Marketing and IT meet in the 21st century

Marketing and IT departments are separated by vast amounts of beige carpet and different mind-sets.

Successful companies will change this relationship, and IT managers should be leading the charge.

At a recent conference, "Identity: Brand Excellence in the Internet Economy," in San Francisco, it was obvious that there were simply not enough good ideas from the podium for these marketing experts to get excited about. But the importance of a brand to a company's overall value was reinforced by Peter Sealey, co-director of the Centre for Marketing and Technology at the University of California, Berkeley's Hass School of Business. Sealey explained how the one-to-one branding relationships of 100 years ago had evolved through such media as radio and television to become one-to-many. But, he said, technology is making it possible for companies to have one-to-one relationships again.

Afterward, he told me that "technology gives people access to choice and to a variety of information". These qualities are challenging the current one-to-many relationships between a producer and a consumer. IT leaders need to know how a technology is changing the way a company communicates with its customers, suppliers and business partners.

In several examples, it's become apparent that IT is just beginning to see its influence and effect.

For example, technology is transforming the marketing of personal transportation. "By sending an e-mail, Ford or another automobile company could let you know that you need new tyres, or perhaps you need to check your vehicle insurance. That's a one-to-one marketing connection that only technology lets you have," he said.

Customers, whether they're businesses or individual consumers, require a level of service only technology-aware businesses can deliver.

Sealey envisions a world in which a maker of refrigerators, for instance, monitors the performance of one of its machines and dispatches a repairman before it becomes a major problem. "Isn't that the kind of relationship you want from a supplier?" he asks.

Small, inexpensive chips planted on products we buy will change the way companies connect with us. And IT managers will be responsible for maintaining this new technology.

"Companies such as Coca-Cola will be able to monitor the inventory level of their products using intelligent chips, meaning you'll never run out," Sealey adds.

Most of these ideas will be implemented using existing IT resources.

Your departments are going to have to handle more complex assignments, greater visibility and more responsibility. How do you do it? Who do you convince that IT people need ongoing education in things such as brand value as well as technical training?

"The era when you could get your education all at once" is over, Sealey says. "Continuing education is essential to the maintenance of an organisation, especially in IT." CEOs need to know that courses in database mining and operating systems are essential to shareholder value, he adds. "How else are you going to keep those IT managers from leaving?"

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