What an attention stealing Škoda teaches us about customer education

You might have seen a great new advertisement by AIS London for Škoda that has been getting some love lately. In the piece, a narrator exclaims the virtues of the Czech car manufacturer’s Fabia model. While they talk, the street scene flashes and small changes are inserted each time. By the end of the video, those changes are revealed as being an almost entirely reconfigured setting.

The premise here is that the car is just that much of an attention stealer. This is a fun piece with some fun copy, but it immediately had me thinking of a better use of the visual narrative of the changing world. Something beyond the nudge and wink of a friendly “did you notice?” and our natural instinct to rise to the challenge of a test.

Namely, customer education.

The current video gently prods you to say “hey, we bet you didn’t notice that the world changed because you were staring at the amazing car”. This is cute and either works in a literal sense (say for luxury cars, although off-brand for them to need to state as much) or for an aspirational sense (say mid-range, where they are selling the impression of being unique to a common market. Hi Škoda.).

Fair enough. But what if we flipped it the other way?

To my mind, this pitch would work better if it was not only about the car looking so good you ignore the world, but also about the world being so busy that you miss the changes in the car. The script gets close, but the “attention” theme steals focus from a more important topic.

Good products are rarely static, and great products can move faster than the market. Because that’s the thing about good brands. They build stability in the brand platform with ideally a long lasting and meaningful connection with users. But what happens then the product team leapfrogs the message?

And yeah, I’m a techcomms and product guy so I’m not saying anything new to the marketing experts reading this. But for my people in the product space, the Škoda ad is an almost-there reminder that all those hard hours spent crushing bugs and creating features is reliant on our ability to communicate that value.

“All those hard hours spent crushing bugs and creating features is reliant on our ability to communicate that value.”

For startups this is the founder’s hustle in developing their value proposition. Easy in the beginning, but progressively harder to revisit each iteration and update the engagement/message.

In the established tech community this has often just meant “let the technical writer document it” and “give the sales guy a primer”. But as we know, technical writing is both graduating and being forced to evolve as a wider content marketing play. And just as disruptive (and ultimately collaborative) is the challenge of sales in a world of increasing SaaS products and narrowly differentiated consumer technology.

Apple’s 1984 campaign literally smashing the challenge of market differentiation and “world is changing” brand positioning

Whatever the product and wherever its funnel or channel lands, we can watch the Škoda ad in two ways. One is smiling at the bravado and claim of it being so good that we miss everything else. Cute.

The other way is to watch the world changing around the car and thinking… what’s changing inside the car? Is it significant? Is it matching any of the changing trends in the world? Are we as product designers matching all of the changing trends in the world? Are we creating actual value from all of those bugs resolved and new features and functionality? And are we articulating that as best we can?

I suspect whoever best answers those questions will have a long and productive career working on a meaningful product.

Thanks for reading — I’m David Ryan. I’m the cofounder of Corilla, a collaborative authoring and publishing tool for technical writers. Corilla is on a mission to make technical writing awesome (and you’re invited). If you enjoyed this post, hit the Recommend button or drop me a line on Twitter.

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