Tech Optimism, Engagement, and The Future of Marketing with IBM’s Michelle Killebrew

In the last 48 hours, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of listening to IBM’s Social Business Strategy Program Director Michelle Killebrew, who not only gave a talk to the Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association, but a TEDx talk at the University of Nevada, Reno. Michelle is a dynamic and engaging speaker, quick witted, and full of insights. It’s no surprise that she was recently named a “Top 40 Under 40” award recipient by Direct Marketing News, or among the “Top 25 Women to Rock Social Media of 2014.”

Between her talk about “operating in a platform world” at the AMA, and ultimately, the reasons she outlined for being a tech optimist at TEDx, the overarching theme of both talks as they relate to marketing was the need for engagement in an increasingly tech driven world.


In her American Marketing Association talk, Michelle focused on a variety of statistics to drive the point home that customers today are demanding engagement, not traditional marketing. In fact, the blurrier the lines between marketing and content, the better.

In slide 10 of the presentation (link below), for example, she reminded us that marketers have always been responsible for:

  1. Knowing the customer
  2. Defining what and how to market
  3. Protecting the brand promise

What’s changed is simply the way we now act on those responsibilities as marketers, taking into consideration that we now live in a world that is now much more integrated and personalized.  In order to engage customers today, we need to be empowering, compelling, consistent, and relevant. I particularly liked her advice to share early, share often, share stuff worth sharing, to share with influencers, and to listen, which is of course a two-way street. Slide #21 also gives a great overview of marketing priorities to focus on for 2015.

At TEDx, Michelle talked about some of the well-known drawbacks of technology and technological progress, but how she is fundamentally a “tech optimist” at heart, for there are many ways in which we can utilize technology to improve and enrich our lives. She raised the question, “can technology make us more human?” In short, the choice is ours to make. She also explored the theme of what it means to be human, how technology can actually play into making us more human through fostering collaboration and co-creation, which ultimately leads to engagement. To check out the full video, please check back soon on the TEDxUniversityofNevada website, where it will be posted shortly.

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