Header Title



business models, strategies and technologies

Rethinking reviewing FMCG technologies

Writing about technology ain’t easy – attractive, cogent writingabout technology products with people in the loop is even harder. Good role models are hard to come by …

Prior-to-purchase FMCG reviews

Most of us are acquiring, using and discarding technology at a ka-zooming rate, unprecedented in human history.

There’s a huge industry involved in selling, promoting and writing about these products, and much of it is pretty mindless bottom-feeder PR and inch-filler grunge mainly aimed at oiling the wheels of the box-shifting behemoth.

But what I want to write about here are FMCG reviews – with a relatively narrow but important prior-to-purchase function. Such reviews purport to provide some degree of information before you buy – they’re pretty useless once you’ve forked over your hard-earned dosh.

Oiling the wheels or serving the customer?

The problem with the vast majority of FMCG reviews seems to be that their starting out point is the item itself – and not the consumer’s interaction with/pleasure from/benefit from actually using it.  Most of the factual information comes (whether overtly or not) from the manufacturer of the laptop/TV/smartphone/car/washing machine/microwave, and is then media-regurgitated to greater or lesser degree depending on time/resources/journalistic integrity. The articles we end up reading usually only add a thin veneer on top of the corporate PR blurb, and this all seems fine because it provides a pseudo-skin of fact-based neutrality and authoritativeness.

But this approach – the one we’re all used to and pretty much accept as a valid norm for pre-purchase information –  is unfortunately firmly rooted in traditional product-centric perspectives. It’s really all about what manufacturers want to sell us, not what we want to choose to buy – the customer-centric perspective.

Nuts to neutrality

This kind of false neutrality doesn’t help us very much – discovering what FMCGs are like to use after we’ve bought them is only good for the manufacturers’ sales figures.  If I’m to trust and value an opinion as a basis for parting with my hard-earned, hard-taxed disposal income, I’d want the writer to have interacted with the goods in question and to say something that relates to day-to-day realities – rather than just re-packaging puff pieces fed by various PR departments.

All very naive, I know … It’s easy to criticise, and any bitching ain’t likely to get very far amid the frenzy to satiate the round-the-clock media vacuum feeder. in the world of business, no one has the time or budget for this kind of thing.


Customer-rooted realities

Fortunately, there are exceptions. I recently stumbled on a surprising – and therefore inspiring – example of one way in which the customer-centric perspective can be introduced. It was in a very long, superbly crafted review of the Leica Q camera by writer/designer/photographer Craig Mod. He himself describes it as both an essay and a six-month field test, and it is a wonderful example of critical, get-involved writing in a balanced consideration of the technology and what it’s used for. He’s not afraid of dishing up opinions, nor of being both energetically enthusiastic and cogently critical, all the while relating everything to get-yer-hands-dirty practical use. He writes from the user’s perspective, and it is a joy to see how it can be done and how well.

A product has to earn its place in the world. Especially a product that’s being commoditized and attacked from all sides. It has to function not only at absolute peak performance (in this case, infallibly take great photos), but it has to do so while simultaneously delighting us. I’m a stickler for that: the delight.

Genuinely customer-centric business can’t build on legacy-style manufacturer-centric communication, in which we are all reduced to passive consumerism, with no idea about how we actually benefit from our exponentially accelerating purchasing. This is hardly a business model for a strong future in which technology is an enabler rather than a mere clutterer.

Tangible examples and mental pictures about how things can be done are a major step towards exploring and moulding a new approach. The greater the role technology plays in our lives, the greater the role good, innovative communication about it can play.

Tags: -