The Toshiba “medical test subject” ad is edgy, a bit gross, and caused a stir. From the buzz, viewers remember Toshiba after seeing it. Yet, the images and portrayal of medical trials are disturbing and can lead to unintended negative connotations for the Toshiba brand. So why may Toshiba have chosen this commercial?
Toshiba’s “medical test subject” ad plays to a sophisticated young buyer, the Tech Savants. In Gartner’s consumer segmentation, Tech Savants are highly engaged in new technology, but care less about particular brands, and they comprise 18% of the market. Toshiba is experimenting not only with edgy marketing, but how to appeal to a group of buyers who are brand agnostic. That’s not so easy.
We know from Gartner focus groups that Tech Savants tell stories of faddish technology they or friends bought, which broke or just didn’t work well. Tech Savants would be skeptical about the quality of Ultrabooks coming to market. They remember how netbooks quickly came to market and ended up as a fad with few repeat buyers. Toshiba features a Satellite Ultrabook in the commercial and uses it to deliver the message that Toshiba will not take advantage of consumers by offering products that are not ready.
The targets for these ads seem to be college students and recent college grads who have to watch their budgets instead of follow the latest fad. They have taken or considered taking a range of odd jobs to help pay expenses and are savvy enough to enjoy the hyperbole of the medical experiments.
The protagonist, a professional medical test subject, is a character with which folks in their twenties may empathize. It’s difficult finding a first job and many end up in jobs that are far from what they hoped.
Will the “test subject” ad make folks reconsider participation in a clinical trial? Some in the short-term, unfortunately. Who wants to be referred to as a “test monkey” as they do in the commercial?
What if Toshiba offered coupons and sponsored drawings for free PCs for participants in clinical trials? All for the cause of furthering science – medical science and marketing science.
Here is the Gartner report with more detail on our consumer market segmentation. The ability to access it depends on your subscription.
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