By Robin Campbell-Burt, CEO at Code Red
The RSA Conference 2023 is now over. However, the energy, excitement, and fizz of opportunity that pervades these three days in central San Francisco continues.
I always leave the event feeling more focused and committed to what must be the most significant area of technology – protecting all our digital futures. And with numbers of attendees returning to pre-pandemic levels (45,000 according to the organisers), RSAC is very much back.
Here are some of the key observations we had during the event and insights that organisations should consider when attending their next cybersecurity event.
AI is the peak marketing buzzword – so beware of the backlash
AI is not a new concept or something that has not already formed part of the technology behind many cybersecurity solutions. However, since ChatGPT entered centre stage, marketing teams have shoehorned AI into the central part of their messaging wherever they can.
There are certainly a lot of exciting things happening. Dozens of sessions explored the convergence of AI and cybersecurity, reflecting its growing importance to tackle cyber threats. Some vendors showcased the AI-based capabilities of their solutions. Others demonstrated their capabilities against the malicious use cases of AI.
However, while there is certainly innovation, the danger is that a lot of what is being called AI might not be exactly as cutting-edge as it is made out to be.
So, beware of the backlash commentary. I can easily imagine headlines such as the following:
- “Companies are AI-washing their tech stack to mask greater deficiencies”.
- “No, your product is not AI-driven; it is just automated”.
- “Do not confuse the real innovative power of large language models with another legacy tech that just has an AI label slapped on it”.
Cybersecurity marketers must not get carried away. AI messaging must stay true: differentiate, and attract the audience, but also provide understanding and explain reality.
Differentiating, yet looking the same – blue branding is still the dominant force!
I know that branding lore dictates that blue stands for reliability, security, stability, and analytical competence (important aspects for any cybersecurity company), but branding also stands for differentiation.
The problem becomes apparent at an event such as the RSAC when every other booth is blue. I know Stronger Together was the theme of RSAC this year, but perhaps when it comes to brand and market differentiation, it is not such a great idea.
I think there was some greater difference in colours than in previous years, but my top advice to marketing teams – work out some colour variations in your brand to stand out from the crowd.
Mergers and acquisitions were hot topics at the RSA Conference 2023
Although the RSA Conference 2023 was a very positive event for the industry, the current economic struggles were still evident. We observed that valuations are not where they used to be just a year ago. VC funding has become very limited.
Company valuations remain low in comparison to recent years, and this is causing difficulties for many cybersecurity companies trying to scale up. There was more talk about acquisitions – with many experts predicting that bigger players will pick over smaller rivals to scoop them up at some knockdown prices (at least compared to 2021 valuations)
Mergers and acquisitions will continue to be top stories throughout the rest of the year.
The Cyber Marketing Society continues to nail it
Code Red has been supporting the Cyber Marketing Society over the last year, and it is great to see the organisation go from strength to strength. If you are in marketing and communications and work with a cybersecurity company, then you need to be a member.
A special shout out to Gianna and Maria, who continue to inspire and make the organisation the success that it is. Another to Mimi Gross – who announced a partnership with the Cyber Marketing Society and launched their recruitment and career advisory service to people working in the sector. This is so important right now, as the market continues to be volatile and with greater staffing adjustments going on in many companies in the sector.
Overall, RSA Conference 2023 was fantastic as ever. Can’t wait for next year!