It’s time for the CIO to take the lead.
It occurred to me recently that Merkle executives have spent more time talking to CIOs in the past four months than we did in the past four years combined. I started wondering why … why are we spending so much time with CIOs of some of the largest brands in the country? We’re a customer relationship marketing agency, not a software company. And why are these meetings happening at a frequency that is 10 times what it was, even 12 months ago?
We’ve always known that, despite our efforts to the contrary, there tends to be a disconnect between the offices of the CIO and the CMO. They have different responsibilities, priorities, motivations and timelines. But in this age of audience addressability — an opportunity brought about by the digital audience platforms and enabled by technology and analytics — I’ve come to realize that the CIO and the CMO simply don’t understand how much they really do need each other (although it seems their bosses do because they are the ones who tend to drive these meetings).
Just last week, we met with the head of digital marketing for a Fortune 500 insurance company. He was seeking our help in the selection of a data management platform (DMP), to be used primarily for media and advertising purposes. We began to probe about other business needs that could be addressed with the DMP — what about site personalization as an example. But because that’s not his responsibility, he simply wasn’t thinking about it. This is only natural, when looking at it strictly from his point of view.
My guess is there’s someone on the .com team, independently evaluating DMPs for the website, if they haven’t already purchased one. And maybe other areas are doing the same. And the CIO is not involved, which means nobody is looking at these decisions through an enterprise lens. The result will be perpetual fragmentation among the organization’s disparate marketing and operational objectives, investments, and outcomes.
Conversely, we’re working with a major hospitality company that is experiencing the exact opposite situation, but with the same disconnect. Their DMP effort is focused on personalization on the site side, without a connection to marketing. The client has a number of management and technology consultants on retainer, and none of them really have the skills and experience to bring it all together.
The problem is, there are a lot of people out there who understand the media stack (think DSP), and many who know the channel stack (think CMS), and others who know the marketing stack (think customer database). But very few know all three — or even understand the value of an enterprise-wide coordination that could drive a truly customer-centric approach. And without a connected view of technology, the organization is at a definitive competitive disadvantage.
As brands learn more about the massive opportunity of addressability at scale, they are investing millions of dollars to build out capabilities in silos that spread technology among individual point solutions. Nobody is trying to put it all together with an enterprise mentality. Neither the CMO nor the CIO has the bandwidth or depth of knowledge to stitch these innovative marketing and technology assets together. There’s a gap at the intersection that must be closed for all of this to work toward a truly customer-centric business strategy.
Digital audience platforms continue to infiltrate every facet of life and commerce, and the lines between the roles of CIO and CMO must blur. A word of advice: When the CEO asks the CIO whether the organization should align on the Google tech stack (yes, CEOs are asking these kinds of questions), the correct answer is not “that’s the CMO’s decision.” This division will never allow for successful CRM. The scaling of addressability within the audience platforms is causing the CEO and the COO to wake up. They understand that we need an enterprise-level strategy to deploy these marketing technologies, rather than the fragmented, distributed approach we’ve had in the past. The CIO and CMO must align and conquer. They don’t even know what they don’t know about how to fill the gaps. And odds are, neither is going to build a bridge to the other. The mandate must come from the top. It’s the CEO, COO, or more commonly the Chief Customer Officer’s (CCO) job to get these roles in synch.
This may take one of several possible forms: (1) the creation of a marketing-focused team within IT, (2) the introduction of a marketing technology group within marketing, or (3) a coordination of roles between marketing and IT to orchestrate activities. Most CIOs are happy to take on accountability for the marketing and Ad tech stack (most already own channel), they just don’t know enough about it. There are so few people in the marketplace who understand the whole picture, from master data management to customer data integration to DMP to DSP to campaign management to marketing resource management. And understanding the notion that the Google stack or the Adobe stack (or anyone’s “stack” at this point) can solve all of these challenges is a complete joke.
At the end of the day, the focus of the CMO should be thinking through use cases about how technology and consumer addressability will fundamentally transform the customer experience to create competitive advantage. The CIO should be consumed by the technology to enable it. And there’s another problematic facet to consider: the analytic intersection. But that’s a story for another day.