One of the most popular cartoons I ever drew was about the Internet of Things, right after Google announced the acquisition of Nest in early 2014.
“I think my Nest smoke alarm is going off,” one character tells another. “Google Adwords just pitched me a fire extinguisher and an offer for temporary housing.”
iRobot later proved that truth is stranger than fiction when photos taken in homes by a beta version of its Roomba vacuum robot somehow ended up on Facebook in late 2022, including a photo of someone on the toilet.
The Internet of Things has been a major focus of manufacturers for the last decade. Internet-enabled “smart” features are now part of 80-90% of the appliances sold by LG Electronics. Smart products can transform one-time purchases into long-term customer relationships, fueled by data and promising the opportunity to upsell and cross-sell.
Yet what may make strategic sense for the brand is not necessarily resonating with the consumer.
LG revealed last week that fewer than half of the smart appliances it has sold stay connected to the internet. Whirlpool reported similar numbers.
Henry Kim, US director of the smart device devision at LG told the WSJ:
“The challenge is that a consumer doesn’t see the true value that manufacturers see in terms of how that data can help them in the long run. So they don’t really care for spending time to just connect it.”
I think this mismatch in “true value” is a good example of marketing myopia. As Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt famously wrote:
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: