Major brand owners respond to new technology

10 September 2010

NEW YORK: Major brand owners like Vodafone, PepsiCo and SAP are all adapting their strategies as a result of the increasing overlap between their marketing and IT departments.

Vodafone, the telecoms giant, unveiled a simplified corporate structure this week, scrapping the role of chief marketing officer.

It has combined its marketing, business services, global enterprise and partner markets functions into one group, working alongside a single, consolidated technology division.

"The new organisation is designed to focus on Vodafone's key commercial and financial priorities: customer and commercial strength, leadership in data, brand advocacy, cost efficiency and shareholder returns," it said.

Such a shift is a recurring theme among multinational marketers responding to the explosion in popularity of platforms like Facebook and the iPhone.

"Forget the CMO. The next big industry title will be the CMTO," Shiv Singh, PepsiCo's director of digital, North America, said at a conference earlier this year.

According to Singh, the "chief marketing technology officer" requires fundamentally different skills than has traditionally been the case.

"Each time I catch up with my CMO, I ask her how much she is learning about marketing technology," he continued.

PepsiCo will also increasingly demand more detailed statistics from online media owners, as it seeks to gain a true picture of consumer habits.

"Don't just tell me about impressions, tell me about what the sharing capability is. That's the model to think about," said Singh.

"If a user comes to site, reads an article, shares the article on Twitter, my brand name carries through into the tweet as well, I'm not just paying for that media, I'm paying for that sharing as well."

SAP, the business management software firm, is similarly leveraging innovative tools to ensure its sales teams possess an in-depth understanding of current and developed trends.

"The challenge is making sense of data," Marty Homlish, SAP's cmo, said.

"With 487 billion gigabits of data floating in the entire universe, the point is to turn insight into foresight. This is where the art and science of business comes together."

SAP recently announced plans to equip 17,000 members of staff with an iPad in the next year, up from 1,500 at present.

"We saw that the iPad presented a huge opportunity, and it made sense that SAP should be ready to support the iPad and that we should embrace the mobile mindset," said chief information officer Oliver Bussmann.

"All of the executives take it into meetings. It gives immediate access to all information, through access to email … business intelligence and CRM."

Kevin Quiring, an associate partner at Accenture, suggested the marketing industry may have survived a "nuclear winter", but further change is inevitable.

A survey of global corporations by the consultancy found 65% of respondents believed consumer insights would be vital to future growth, although building new operational systems was also a priority.

"Customer analytics is a huge, untapped opportunity for marketers," said Quiring, both as it drives loyalty and can secure internal buy-in.

JP Gownder, an analyst at Forrester, added that social networks, smartphones and other such devices are now key for two reasons.

"[Companies must] give their most innovative employees - their highly engaged and resourceful operatives, or HEROes - the permission and tools to serve customers using these same emerging technologies," he argued.

Equally, these channels "energise your best customers" to spread word of mouth, meaning creating engaging apps, experiences and content is paramount.

Data sourced from CIO Insight/MediaPost/Computing; additional content by Warc staff