Internet week in New York (the East Coast’s response to Silicon Valley – some have even dubbed it Silicon Alley – a gathering of all the digi-heads and tech fanatics on this half of the country) has just finished (now in its 5th year).
One of the seminars I attended looked at digital disruption, and not just in how digital has disrupted consumers, or given headaches to marketers as they attempt to find new and innovative avenues in which to speak to these new hyper-consumers (ahem, please see our nVitro The Hyper Individual). It also addressed the change among the C-Suite – no longer can the suits at the top carry on with life in the business world as usual. Their window office will not protect them from the digital age and those who ignore the call of digital integration will feel it - most acutely on their bottom lines…
Thus, the CM-I-O is born (chief marketing and information officer).
While in the analog world, information technology specialists and marketers remained decidedly and determinedly separate within the company walls, this brave new world, with its rising and unending importance of digital technology, requires these Chiefs Of to become increasingly integrated. Meaning that IT must now jump in bed with their ad and marketing teams – merging marketing practice with the technology that supports it in order to create a consumer-friendly, fast paced and effective brand interface for engagement.
Both sides of the corporate brain - the creatives and the techies – now form the internal power couple put on the quest to engage the consumer in ways meaningful to their life today and tomorrow. And the reason for this internal merger is simple: excellence in marketing ideas (driven by the CMO) requires excellence in the delivery of ideas (driven by the CTO/CIO). And as data increasingly becomes more of an business asset, silos of information within a company can cause chronic illness that will only lead to early brand death.
And it makes sense, an obvious and natural transition. Transparency is increasing faster and cost is decreasing faster now than at any other time. So why keep the IT team in the basement when good IT can facilitate new systems of customer engagement? IT enables things such as Concierge Living to be brought to life, allowing for brand transparency and excellence in our demanding 24 hour consumer society. This shift in corporate leadership and co-operation is strategic and we expect increasing numbers of brands to join in – and rapidly so. As Matthew Jauchius, CMO of Nationwide Insurance, put it – “What can you do without technology?”. The number of activities is shrinking almost daily. More, responding in real time across social media is marketing GOLD – technologists can empower marketers to respond, effectively and timely, through these social mediums.
The lesson? Technology should not be viewed any longer as simply an expense, but used strategically as a business asset and enabled to drive competitive advantage from within. Marketers do the dreaming and then work with IT to find a way to make those dreams come true.
Some big brands have already seen the light, blending these roles or forming unique partnerships – internal Bro-mances and Sisterhoods, if you like – in an attempt to bring the 21st century customer into focus and streamline their processes. Motorola, Nationwide, International Hotel Group… are just a few of the big names speaking at Internet Week who are pioneering the world of the CM(I)O - and according to them, with great success.
Innovation needs the consumer and the consumer today is integrating digital into all aspects of their life. Marketers must now do the same.
Are IT and marketing meshing in your organisation? If so, what differences has your brand seen? If not, do you think this should become a critical part of the agenda moving forward? We’d love to hear your thoughts.