easy to use (54%) and simplify their life (46%) than entertain them (35%) or signal who they are to the world (11%).
“The most surprising finding in the study is the overwhelming desire for simplification. It seems counter-intuitive when technology is always about being bigger or better or faster, but the data show that what people really want is to understand how all of these devices can get them to their desired experience easily,” said Esty Pujadas, partner and director of Ketchum’s Global Technology Practice. “Manufacturers need to use less so-called jargon monoxide and communicate more about the human experience, not just about the object.”
This is particularly true considering that the sheer volume and pace at which new technologies are brought to market can make it hard for people to keep up. Pujadas said, “With more than 20,000 new items launched at the 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show, for example, it would take someone 55 years to try out one new product each day.”
Cultural DNA Shapes Experience
When asked to rate their overall feelings about personal technology, people were overwhelmingly positive, although the “likes” outweigh the “loves.” Passion varies widely by country – the percentage of Chinese who love smartphones (44%) is nearly double those in France (24%).
“The most striking finding to me as an anthropologist was that culture really matters. I didn’t expect that, because the dominant narrative is that technology sells itself. But the data shows this just isn’t true,” said cultural anthropologist Emma Gilding, who collaborated with Ketchum on the study design and data interpretation. “The intersection between what people find appealing and the values of their experiences with technology differ profoundly by country and by cultural DNA.”
“For example, in China, managing relationships and health skew high for technology use. For the French, managing human relationships was less important than the intentional creation of experiences, such as entertaining friends. Americans scored higher than average on using technology to signal who they are, which is a way of attracting people with similar values in order to build their ‘tribe,'” explained Gilding.
Four Types of Digital Living Natives
The Index reveals that there are four kinds of Digital Living natives:
– The largest group are the Enthusiasts (37% of the study’s global population), who are passionate about technology and willing to sacrifice simplification for empowerment.
– The next largest are Infomaniacs (25%), who value getting information and discovering new experiences even more than relating better to other people.
– Pragmatists (22%) are less likely to love technology, but value it as very helpful in relating better to others, getting things done, and managing health and wellness.
– Disconnects (16%) are noticeably unemotional about technology; they place a high value on simplification instead of empowerment or enrichment.
“This way of categorizing users reinforces the importance of the human experience,” noted Pujadas. “Rather than look at age or gender or what features they use, this enables companies to make powerful emotional connections by speaking to the experience each type of user wants from the product.”
The Ketchum Digital Living Index offers many practical takeaways for public relations and marketing communications. For example, communicators can integrate their product into technology stories in countries that score high for people seeking health and wellness information, or make Infomaniacs heroes to their tribes by letting them release information ahead of others.
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