Marketing in an Era of Technological Dependence

Technology has become the force around which marketing orbits, but what would you do if access to your brand’s technological assets (email programs, databases, social media accounts, web sites, blogs) was shut down tomorrow?  Whether it be a targeted cyber attack, a major service provider outage, faulty company infrastructure, or the powers that be halting access to the Internet (as was the case in 2011 when Egypt’s government temporarily blocked all Internet usage), how would you function from a marketing standpoint if access to technology was instantly crippled, severely impacted, or all together wiped out?

This week my company experienced a massive nationwide technology outage that forced us all to think a bit differently about the way we work and how to be most efficient in a situation without access to the type of technology that we’ve become accustomed to using.  In the midst of my scrambling, I found it interesting when a coworker non-chalantly stated: “20 years ago there was no such thing as the Internet. Today no one can seem to live without it.” I was equally amused when talking to a client about the situation, who stated, “The Internet is shaky and one day the entire system is going to go down. Can’t wait for that to happen.”

So, who actually controls the Internet? The Economist posed this question to various thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and people on the streets of New York City in the below video:

Technology’s Pitfalls

Just this week a book was being discussed around my office entitled One Second After, which details what the theoretical fallout would look like from an electromagnetic pulse that would have the power to shut down access to all technological devices at once.  While perhaps low on the scale of likelihoods, it’s important to consider these “what ifs” in an age where intangible brand value is everything and the ability to market digitally reigns.

While the scenario in One Second After may be a bit extreme, on a lesser scale, interesting things are happening across the globe with governments censoring the use of technology such as in India where they government recently shut down 245 web sites and blocked 80 Facebook pages due to riots, or in China where there has been well-documented censorship of Google.  And that’s to say nothing of the cyber terrorist attacks taking place. Between 2007-2011 there was a  680% increase in cyber attacks against the U.S. Government, and since 2009 there has been a 20-fold leap in cyber attacks against U.S. companies that control computerized industrial control systems. In many situations, the overwhelming majority of cases against U.S. businesses are never disclosed, as is mentioned in this recent Reuters article entitled “Scores of U.S. Firms Keep Quiet About Cyber Attacks.”

In Alvin Toffler’s 1984 book The Third Wave, he correctly predicts “information warfare” as the warfare of the future. He talks about first-wave or agrarian societies resorting to physical on-the-ground combat, second wave or industrialized societies resorting to mass destruction, and third wave or information societies experiencing warfare in the form information attacks. More info regarding the details of the book is available here.

Now it’s your turn! If Internet connectivity was no longer an option, or access to your key technology unavailable, what would your company’s marketing strategy be?


  1. Great article Tiff!
    To answer your question – that’s easy. I’d revert back to the days we didn’t use the Internet (lol) and perform the traditional rolodex and face to face meetings. But that is easier said than done. With the advent of Meetup and LinkedIn, I think I’d have to connect with prospects, clients through shared interests via events and snail mail. Wow. How slow would that be.

    • You bring up good points Shirlin! This is obviously a big question to think about, that could affect any business on any number of levels (i.e. a short-term inability to access the Internet vs. something much larger.) Either way, it’s probably a good idea to have some traditional and non-traditional tactics in place …

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