Having spent much of his marketing career at Nike (most recently working on the company’s Nike+ activity tracking service), Jeff Lyman is no stranger to technology. Recently promoted to chief marketing officer at home automation company Vivint (after a stint as the company’s vice president of consumer experience), Lyman will lead Vivint’s initiatives to increase brand awareness, while streamlining its message and expanding its reach. Lyman spoke with Marketing Daily about the company, the home automation sector and how what he learned at Nike applies elsewhere.
Q: What is the state of home automation in the U.S. right now?
A: It’s just really coming into the general consciousness of the public. We’re still about 1% penetrated overall. There are some innovative products in the marketplace that are raising the profile of these types of products. Certainly, the advent of the Internet of Things is raising the interest and profile and awareness around what is going to the modern and connected home. We see this as a huge opportunity.
Q: Where do you see it being in five years?
A: Obviously, it will be more prevalent. There will be a lot of options in the marketplace. Right now, the Internet of Things is a bit of a mess of things, lots of different products that have one-off applications. For someone who wants to put together a cohesive, connected home, they have to put together a smorgasbord of different services to try and create something that’s comprehensive in any way. I think in five years, the brands that will have the leg up will be the brands that have put together a cohesive and simplified solution. It’s not about doing everything; it's about doing the right things -- doing them very well, and in a way that they work in a cohesive and cognizant way.
Q: What misperceptions are there about home automation right now?
A: It’s important that home automation is perceived as a simplifier, not a “complexifier.” It’s something that when those products are brought into consumers’ lives, they actually make them simpler and easier and give them valuable minutes and peace of mind in their already increasingly busy and complex lives. Home automation provides a value, and it’s not an additive value per se, but it’s a reductive value. It gives valuable moments and time back to the consumers, who are already living incredibly busy lives.
Q: Is there a misperception about home automation, or are consumers just not educated on it yet?
A: I think we’re still so much in the nascent space that the term “consumers” is the broad statement. There are lots of different consumer segments and sets, some of which have a high degree of awareness of these products, and others who don’t know [because they] simply haven’t reached critical mass. As you know, so much of these types of products are successful and grow through word of mouth. It takes some time and momentum to push that over the tipping point. We look at different segments within that product bucket as well as that communication vehicles to drive that awareness are targeted in the right ways to reach those consumer subsets.
Q: What is the message consumers need to hear right now?
A: Really, it’s about value. I can remember when I first brought my Tivo home, and my wife said, “the last thing we need is more TV in our house.” Then we started to use the product, and then you realize you can’t imagine having ever lived without it. There are products in the home automation space where, once the consumers become aware of the unique value they can provide in their lives -- that bring the piece of mind and simplicity -- they’ll wonder how they ever lived without them. Our opportunity -- really for the industry at large -- is to articulate the value of these types of products, and to raise the awareness and profile of them.
Q: What is the best way to reach consumers with that message?
A: The simple answer is where they are. Vivint has always been proactive in bringing that message directly to the home. But there are all sorts of opportunities to do that across all sorts of marketing vehicles, be that digital, social or traditional media like print and out-of-home. The role of retail will be important going forward. As the consumer is in a shopping mindset and looking to improve on their home, these types of messages and these types of product offerings are within their purview, and there are the right partnerships that make sense. There are many companies that are looking to innovate within the home across many sectors, and we look at them as part of the many pieces of the marketing mix.
Q: What are the similarities between a home automation company and Nike? What lessons, insights or experiences did you have there that will help at Vivint?
A: One, great culture. [Both have a] culture of great people who are passionate about the work and opportunity and the real consumer problem we’re seeking to solve. At Nike, it was about innovation and inspiration to every athlete everywhere, and if you had a body, then you’re an athlete. At Vivint, there’s an opportunity to revolutionize the home, and how people interact with it, and the things within it. That’s been a lot of fun for me. I think Vivint, which is a lot earlier in its lifecycle, shares many of qualities that make for successful companies.
Two, Nike you can look at overall as a shoe company, but it's a “make athletes better company.” A lot of Nike’s innovation was about leveraging digital products that used hardware and software, sensors and radios to motivate and inspire athletes. And they did that with the Nike Fuelband and the Nike+ Kinect training, and the GPS watches and motivational applications and other things in that space. That’s an application of those raw materials: hardware, software, radios, platform logic -- all of those things to solve specific consumer problems. It’s the same story in home automation. When you start with who the consumer is and are across different subsets, you deeply understand their life conditions and the problems they have and the friction points. And you use those raw materials to create and craft products that actually solve these real human problems.