What UltraViolet Must Get Right To Succeed


The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem got off on the right foot with UltraViolet by rallying its base with a kickoff gathering of executives at CES. But now a bigger segment of the population must be won over: consumers.

As much as we’ve heard about UltraViolet to date, what we haven’t heard about yet is even more important: the marketing campaign that will introduce this service to the nation. DECE GM Mark Teitell confirmed the consortium is at work on a promotional strategy that will precede deployment.

It’s crucial because of this unfortunate reality: UltraViolet is ultra confusing, so much so that you have to call into question its very viability as a mass product. No matter how you slice it, convincing consumers to give up shiny discs for an abstract concept like a digital rights “locker” is a mind-scrambler.

UltraViolet will live or die on the strength of its marketing. Sony (NYSE: SNE) Pictures Home Entertainment executive John Calkins confessed as much at CES, telling attendees at a panel, “The trick is in the communication of it. Frankly, it’s solving something you didn’t know you need just yet.”

Long before the UltraViolet logo begins popping up on movies in stores and digital storefronts later this year, consumers are going to need to be conditioned to understand what it means. Here’s some tips on how to talk to them.

Emphasize usage scenarios: Don’t tell them what UltraViolet is; show them it in action. Advertising should depict average Joes engaged in all the benefits the service brings, like seamlessly transferring video across devices. Think harried mother queueing up SpongeBob SquarePants in a hotel room full of antsy kids. These demonstrations should be presented verite-style, not with the instructional tone flight attendants use to explain life preservers to passengers.

And lose imagery like the UltraViolet logo blazing across a starry sky like a comet–that kind of self-congratulation is unearned if consumers haven’t embraced it yet. UltraViolet shouldn’t be positioned as an industry triumph; it’s the consumers who triumph by using it. Save the back-patting for CES.

Emphasize all the participating brands, but…: By all means pummel consumers with the collective clout of all the blue-chip brands participating here; that will provide reassurance this isn’t some pie-in-the-sky venture. However, don’t gloss over the fact that there’s some pretty big omissions on this list, i.e. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). The last thing you want is consumers buying into UltraViolet making assumptions that Apple is part of the offering when it’s not. Then you’re abusing their trust.

Avoid the ATM metaphor: DECE execs love to compare UltraViolet to the evolution of the American ATM system, where machines moved from serving only the customers of the bank to which they were affiliated to accommodating anyone in a network of affiliated banks. The problem is that this isn’t an exact metaphor: ATM is not a purchase transaction, just a retrieval of funds. Plus it doesn’t convey what’s really more of UltraViolet’s selling point, the ability to move content between devices.

No jargon: Terms like service provider, platform, interoperability, rights, etc. mean absolutely nothing to the average consumer, nor should they. They don’t belong in the marketing messaging. But on the flipside of this notion, stay away from selling consumers on vague concepts of freedom and empowerment. Just let them know the benefits and move off stage.

And lose the locker language. A locker implies storage of content, which UltraViolet doesn’t do; it only stores proofs of purchase. Stick to account.

So there you have it. Any chance DECE can digest all this and turn around an ad in time for the Super Bowl?

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