Putting the People Back in Technology

This week, Intel launched its latest global branding campaign. Dubbed “Sponsors of Tomorrow” (http://www.intel.com/tomorrow/), the campaign follows a noticeable trend in technology marketing: show us the people.

Speeds and peeps
Technology marketing has long suffered from the myopic mantra “give ’em the features and they’ll figure it out.” It’s certainly been a Grail-like quest of mine to get companies to turn the corner from features to benefits. I’ve sounded that rallying cry so many times, I’ve gone virtually hoarse. Obviously there are many companies that get it. But every company needs to understand the virtues of communicating to audiences not just what their product or service does, but what it does for you. And that’s the magic word: you.

Customers are speaking. And most of them trust you as far as they can throw you.
Social media has engendered this incredible realization (or re-discovery) of a simple, tried-and-true tenet: people do business with people. And it’s resounding with more and more companies as the susurrus among consumers grows: “We don’t trust you!” Let’s face it, more and more, consumers are huddling in suspicious digital circles all around the world. And marketers are at risk of being shut out.

Online social network users were three times more likely to trust their peers’ opinions over advertising when making purchase decisions. (Jupiter Research, March 2007)

Social media marketing embraces the idea that companies need to approach consumers as people. We need to shelve our bullhorns and engage prospects on an authentic, personalized basis. We need to press the flesh again…even if it is virtual flesh. We need to speak to consumers in conversational tones, not just spout the buzz d’jour. Com’on, when was the last time you went to happy hour and ordered a “real-world, best-of-breed” cocktail?

We need to listen. We need to answer questions. We need to be human.

Pay attention to the man (and woman) behind the curtain
Putting smart people who know their sh#t on the marketing frontlines is hugely valuable. Consumers increasingly want the inside scoop. They want to bypass the canned marketing spiel and get under the hood. They want answers from the people who get their hands dirty — the people who build, design and mastermind…not just the ones who polish and sell.

So I think it’s curious how several notable companies have let this human spirit and transparency permeate their face to market. IBM’s “I’m an IBMer” campaign, Cisco’s “Welcome to the Human Network”, ExxonMobil’s “Taking on the World’s Toughest Energy Challenges” and, now, Intel’s “Sponsors of Tomorrow” all put smart people front and center. There’s a clear social sensibility to each.

By 2020, 84% of marketers agree that building customer trust will become marketing’s primary objective (1to1 Media, April, 2008)

A real face to market
For decades now, technology manufacturers have withdrawn behind facades of glass and brick, churning out products good and bad. That kind of facelessness has been exacerbated by the anonymity inherent in the Internet Age. For more than a decade now, the world has sunken into dark, hidden corners – spewing flame and vitriol, safe behind keyboards. But what’s amazing is that we’re emerging from the shadows – voluntarily. People are connecting with other people. (Imagine that!) And it’s influencing how they want to interact with each other and companies alike. It’s time for technology marketing to wake up to this new reality and come to the party.

“Nice to meet you. What do you do?”

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