Article provided by June Ip, VP of Marketing, Lenbrook

Maybe I’m just biased, but anecdotally, I have found that marketing is the vanguard for demographic shifts in the workplace, not only in tech, but in many other industries as well.

I think this is a result of a few things:

  1. The pipeline for women in STEM fields at the university level has only in this past generation begun to grow and so the pipeline for talent wasn’t previously there for the engineering department to draw from;
  2. Those who grew up not fitting the status quo often self-selected into creative pursuits because that was the only place where their viewpoints were accepted as not only “normal”, but also valuable;
  3. The marketing function is usually dismissed as “just a bunch of creatives” so it was accepted and even expected that those working in marketing would be “different”
  4. Marketing is probably the most in tune with shifting consumer attitudes and behaviours, which is heavily correlated with demographic changes more generally. I am certainly proof of this – I’ve met enough marketing leads in tech companies that fit my Asian female description that I fear it’s almost an archetype by now. I think the real challenge in the tech world is therefore not only rate of diversity, which is the typical measure, but also dispersion of diversity within organizations since creative problem solving is not isolated to one discipline or departmental area.

The legacy audio industry is a bit different than a Silicon Valley tech company in that diversity here goes beyond gender and race, and touches generational differences also. The heyday of hi-fi was in the 1970s and 1980s so it’s not uncommon for the leadership of many hi-fi companies to be aged in their 60s, and some even in their 70s. But even here, again, I’ve noted that the diversity began in the marketing department since the older leadership quickly realized that they didn’t understand social media marketing and online consumer behaviours and needed younger generations to come and help them to navigate that world. Much has been said about different work styles and expectations of the various generations, and so I feel like we have some added complexity in team building in the audio industry that isn’t as pronounced in other segments of the tech world.

I think Lenbrook has done a good job of balancing those complexities as an organization, although we don’t necessarily have an explicit policy goal like many tech companies where they want to reach X% gender inclusion by Y date. But our CEO is very sensitive to team dynamics, having built and coached successful junior hockey teams, so I think that team-player attitude is more innately ingrained in how we do things than perhaps in other workplaces.

In terms of what we’ve tried to do in the marketing department, our hiring policy is more about diversity of experience, which is often but not always correlated with physical diversity. We are looking for people with exposure to different cultures, brands, industries, belief systems, and ideas, since we think this produces the best creative results.

We are also sensitive to the fact that our marketing needs to reflect our audience – our brands are sold in over 80 countries – and being based in one of the most diverse cities in the world (Toronto) has made our job as global marketers easier, since we don’t have to look very far to find models that look like our customers. And it has worked in expanding awareness of brands to broader groups of people; we have seen the average age of website visitors go down on Bluesound.com over the years, and we have seen more women visiting as well. Overall, I think it’s important as marketers to remember that it’s not just young men to who love technology, and it’s not just old men who love audio – those tropes are being quickly disproven in the analytics that are coming back to us on our digital channels.

June IpAbout the author

I specialize in marketing and brand strategy that produce results. Over the years, I have worked in a variety of industries and am equally comfortable and familiar with B2B and B2C strategy, even teaching these principles at University of Toronto.

Some challenging (and rewarding) experiences I’ve been involved in:

  • Led the turnaround of the CSCC brand (now UL Responsible Sourcing), resulting in a CAGR of 15% over 3 years
  • Key member of post-M&A brand integration and change communications team at STR
  • Oversaw crisis communications for Barzel Industries during its restructuring and eventual bankruptcy
  • Led creative strategy redevelopment for a non-profit client that resulted in a YoY 60% increase in donor revenues
  • Led social media strategy development for a university, helping it to re-establish communications with its alumni network
  • Helped to create and implement strategies that revived a struggling but ground-breaking wine brand