Play House at Forrester Marketing Forum 2011This week I was the lone IT analyst attending Forrester's Marketing Forum. Although I was there because much of my research overlaps with my colleagues covering marketing roles, I can't help feeling CIOs are missing out by not attending this event.

For many years I have believed that a successful CIO must understand marketing — especially if he/she ever aspires to the CEO or COO role. Although today's marketing professional is more dependent upon technology than ever before, marketing is too often the part of the business least understood by IT.

With awareness comes understanding: which is why I think it is essential for IT professionals, and especially CIOs, to attend conferences like the Marketing Forum. These events help develop a much greater understanding of the challenges faced by the marketing professionals in your organization — and will no doubt stimulate many new ideas about how IT can help.

Here's just a sampling of some of the thinking heard at the Marketing Forum this week in San Francisco:

We heard from Practice Leader David Cooperstein that CMOs are suffering a crisis of confidence: most feel they don't have enough budget, executive support, or marketing technology to meet the new digital challenge. (The CIO message: your CMO shares your pain.)

Chris Stutzman showed how Ford uses an ADAPT framework to move toward and engage with a new digital consumer. Ford broke down traditional marketing and supplier boundaries to successfully launch the Fiesta in the US. We also heard how customers told Ford that their first attempt at an “owners” website focused too much on promotion — but thanks to their agility in deploying the website, they were quickly able to adapt the site to the needs of the owners. (The CIO message: learn to prototype and adapt quickly.)

Emily Riley helped us think in terms of CORE — Customize, Optimize, Respond, Empower — a framework which resonated with many attendees. FedEx is applying CORE in the service of large numbers of small businesses — these customers are more demanding about getting access to information & data transparency. Dennis Shirokov, a marketing executive at FedEx, was instrumental in building a new marketing model at FedEx: He focused on predictive marketing, web analytics, and customer interaction, creating a new customer central data hub. This allowed FedEx to become more responsive and better able to influence people through social media. Dennis is now creating new departments at FedEx like marketing engineering to help supply the marketing technology expertise they need coupled with the business insight to turn data into meaningful information. You can read more about the keynote presentation in this blog summary by David Deal. (The CIO message: your IT organization may need to cede technology expertise to departments like marketing but your team also needs to figure out how to collaborate for success.)

Dana Anderson, SVP at Kraft Foods, presented a humorous and insightful perspective on life in the emerging digital marketing world. Her advice on breaking down silos: “go around them.” Dana is a big fan of “pilots” — in her words “pilot means if it fails I can’t get in trouble” — Dana does a lot of pilots! Her advice to CMOs: Be sly; play house; don’t settle; be a little reckless; live large; and kiss and tell. (I bet you wish you were there for that one!) One point in particular Dana suggested addresses a question I’m often asked: How do you justify the ROI on social technology spend? Dana’s answer: “Don't insist on measurement at the outset of interactive marketing; get them to try it out and not worry about metrics.” (The CIO message: marketing executives are driven by a need to “get it done” — what is IT doing to speed up technology delivery?)

George Colony talked about the expectations CEOs have of their CMO: Be a champion of innovation; mediate the cultural conversation; translate and illuminate technology; prove that marketing is worth the investment; take the CEO out for a beer talk. Read David Deal’s synopsis here. (There are more than a few lessons for CIOs here too.)

L’Oreal’s Marc Menesguen showed how beauty and digital technology are a perfect match with images of brands around the world using technology to connect with consumers on an emotional level, using social co-creation as a driver of innovation. (The CIO message: learn how to co-create with marketing — use digital platforms to connect emotionally with customers.)

In an Energizer Bunny of a speech, SCVNGR CEO Seth Priebatsch helped the audience to imagine they were already in 2021 and looking back over the marketing achievements of the past decade. Of particular interest was the concept of using gaming to influence consumer behaviors with examples taken from driving to shopping. (The CIO message: gaming technology will require sophisticated use of customer data, and digital natives like Seth think digitally.)

For me, the best guest session was one delivered by Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s James Trebilcock and Ross Martin of MTV Scratch on how these two firms collaborated on an outcome-based partnership to rejuvenate a dormant Dr Pepper brand. The story of how SunDrop went national was both interesting and inspiring, plus we got to see the SunDrop “drop it” girl perform live down the aisle of the conference floor! (The CIO message: IT, like marketing, has an opportunity to learn how to step out of the comfort zone and explore innovative vendor partnerships which leverage technology and marketing to drive increased revenue and market share.)

So if you get the chance to join your CMO and attend the Marketing Forum in 2012, I suggest you jump at it. It is guaranteed to transform your thinking about marketing. Later this year Luca Paderni and I will be publishing research on the power of a strong CIO & CMO partnership … stay tuned!

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