Think Of The Black Hole When Marketing Complex Technology

EHT Collaboration, uploader cropped and converted TIF to JPG

On April 10, 2019, the world was fascinated by seeing the first ever direct image of a black hole. It was a stunning achievement made possible by some of the most brilliant minds in the world. The average person didn’t care about the “Very long baseline interferometry…(that) correlates timestamped data from distant telescopes to boost the signal and quiet the noise” We cared about the picture of the black hole.

As technology continues to advance we are going to see new products roll out that do things better, faster, and in ways that we as consumers didn’t consider before.

Take 4G for example. It enabled a lot of the functionality in our favorite apps that we take for granted today. Because of 4G, you’re connected to your Uber driver faster, information about their location is more accurate, and drivers get turn-by-turn directions in the app. And with 5G rolling out, it’s impact on the ubiquity of connection is going to be felt in almost every industry. While these technologies aren’t consumer products, they do show how the technology itself doesn’t matter to people, but rather how people benefit from using it.

The same could be said for consumer products where their technology allows for new features and performance. Achieving new heights in performance are exciting for brands and the desire to communicate those tech specs seem like an easy way to show how a product may stack up against competitors. But oftentimes, that desire is followed to the detriment of consumers looking for a product that fits their needs.

We undertook research to understand what consumers look for when shopping for a product that is heavy on tech specs and often confusing to them. To do this, we focused our research on routers. Routers are the heart of our connected homes and are the central component to allow our favorite products reach their full capabilities. But routers are also a product that many people have trouble understanding or even realize how important they are.


Many consumers don’t understand what technical specs mean, but are rather more comfortable with language that describes the things that are relevant to their everyday lives. We found that language devoid of technical terminology, that articulates the benefits of the router, resonates. For example, people said they were uncomfortable with terminology like “MU-MIMO Capable”, “Mesh/Super Mesh Networks”, “DLNA Support”, and others, while citing things like “Faster”, “Better Streaming”, “Reliability” as key features that motivated their purchases. Specs are important, but because of their benefits.


Our research found that nearly two-thirds of owners report challenges with the buying process. Brands that help consumers clearly understand the benefits of the products, how they are differentiated, and what product is a fit for their needs can help potential customers alleviate the challenges in the buying process. “Evaluating various router options/models” was the top thing we found consumers were uncomfortable with. With so much confusing terminology, similar specs, and highly technical features, it is easy to see why. From a marketing perspective it’s important to scenario plan for customer behavior. What if someone goes in-store and asks a sales associate? How are those sales associates communicated with in a way they can easily help recommend your product? What if someone goes in-store and uses their phone to look up reviews and other information without ever talking to a sales associate? How is your product positioned for this scenario? Are you targeting based on location and prepared for post-store visit research with cross-device retargeting touting your great reviews or quotes about how easy the product is to setup?


While the buying process is important, brands should consider the entire user experience to really differentiate. Satisfaction with wireless routers also declined due to ineffective customer service. “Installing and setting up a router” was cited as the second biggest pain point, closely followed by “Understanding all of the features of a router.” We can see here how there is a lot of frustration with the experience beyond the initial purchase. The customer experience doesn’t stop after a product is bought and the brands that put just as much energy into this phase as marketing their product have the opportunity to differentiate through customer experience and service.

While our research was based around routers, the principle conclusions can apply to many products that can be complex:

  1. Use language that matches the benefits people will see
  2. Understand the pain points in the buying process and do something about it
  3. A brand is defined by its customer experience and marketing should reflect the full spectrum

The fascination with technology and the thresholds that continue to be broken make it an exciting time. So when you are challenged with communicating complex technology to a layperson audience, remember the black hole and think about what it means to people, the wonder it can unlock, and how it may play a role in their lives.