Big companies, and particularly big technology companies, seem to like to sponsor conferences and think tank events. That buys them not just the use of their logo and a warm sense of public spiritedness but also, usually, a speaking slot. Invariably that slot is positioned as though the sponsor’s representative had earned their place on the same basis as other speakers. And invariably, the sponsor speaker uses the opportunity to inflict as much damage to their brand reputation as they can manage.
That is partly because they seem almost always to be less articulate by an order of magnitude or two than other speakers and generally greyer in all possible dimensions. More importantly, though, they rarely make any attempt to blend in. At an event on innovation, they don’t send an innovator, they send a sales account director. At an event on customer service, they don’t send a customer service obsessive, they send a sales account director. And so on. This is doubly strange, since most of these organisations do possess innovators and customer service obsessives – but they are talked about rather than being there to do the talking.
And on the basis of this morning’s experience which prompted this post, if they attempt more they achieve less. Today’s sponsor not only provided a grey speaker, but also a self-congratulatory little booklet, in which this rather splendid logic bomb caught my eye:
While a degree of time lag between the development of a disruptive technology and its emergence in the public sector is inevitable, [sponsor who will get no puff from me] believes that in some cases this lag time can be removed.