No, we've not devolved into a world defined by Bob, the SubGenius, but the idea of one-way email is a wonderful branding opportunity.
HP has created a device dedicated to printing emails, and partnered with a service called Presto to enable account owners to get them without having to understand (or do) anything with a computer, email account, file attachments, or the other detritus of our technically-simplified lives.
I know, it sounds like somebody just "invented" b&w television, or a popcorn air-popper, but it is marvelously purpose-defined. Nevermind the typical technology device that usually does far more than you'd ever need it to do, usually. Skip the .com du jour that promises to do something online that you're not sure ever mattered getting done back in the analog world.
The HP Printing Mailbox is...a mailbox that prints out emails, and nothing else. And you absolutely know somebody who would love to own this gizmo.
The branding strategy is targeted squarely at parents and grandparents who may not be computer literate. The ads look like marketing for a collectible coin or side-entry bathtub: just lots of text describing how nice it would be to get all those pics from the kids, a photo of smiling, gray-haired people, and an image of a device without buttons.
Without buttons! The HP Printing Mailbox is a technology device masquerading as an appliance so that it can do something a large segment of consumers would like it to do. Pictures and letters from the grandkids pop out of it.
I'd have loved to have been a part of the development of the branding strategy.
There are any number of functional reasons why the concept seems almost counter-intuitive, if not at least out of sync with the ways computers are marketed. It would take lots of creativity to explain why the gizmo also doesn't decant fine wine, predict wind direction, or allow users to customize its energy consumption. The potential associative, emotional benefits for it are obvious and many: family, love, happiness, whatever. What a glorious opportunity for lots of inventive branding.
Only there was no need for any of it.
It's one-way email. I get it. And so would anybody who has tried to print out an email, but couldn't figure out how to get the photo attachment to come along with it. Or someone who sent the image in the first place.
This isn't a brand. Its name is a mouthful - the HP Printing Mailbox with Presto Service isn't particularly memorable -- and the graphics of the ad and web site are particularly uncool. It's the anti-Twitter....or the missing link, perhaps, in the evolution from snailmail to email.
It's a behavior: the marketing is focused on defining the single-minded functional benefit of the product and service. It prompts orders with a call-in phone number, with the purchase risk incentivized with commensurate guarantees and a money-back offer.
Three cheers for a development process that yielded a product people might need, and for a marketing brainstrust that was willing to skip adoring their own brilliance and come up with marketing that might talk to people who'd actually want the product.
I wonder if we'll see other devo-like inventions any time soon. I may be a dim bulb, but I think this is an under-developed area for some serious product and service successes.
One-way email. Hah! I wish I'd thought of it!