In advertising and other marketing communications, we have to convince prospects to respond to words and ideas.
Intangibility is a challenge I often face as I promote my communication products and services.
My prospective customers can't touch or see what I'm selling.
It's a factor in employee communication, as well as in marketing communication.
After all, what are you selling when you ask employees to get behind the new plan or to work safely? Every once in a while I come across something that bridges the gap between tangibility and intangibility in a single bound.
One of my former newsletter client companies developed software that provides stereographic (like 3-D) views of oil and gas reservoirs.
Now, I've seen many of this company's developments in reservoir simulation over the past 10 years or so, but this one was special.
Why? Because to use this software, you put on 3-D glasses.
Like the kind we wore in movie theaters in the 1950s, albeit much more sophisticated.
For my client, the significance of the software is its ability to run on regular desktop computers, which makes it more affordable than existing software.
For its customers, mostly engineers in oil companies, the view is the thing: it can make or save them millions of dollars.
But for me, with my limited knowledge of software and reservoir simulation, the glasses were the thing.
They transformed an idea into reality; well, virtual reality at least.
If they choose to do so, they can use the glasses to bridge the divide between tangibility and intangibility.
Obviously, they can't print or display the views, as they do with other visualization software, but they can show the glasses.
For those of us old enough to remember the 3-D movies of the 1950s, the connection jumps out at us (literally and figuratively).
Or, you may recall the video game goggles that appeared at various times in the past decade.
Whatever our experience, the glasses should trigger curiosity about the altered reality we find by wearing them.
In this case, the glasses become a proxy for the software program.
The glasses aren't the program, but they convey its essence quickly and effectively.
It allows prospective customers or clients to grasp the significance of an intangible product.
So, real products can help us effectively communicate the essence of an intangible experience.
Next time you're browsing through a department store or mall, look at the products on display through new eyes.
Look at them as prospective tools for demonstrating the essence of your intangible product or service.
In summary, one thing can be a proxy for another thing, allowing us to convey the essence of an intangible through something others can touch or see.