Tag Archives: promotion

Advice on marketing nano from a process engineering perspective

Robert Ferris, PhD, is writing a series of posts about the ‘Process Engineering of Nanotechnology’ on the Emerson Process Experts blog. Before getting to his marketing post, I’m going to briefly discuss his Jan. 4, 2014 posting (the first in this business-oriented series) which offers a good primer on the topic of nanotechnology although I do have a proviso, Ferris’ posts should be read with some caution,

I contribute [sic]  the knowledge gap to the fact that most of the writing out there is written by science-brains and first-adopters. Previous authors focus on the technology and potentials of bench-top scale innovation. This is great for the fellow science-brain but useless to the general population. I can say this because I am one of those science-brains.

The unfortunate truth is that most people do not understand nanotechnology nor care about the science behind it. They only care if the new product is better than the last. Nanotechnology is not a value proposition. So, the articles written do not focus on what the general population cares about. Instead, people are confused by nanotechnology and as a result are unsure of how it can be used.

I think Ferris means ‘attribute’ rather than ‘contribute’ and I infer from the evidence provided by the error that he (in common with me) does not have a copy editor. BTW, my worst was finding three errors in one of my sentences (sigh) weeks after after I’d published. At any rate, I’m suggesting caution not due to this error but to passages such as this (Note: Links have been removed),

Nanotechnology is not new; in fact, it was used as far back as the 16th century in stain glass windows. Also, nanotechnology is already being used in products today, ranging from consumer goods to food processing. Don’t be surprised if you didn’t know, a lot of companies do not publicize the fact that they use nanotechnology.

Strictly speaking the first sentence is problematic since Ferris is describing ‘accidental’ nanotechnology. The artisans weren’t purposefully creating gold nanoparticles to get that particular shade of red in the glass as opposed to what we’re doing today and I think that’s a significant difference. (Dexter Johnson on his Nanoclast blog for the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] has been very clear that these previous forays (Damascus steel, the Lycurgus Cup) cannot be described as nanotechnology since they were unintended.) As for the rest of the excerpt, it’s all quite true.

Ferris’ Feb. 11, 2014 post tackles marketing,

… While companies and products can miss growth targets for any number of reasons, one of the more common failures for nanotechnology-enabled products is improper marketing. Most would agree that marketing is as much art as science but marketing of nanotechnology-enabled products can be particularly tricky.

True again and he’s about to focus on one aspect of marketing,

Companies that develop nanotechnology-enabled products tend to fall into two camps—those that use nanotechnology as a differentiator in their marketing materials and those that do not. In the 5 P’s of marketing (Product, Place, Price, Promotion, and People), we are contrasting how each company approaches product marketing.

Product marketing focuses on communicating how that product meets a customer need. To do this, the marketing material must differentiate from other potential solutions. The question is, does nanotechnology serves as a differentiating value proposition for the customer?

As I understand it, communicating about the product and value propositions would fall under Promotion while decisions about what features to offer, physical design elements, etc. would fall under Product. Still, Ferris goes on to make some good points with his example of selling a nano-manufactured valve,

A local salesperson calls you up to see what you think. As a customer, you ask a simple question, “Why should we buy this new valve over the one we have been using for years?” What will you think if the sales-person answers, “Because it is based on nanotechnology!”? Answering this way does not address your pain points or satisfy your concerns over the risks of purchasing a new product.

My main difficulty with Ferris’ marketing post is a lack of clarity. He never distinguishes between business-to-business (B2B) marketing and business to consumer (B2C) marketing. There are differences, for example, consumers may not have the scientific or technical training to understand the more involved aspects of the product but a business may have someone on staff who can and could respond negatively to a lack of technical/scientific information.

I agree with Ferris on many points but I do feel he might address the issue of selling technology. He uses L’Oréal as an example of a company selling nanotechnology-enabled products  which they do but their product is beauty. The company’s  nanotechnology-enabled products are simply a means of doing that. By contrast a company like IBM sells technology and a component or product that’s nanotechnology-enabled may require a little or a lot of education depending on the component/product and the customer.

For anyone who’s interested in marketing nanotechnology-enabled and products based on other emerging technologies, I recommend reading Geoffrey A. Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm. His examples are dated as this written about the ‘computer revolution’ but I think the basis principles still hold. As for Ferris’ postings, there’s good information but you may want to check out other sources and I recommend Dexter Johnson’s Nanoclast blog and Cientifica, an emerging technologies consultancy. (Dexter works for Cientifica, in addition to writing for the IEEE, but most of the publications on that site are by Tim Harper). Oh, and you can check here too, although the business side of things is not my main focus, I still manage to write the odd piece about marketing (promotion usually).

Detecting dangerous liquids in airline luggage with a Josephson junction; NANOvember in Albany, New York; nano haiku for November

To be free of those clear plastic bags which hold all your bottles of liquids when you go through airport security with your luggage! That is a very worthwhile nanotechnology promise. From the news item on Nanowerk,

Restrictions on liquids in carry-on bags on commercial airliners could become a thing of the past thanks to a revolutionary nano-electric device which detects potentially hazardous liquids in luggage in a fraction of a second, according to a team of German scientists. Writing in the journal Superconductor Science and Technology, the researchers at the Forschungszentrum Juelich in western Germany claim that they have been able to do this using an optical approach that detects all existing and future harmful liquids within one fifth of a second.

Since the paper has been published, the researchers have been approached by industrial partners about producing a prototype. (sigh) Most likely this means they hope it will be about five years before we see the devices in airports. The device itself is known as a Josephson junction and you can read more about it on the Azonano site too.

I am happy to see that the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) at the University of Albany (New York, US) has held a remarkably successful nano event, Community Day, during NANOvember  attracting about 1000 people.  From the news item on Nanowerk,

NANOvember is part of “NEXSTEP,” or “Nanotechnology Explorations for Science, Training and Education Promotion,” a partnership between CNSE and KeyBank. Spearheaded by CNSE’s Nanoeconomics Constellation, the initiative features a variety of educational programs designed to promote greater understanding of the changing economic and business environment in the Capital Region and New York State being driven by nanotechnology. “As nanotechnology increasingly shapes the educational and economic landscapes of the Capital Region, NANOvember offers a platform through which the community can better understand the impact and opportunities driven by this emerging science,” said Jeffrey Stone, president, Capital Region, KeyBank N.A.

I’m impressed they attracted that large a crowd in a city with a population of about 100,000 (Albany county has a population of about 300,000) according the 2000 census statistics. By contrast, the city of Vancouver (Canada) has a population of about 600,000 with a regional population of approximately 2 million (from the City of Vancouver website on November 9, 2009) and I’m hard pressed to recall either of our local universities claiming a similar success for one of their community days.

One other point about Albany and nanotechnology, in a July 2008 posting I noted a $1.5B investment for a research centre  in Albany, NY, being made by IBM. So this nanotechnology communication/education event seems to dovetail very nicely with past occurrences and suggests an overall strategy is at work.

Some haiku from NISEnet’s (Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network) newsletter,

After you read this
Your finger nail will have grown
a nanometer
by Troy Dassler

We struggle to show
The size of a molecule.
Kids wait patiently.

by Mike Falvo

You can check out the organization’s The Nano Bite blog here.