The marketing behind the machines

The research life
Being a scientist isn’t a 9-5 job; it’s a lifestyle.  As a prospective Ph.D. student, I can expect to spend the next five years of my life trying to solve a single problem.  Five years!  And this isn’t even the extreme.  Some scientists spend their entire lives trying to determine the answer to one overarching question.

It’s not always easy.  There are often setbacks.  Experiments that fail.  Days, weeks, months, years spent on a potential solution only for it to be incorrect.  Failure is a part of our daily lives.

Why do scientists do what they do?
It’s because we care about our work.  Because what we do can make a difference in the lives of everyone around us.  Because our work is important.  But without the marketing these results receive from newspapers and social media, the general population will likely have no idea what was actually happening in the scientific community.  Let’s be honest here; how many people actually read Science magazine regularly, let alone other, less popular scientific magazines, like Robotics & Automation?


This is where marketing comes into play
Without marketing, many of these inventions and new ideas would never be seen by the general public.  Let’s look at an example: the Kilobots (above) developed by the Self-organizing Systems Robotics (SSR) laboratory at Harvard University.

This is an amazing invention.  We can build a robot for under $20.  And not a pointless robot either.  This robot can help scientists do better research; it can excite children about STEM and get them involved at an early age.  But marketing is the only reason many in the general populace even know about this invention.

Marketing techniques
When it comes to publishing a major paper, the news teams are prepping their reports and shows before the article is published.  Many methods are employed in getting the information to the general public, typically through electronic and social media like Facebook and Twitter.  Online newspapers, blogs, the university publicity office.  All post a story about the research in an attempt to get the information to the general public.  If the story is big enough, occasionally it will even reach national news!

A snappy title, brief summary, and cool pictures are all it takes to engage the public.  It’s why iflscience.com is so popular.  I admit I love reading their articles; especially when they pop up on my Facebook newsfeed.  I can remain updated on the cool happenings in science, see some cool photos, and procrastinate on my homework for five minutes or so.

Engaging and educating the consumer is key.  The pictures are colorful.  The titles are to the point and exciting: “Researchers Create Thousand Strong Swarm of Bots That Can Assemble Into Complex Shapes“.  The summary purposefully kept short to entice the reader to take seven seconds to read it.  Because if the general public isn’t interested or excited about the research, well, the funding may dry up pretty quickly too…

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