“Tech without purpose is just tech.” This was the key message we took away from last week’s inspiring Web Summit 2022, which saw more than 70,000 attendees attend the four-day event in Lisbon.
The event brought together the world’s finest minds to discuss the future of tech. The speaker list was a who’s who of business leaders, including Toto Wolff, CEO of AMG Mercedes; Sir Martin Sorrell, co-founder of S4 Capital and former CEO of WPP; Julia Goldin, chief product and marketing officer at Lego; Apple VPs Lisa Jackson and Sumbul Desai; Brad Smith, attorney and vice chairman at Microsoft; and Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance.
What’s remarkable though, is the diversity of companies and attendees – from established industry titans to startups pitching for their lives. It's testament to the work of Paddy Cosgrave, CEO and Founder of Web Summit, who has created a special event.
It was also heartening to see female attendance at 42% – a significant increase on previous years.
But back to that ‘purpose’ thing we mentioned. It was the key word on many speakers’ lips. And it finally felt like it wasn’t just about paying lip service.
Here are four ways that purpose in tech became the major talking point at Web Summit.
Oliver Steil, CEO of remote access software company TeamViewer, explained the huge benefits to the planet of using remote-first technology. Last year, 37 megatonnes of carbon were saved by companies using remote-first tech instead of travelling. That's the equivalent of an A380 flying New York to Singapore 7,000 times or the carbon produced by 11 million cars a year.
The Mercedes F1 team uses TeamViewer to give the same information to 2,000 engineers back in Oxford as its 19 engineers have on the circuit. The climate impact from F1 is often demonised, but Toto Wolff argued that “the more you do remotely the less you ship. We are using F1’s 1.5bn fans around the globe to show the positive impact that a remote-first approach can have”.
Alain Sylvain, founder of B Corp agency SYLVAIN, left a mark with his presentation on how brands need to behave in the digital world. He was provocative in highlighting the responsibility that brands have – and how virtue signalling is now being called out and seen by a new, wiser consumer base.
Sylvain set the scene by explaining how the phrase ‘corporation’ has transformed over the years. He elaborated on how the concept of corporation in the mid-15th century was defined as “persons united in a body for a purpose” and compared it to what corporations are doing now. Why are they now often perceived as a group of people only focused on profits?
He also provided some telling stats:
82% of consumers love brands whose values align with their own
3x growth seen by purpose-first business over non-purpose based competitors
47% of consumers have stopped buying from brands due to their words or actions about a social issue
3. Frictionless experience
Disruptive digital channels and a more 'savvy consumer’ is going to keep the industry’s marketing chiefs on their toes.
With Web3 and immersive digital worlds opening up, how will brands work to satisfy consumers rather than confuse them?
James Vincent, CEO of FNDR and who worked closely with Steve Jobs at Apple, did a fantastic job of showing the crowd how to develop a three-step program using Apple to overcome the friction that will be apparent in adoption of Web3 tech.
There was also a fascinating debate between former WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell and Lego CMO Julia Goldin, who discussed marketing in 2023. The pair covered everything from geopolitics to when high-quality immersive experiences will be available.
Sir Martin argued that we were still some way off, but Goldin argued that we’re already on the precipice. She talked about how kids’ brands are already in the metaverse, and that children now get a far richer web experience.
4. Giving back
Finally, our sports team was excited to rub shoulders with former football stars keen to make an impact.
Former Manchester United footballer Patrice Evra delivered a stunning talk on how he is investing time and money in anything that is positive. His commitment to doing all he can to reduce child abuse is truly inspirational.
Meanwhile, ex-Brazilian midfielder Gilberto Silva discussed online abuse and the negativity around social media for the football community. He’s working on a project to provide a safe, moderated platform with no hiding places for keyboard warriors and trolls.
Finally, Portuguese manager Andre Villas Boas spoke passionately and articulately about the challenges of nurturing talent and the importance of looking after their mental wellbeing.
Web Summit demonstrated that brands and business leaders are focused on achieving technological excellence that has a clear purpose – with a goal to make a difference in the world.
We were lucky enough to speak and hear some of the world’s visionaries and we can’t wait to see how those ideas develop over the next few months and years.
If you’d like to understand more about the ways digital marketing and communications is changing, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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