How not to sell more laptops

By Martin Courtney
27 Nov 2008 View Comments
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Martin Courtney

You have to wonder what AMD was thinking when it promoted a new survey by highlighting the fact that it suggests seven out of 10 Britons feel having internet access is more important than having a car, a washing machine or socialising with friends.

Because taken one way, the chip maker’s message appears to suggest that there is a sizeable part of the UK population that lives a kind of hermit lifestyle, unwashed and unloved, locked in the confines of their own house, rarely going out or interacting with real people, and only using a laptop to communicate and shop online.

Further reading

This dubious insight was delivered in a report entitled Connect-aholic, no doubt written by some poor PR executive, cursed with having to make microprocessors sound appealing.

The resultant waffle tries to suggest that anyone who, say, regularly uploads digital photos to the internet is somehow just a few clicks away from becoming a zombie-like web surfer with an unnatural craving for content. A psychologist was drafted in to add weight to this spurious suggestion.

It’s difficult to believe that somebody who must be fairly high up in AMD’s management team actually approved this release. As Gerald Ratner found to his cost, showing contempt for your customers is very bad for business, and AMD may have come close to crossing the line between gentle rib tickling and outright condescension on this occasion.

Few people like to be portrayed as in need of psychological advice, and the idea of being diagnosed as a “connect-aholic” is hardly an appealing one.

In my experience, most people want to be seen as being sociable, outgoing and hygienic, even if the reality is somewhat different. So why AMD thought it was a good idea to portray most of its customers as suffering from this strange antisocial condition is anybody’s guess. What’s really odd is that the research could have made for some interesting reading if AMD’s marketing people hadn’t put their bizarre spin on it.

AMD commissioned market researcher YouGov to go out and discover the kind of features that today’s surfers would most value in a new notebook PC, whether good graphics and video playback, weight, size etc. The survey questioned more than 1,000 British citizens, and though it did not say how old they were, their preference for social networking, music downloads and YouTube videos tends to indicate the 18-24 year old age bracket.

And once you discard the ridiculous notion that 70 per cent of them are soap-dodging agoraphobics with few interpersonal skills, you can unearth some nuggets of interest in the actual findings.

For many people the internet is essential for their work ­ whether paid employment or study ­ probably more so than a car or a washing machine, or even hair straighteners, which are apparently less desirable as a Christmas present than a laptop (though I suppose this depends on the specific profession in question).

Perhaps the most ludicrous statistic of all is that an estimated 16 million Britons ­ more than a quarter of the entire population ­ will put laptops at the top of their Christmas lists. This is very much wishful thinking on AMD’s part, I would suggest. Plus, if these people never go out, why do they need a portable computer, when a cheaper desktop will do?

Christmas is a time for giving, so rather than undermining people’s confidence in themselves, AMD should give its customers something to smile about, particularly in these times of financial hardship.

As for anybody thinking of buying an AMD-based laptop, think again ­ maybe just use the money to hold a party instead, just to spite them. Besides, they’ll be cheaper in the January sales anyway.

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