Call to Marketers in High-Tech Industries: Our Time Has Come
By Tameka Vasquez
I am driven by the concept of movement; the idea that there is nothing in the world that is permanent. Whether it means putting something into motion or watching something cultivate or revolutionize, life itself boils down the power of movement, and as a marketer, my occupation is centered on the possibilities of this truth.
I performed spoken word poetry as a teenager. I witnessed the power of messaging, and more importantly, the impact on the recipients of said messaging. Words caused discord, stress, tears, curiosity, laughter, relief, solidarity. I could attest that the effective use of words delivered with a relatable tone and desirable flair could lead people to action. Long before I knew what marketing was, my leadership philosophy was initiated by this view, that leaders rose from effective messaging and strategic timing, which is, of course, both exhilarating and terrifying.
Rapid, globally-impactful movements shaped my college years. At different points of these formative years, I have vivid memories of pondering on several grounding issues:
- Who decides which changes are for the better?
- At what point do advancements in technology move from being conveniences to necessities?
- Who best demonstrates leadership through all of these shake-ups in the political, social, cultural and business landscapes?
- Who educates the masses and guides them to becoming more equipped?
The year I started college was the year Apple changed the world with the introduction of the iPhone. It made us hyper-connected, increasingly impatient consumers, but it also granted us new sensibilities about design, user experience and methods of communication. iPhone reveals turned product demos into cultural events.
By the time I was a sophomore, we saw the most significant financial crisis as a nation since the Great Depression, but we also saw the birth of the gig economy, where people began thinking about how different sets of their talents could be utilized to broaden their income opportunities. At the same time, the nation welcomed a new President, the first digital leader, who inspired grassroots campaigning and active online discussion at records never seen before.
By my junior year, we began to see a glimpse of what would very soon after become the attention economy, where the number of times something was shared online became a measure of its value or quality. By the time I graduated, Google was taking moonshots at projects that strived to change the world. Things started to feel very connected.
But more than ever before, there was glaringly an increased need for these organizations at the helm of innovation and transformation to emphasize a more humanistic approach to leadership and positive management of change.
My leadership philosophy enhanced through the lens of information systems, networks, collaboration and harnessing the tacit knowledge of individuals through my graduate studies. I asserted that becoming a marketing leader needed to go beyond effective messaging, to involve the mastery of the technical and social aspects of working authentically and with purpose towards the greater organizational good.
My master’s thesis focused on measuring the market impact of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence on knowledge workers within corporate workforces. The goal was to take that research into account in the development of the market positioning and marketing message for a disruptive international tech company. Many customer service-oriented companies were beginning to take advantage of their “digital labor” product and multidimensional human-like “brain” structure and memory capacity.
I became increasingly interested in exploring these futuristic industries in the ways they are changing conversations around organizational operations, but in the ways they will shape our politics, cultures, societies, view of work and personal ability to compete and thrive.
Fast forward through eight years, I’ve worked for technology-driven companies serving business intelligence, advertising, financial services, information technology, media, and publishing industries. I’d like to examine the intersections of business, society and culture through the lens of marketing strategy, and rally other marketers around that cause. I believe that organizations are more impactful than governments in how they respond to the ebbs and flows of society’s new normals and trending topics, making knowledge and opportunity more accessible and more fluid.
Despite being adept at using every shiny, new tool, many organizations are failing to lead empathetically and intentionally, even when their products and services are literally, drastically changing the world as we know it. Organizational leadership in high-tech industries needs rebirth, and I submit that marketers should be core parts of those conversations.
- How should tech companies contribute an active voice in the construction of cultures of the tribes they lead, directly and indirectly?
- How can this occur more proactively?
- How can we develop market positioning and more compelling marketing strategies that have positive influence?
- How can we stop throwing around words like “innovative” and “disruptive” without acknowledgment of how and why it can be part of the greater good?
- Can this and should this be a “marketing thing”?
The marketing profession is traditionally viewed as most valuable in helping a company sell its products and services. My philosophy is this profession’s real value is in how it enables a company to lead — through its image, content, data, intelligence, and applications thereof.
This is a call to likeminded marketers, specifically those in high-tech industries. We can be good marketers and continue to help sell the latest tech advancements, or we can be great marketers and apply principles and techniques to enable technology organizations to lead movements.
Just a couple weeks ago, World Bank President, Jim Kim, asserted that we can use technology to tackle some of the biggest challenges of global society. The World Bank has used advancements in mobile data, for example, to help Haiti rebuild its transit system in 2010, to track the flow of refugees, and to reduce pollution in the Philippines.
Despite studies that say everyone in the world could have internet access by 2025, leaders like Shamina Singh, EVP of Sustainability at Mastercard, acknowledge that too many people are still too disconnected from the largely technology-driven services they need to thrive. Marketers need a seat at these tables.
We are all aware of and employ many of the endless trendy marketing channels and tactics in our contributions to organizational growth. But what should really drive us is the story and the message of tech’s social and cultural connectedness. What should drive us is the power of cross-functional knowledge sharing, the threshold of influence, and the wealth of opportunity for leadership by technology organizations and the industries of tomorrow.
I’m not the only one, right?
Tameka Vaquez is a lifestyle innovator * marketing strategist * startup advisor * adjunct professor.