Thursday, 12 September 2013

The next big thing or just a voice in your head?

Marketing is evolving at breakneck speed as technology and consumer habits change. Ten years ago mobile was barely on the agenda for many brands; now it’s fast becoming an integral part of any multi-channel strategy. 

While it’s never simple to judge exactly where the industry is heading every time a new “seismic shift” is on the cards, it will be interesting to see how brands and consumers alike take to an entirely new advertising channel – and whether bone conduction really is here to stay.

German company Sky Deutschland plans to use the new technology to broadcast adverts on the nations’ railway network. Bone conduction involves passing vibrations through the consumer’s skull to transmit soundwaves to the fluid-filled chamber in the ear known as the cochlea. From there the information is transmitted to the brain and the subject hears the sound as though it is coming from within their own head.

It may sound reminiscent of a futuristic thriller, but bone conduction technology has already been in use for some years, particularly in headphones and some types of hearing aids which are worn behind the ear – which also indicates that even deaf people will be able to hear the adverts being broadcasted. 

What’s more, talk of Google using the technique in their upcoming Glass unit suggests that it could be set for widespread dissemination in the next few years. It’s certainly a bold new technique for marketers to add to their sizeable toolkits. But plans to employ bone conduction to broadcast adverts to passengers resting their heads against train windows have been proving controversial ever since they were first announced a couple of months ago.

According to the Daily Finance, the YouTube video demonstrating the technology had received more than a quarter of a million views in early July, of which seven out of ten had rated the concept with a thumbs down. That’s overwhelmingly negative, and comments going as far as to decry bone conduction advertising as an invasion of privacy are unlikely to be won over in the near future. A number of comments voice their sympathy for commuters who are unable to enjoy a quiet minute of rest after a long and arduous shift.

So, what are the chances of bone conduction taking off as a worldwide marketing tool? It isn’t too hard to see why the industry is fascinated with the idea, but it seems consumers will be harder to convince. Still, appealing to passenger’s wallets could make the difference. 

In the UK, years of fare increases as fuel prices have risen have left commuters facing ever-higher transport costs. It could be that injecting some much-needed revenue from advertising into the country’s rail network is just the ticket for passengers, especially if it prevents another price hike, pushes fares downwards or even pays for more and better services.

It remains to be seen whether bone conduction marketing makes its way over to the UK, or indeed whether it is taken up at all.

Either way, in the sense that it’s captured our attention and got us talking, it’s already working!

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