Naomi Assaraf: Marketing Tech and the Future of Experiences
May 24, 2021
One of the most exciting parts of a career in marketing is connecting the past to the future. Many aspects of the craft — writing, storytelling, relationship-building — trace back nearly to the origins of humankind. But marketers are constantly adapting and evolving these connective pursuits while incorporating new technologies and driving toward the future of business.
Naomi Assaraf is one marketing trailblazer bridging past to future. An entrepreneur who started her first business as a teenager and falls back on a simple overarching philosophy (“It’s always been about solving problems for me”), she is deeply immersed in the advancement of experiential technologies.
Naomi’s company caters to a medium of communication that — as she notes — recently turned 50 years old. But email remains an essential business fixture, and cloudHQ is continually innovating the ways we can use it more productively and effectively. Meanwhile, she’s an influential voice on cutting-edge marketing technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality.
We recently caught up with Naomi to chat about her past, how she’s adjusting to the present, and where she’s setting her gaze for the future of marketing.
LinkedIn: You mention on your LinkedIn profile that you started your first business at age 17. What sticks with you from that young entrepreneurial experience?
Naomi Assaraf: It’s always been about solving problems for me. That first business wasn’t overly creative, but it met a need in the market. And as long as it did that, it could be successful.
LI: Which technologies intrigue you most right now in terms of helping people communicate in the reshaped business environment?
Naomi: I’m fascinated by the development of AI on a personal level. Here in the U.S., the AI conversation seems to be about business applications that are being used by big companies in a variety of industries. Finance, healthcare, etc. But if you look at what’s happening in places like Japan, they are much further ahead on consumer-focused AI — computers you can talk to and interact with much more like a friend or a companion. I think we’ll see a lot more of that in the next decade or so, and I’m excited to see where that technology might go.
“If you look at what’s happening in places like Japan, they are much further ahead on consumer-focused AI — computers you can talk to and interact with much more like a friend or a companion.” - Naomi Assaraf
LI: Tell us about your company cloudHQ — how it originated, and why you think email is still a vital tool in the modern marketer's mix.
Naomi: My friend, Senad Dizdar founded it back in 2014 and I joined on as a contractor and eventually climbed the ladder. Our first few years, we mostly focused on B2B products, especially services that connected cloud applications across platforms. We can sync a Google Drive folder to a Dropbox folder, for example. Along the way, we experimented with a tool that allowed Gmail users to share a label across their Gmail accounts, much like you can share a folder in Google Drive. That project opened our eyes to the opportunity around email, and we started building additional tools to help people use Gmail more effectively. We now have over 70 of those email tools available, most of them free!
Email just turned 50 years old, and it’s still the go-to channel for anyone who wants to communicate with others outside their company or their immediate network of friends and family. It’s still one of the only technologies specifically designed to work across all communication systems. It’s not like Slack or Microsoft Teams where we both have to be using the same platform to communicate. If I have your email address, I can use Gmail to send you a message, no matter what email service you happen to be using.
LI: Why do you think up-and-coming marketers and creators can benefit from taking an interest in AR and VR technologies?
Naomi: AR and VR are going to be incredibly important tools for marketers over the next few years. Beyond just AR/VR technology itself, I think we need to reexamine the gaming industry, and how that can affect how we interact with each other and ourselves. Whether it be: fitness, spectator sports, gambling, shopping, holograms, living in a virtual world with your NFTs, or just playing a game; the ideology of the gaming industry will be the baseline for which all these sub-industries will evolve. This is the future. This is all coming much sooner than people think. I think anyone in marketing should be closely following the progress of these technologies.
LI: The last year was obviously a turbulent one for society, with COVID lockdowns and civil unrest stemming from George Floyd's killing. What do you view as the biggest challenges, changes, or lessons of the past 12 months from a marketing standpoint?
Naomi: I think the first few weeks were the most difficult. For a while, the only thing anyone could think of was just how to get through the day, and no one was thinking about experimenting with new software tools. We were all busy relearning how to attend school, grocery shopping, surviving, all in a short period of time.
I want to look at the chaos in a positive light. While it created conflict and division, it also brought us together, supporting each other against hate. I really want to emphasize that marketing isn’t always about creating opportunities. Sometimes great marketing is just about tapping into what’s happening now, and letting people know that you hear them, support them, and love them. It doesn’t have to be so complicated.
“Marketing isn’t always about creating opportunities. Sometimes great marketing is just about tapping into what’s happening now and letting people know that you hear them, support them, and love them.” - Naomi Assaraf
LI: What content is giving you life
Naomi: It’s not business content, but I’m really enjoying Shirzad Chamine’s Positive Intelligence book and course. It speaks to how we sabotage ourselves, and gives very easy mental exercises to increase our positive intelligence so that we can always think more clearly and essentially be more happy.
LI: What do you see as the biggest keys to an inclusive future in the tech industry, and in marketing more broadly?
We still have a long way to go in these areas. Women represent only one in four positions in the tech industry, and the numbers in senior leadership and board positions are even smaller percentages. The BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities are also dramatically unrepresented as well — especially at the leadership and board levels. I don’t think there are easy answers to these issues, but I think one small thing we can all do is to elevate and advocate for underrepresented groups whenever and however we can.
LI: What’s something a business colleague or peer in the industry did over the past year that helped or inspired you? (Maybe they're not even aware of it?)
Naomi: I’m inspired by all the moms. We’ve had kids at home virtual schooling, careers and companies to manage. This past year has put even more pressure on us than usual, and I am continually inspired by the little ways we can adapt even in the midst of all these challenges.
LI: Any final thoughts?
Naomi: Thank you for the opportunity to share some of my thoughts!
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