The Enigma of Marketing Nanotechnology

In a recently released doctoral thesis (''Nanotechnology and Nanolabeling '' Essays on the Emergence of New Technological Fields'') from Nina Granqvist at the Helsinki School of Economics, it is argued that many companies that purport to be involved in nanotechnology are merely posers who really are not working at the nanoscale at all, or, if they are, generate only a small proportion of their revenue from the nanotechnologies that they have commercialized.

There are surely companies that have promoted their products on rather dubious evidence that there is much ''nanotechnology'' to be found in them. And sometimes, that strategy has even backfired.

One need only turn to the brouhaha over Magic Nano last year in which a bathroom cleaning product that was marketed as ''Nano'' started to cause respiratory problems in its users. This caused many to start using it as an example of how dangerous nanotechnology is, until it started to become clear that the product didn''t really contain any nanoparticles.

What''s puzzling is with a virtual industry out there waiting to pounce on any example of how nanotechnology is going to harm us, why anyone would want to market their companies with nanotechnology.

One could say that there is a trend to downplay nanotechnology rather than emphasize it. The food and cosmetic industries are good examples of those that are loathe at this point to even talk about nanotechnology never mind use it as a marketing tool.

With the exception of perhaps HP''s ''n is for nanotechnology'' ad campaign launched back in 2003, which contained the classic ''making possible cell phones so small that an ant could use it'', it''s difficult for me to recall much mass marketing of nanotech.

I am sure there is some marketing science out there that can establish just how much pull you can get from emphasizing the science behind your product, but nanotechnology'? Hmmh'that seems a risky marketing ploy.


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