A London black cab in the street

Feb 2016

Five upsides to tech marketing’s uberization

Written By Paul Maher

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London black cabbies don’t like Uber, which is understandable. Others love Uber. Its uberPool service has helped over 100,000 customers save money getting around the capital and at least claim they are reducing global warming. Despite Uber’s clever geo-location, single sign-on tehttps://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/29/londons-black-cab-drivers-consider-court-action-against-uberchnology, beautiful user interface and its clever use of psychology the app’s real genius is its everyday usefulness.
Tired grandparents heading home from unpaid babysitting, giddy young employees commuting back from late night revelry, and shift workers on frosty mornings don’t care what the tech is, so long as it works. At Positive, our work promoting novel technologies through PR and social media obsesses over these ‘Long Tail’ effects. More users and more use cases means more tech, which we delight in helping to bring to market. It’s clear where we stand, but what if it affects us? Now it does.
Recently, with some excitement, we noticed another effect of ‘Uberization’, as this sort of business disruption has become known, this time in our world of media. Our passion for smart tech makes us delighted when deep tech goes mainstream improving the lives of others. But how would we ‘like it up us’? Turns out we would.
After years of bemoaning the demise of print titles, and pointing out how poorly served tech stories are in the European media, we now see some promising signs. Witness the encouraging sight of non-tech specialists in mainstream UK titles writing about traditionally tech stories daily, albeit often for negative reasons. Examples include the Talk Talk hack and outage, the BT ‘last mile monopoly’ and the Safe Harbour trade war debacle – more on that later. So what does all this democratization, or Uberization, of tech writing mean for the clients we work with?

  1. Spreading the gospel about tech is good for the UK economy
    The mystique around technology diminishes every time a new non-tech writer educates themselves about tech and draws more interest from the general public. This puts the focus on the use of technology, not tech for tech’s sake. Our role, suggesting new ways in which businesses can use tech for competitive advantage, is ultimately good for the UK economy.
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  3. Tech marketing needs to learn how to persuade more tech-savvy customers.
    There is only so much room for leaders. Fast-followers, who need to differentiate their plainer, but equally valid, devices and services from trailblazers like Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Gmail or Facebook’s Oculus Rift now need to try much harder. This should prompt some really innovative brand marketing – a relief for many of us in the space. More adverts mean more familiarity with the tech, means more customers for the tech, who need more marketing. Bring it on.
  4. UK gamers may actually create billion pound tech businesses
    We have spent years of watching and occasionally working with successful UK B2B  tech firms who never quite made it to world domination. This is a phenomenon others, with less hands-on experience, have commented on. Often because, like many famous UK bands they ‘could not break America’. In gaming, there have been some spotty success with King.com and others. However, like King, many fail to truly scale up. Despite being in entertainment, games company leaders need to focus on business.
  5. The UK’s gaming kids may help our tech ‘leapfrog’ others
    With 70% of the UK now videogaming and smartphone penetration higher than almost anywhere in the Northern hemisphere, it is game on in the UK. The normalisation of games and apps, particularly on smartphone, may actually persuade our children to code for B2B enterprises, not just Minecraft their lives away. Who knows, then they may build the next Sage, Iris, Logica or Transferwise around a UK-based management team. If this theory holds true, the fact there are more UK female gamers than males ones may help with another issue with tech – diversity (see below)
  6. Some future UK tech successes may even have female CEOs
    After years of ridiculing UK politicians for their lame promotion of roundabouts and tzars, the rise of refreshingly female power brokers, with real tech business experience, is here. Most notably Joanna Shields and Martha Lane Fox, who previously led Facebook UK and lastminute.com are now government mavens. The newly appointed TechUK President Jacqueline de Rojas, may actually make tech, if not boringly normal, at least better understood as being created for and by women.

The changes which the widespread UK adoption of tech brings will no doubt hurt some. Professions such as Black Cab driving, or the investigative work of the Great British press corps, will be changed forever and not all will agree for the better. However the changes which Uber and others prompt, by their familiarity alone, may be just the disruption which makes Britain’s B2B tech great. After all, no one is yearning to go back to the world of waiting on a cold corner for a cab on a dark winter night with exactly the right change in cash.
If you need some help in figuring out how the exciting possibilities of tech marketing’s uberization can help your business, email me on pmaher@positivemarketing.com and let’s chat it through

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