Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Presto! Will the Marketing Be As Smart as The Product?

Michael Arrington covers the launch today of Presto—the latest product for getting your technophobe friends and relatives onto email (and beyond).

Doesn't Granny over there look just thrilled to be getting some email. "Land sakes," she seems to say. "I do declare! Why look! It's paper with printing on it. Pictures, too."

The non-computer internet appliance had a vogue in the late twentieth century. The idea was to bring the Internet to folks who couldn't/wouldn't deal with the complexities of a computer. Most of them flopped. Those that didn't flop disappointed.

Internet Appliances of the Late Twentieth Century
Sony eVilla, 3Com Audrey (Palm), CIDCO iPhone,
WebTV (Now MSN TV), Compaq iPaq, CIDCO Mailstation

Selling technology to tech-averse consumers is always a tricky deal. They've already declared they don't want it. And they're not about to admit they can only use the dumbed-down version. Who wants to eat at the children's table?

But Presto just might make it. Unlike the failed internet appliances of the nineties, Presto outputs to paper not a screen. Paper is readable, portable, fileable, discardable. You can carry it with you into the smallest room of your house. And no batteries are required.

The pricing seems reasonable: $149 for the hardware (a special HP printer dubbed the Printing Mailbox) plus $9.99 / month for the service ( or $99 for a year). There's no limit to the amount of mail you can send, but you will be paying an HP consumables tax soon enough.

You might think of Presto as a smart fax machine. Smart because it can't be spammed. (Presto will only receive email from a "white list" of senders that you approve.) Smart because it can also subscribe to special reports. Smart because it can store email and then print when it's convenient for the user. And smart because the output is well-formatted and in color.

(Maybe not so smart. It can only receive. Is that a fatal flaw? Or a feature. Do you know anybody who wants to receive more email?)

The sender, sends to the Presto service. The Presto service sends to the Printing Mailbox.

Mickeleh's Take: If Presto marketing is as smart as the product, they won't waste their resources trying to reach the tech-averse. Their true market is tech-savvy folks who want to send email and baby photos to their tech-averse parents and grandparents. Presto's media plan should target the tech-savvy and enlist them in giving or persuading their tech-avers friends and family to get the gadget. Gotchas: if you're planning to get Presto for someone who hates technology, then you're probably going to take on the burden of maintaining the white list, monitoring the consumables etc. Also there's no way I found for a Presto user to respond to an email, except by picking up the phone and calling back. Are you ready for that?

One more good omen: simple, memorable product name and the URL to match. I wonder what that cost?

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More: Digg, Techmeme, Gizmodo, Jeneane Sessum

Mickeleh's Question: Do you know anybody you'd buy this for?


Brian said...

Presto's marketing strategy is insulting to boomers and seniors.
If you want to know why I say this, take a look at my blog

Mickeleh said...

I'll agree if they're targeting the entire age cohort.

I hope they're not that dumb.

I'm a boomer. I'm OK with email. President Bush is also a boomer. This product might be useful to him. (Wait. I forgot. He doesn't read.)

There is a tech-averse segment among boomers and seniors. (A smaller one among younger generations). If you know someone like that--and you want to send them email, this would be a good bet.

My father from the WWII generation loved technology. Loved his Mac. He wasn't afraid of it. He used email successfully for a while.

But as he aged, he gradually forgot how and stopped using it. I would have bought one of these for him.

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