Marketing and IT are becoming synonymous, says Suncorp CMO

CMOs speaking on a panel at this year's Mumbrella360 event talk about the relationship between CMO and CIO and the importance of creative technologists

Marketing and technology are blurring and the relationship between CMO and CIO is increasingly vital to addressing the modern data and digital customer challenge, leading Australian marketers claim.

Speaking on a ‘Meet the Marketers’ panel at the Mumbrella360 event in Sydney yesterday, Suncorp executive general manager of marketing, Mark Reinke, said marketing and technology are becoming synonymous in his organisation thanks to rising demand for real-time customer engagement.

“This is being driven by the need to personalise, to do this at speed – often less than a second – and to be able to do this [engagement] across hundreds of thousands of interactions,” he said. “You can’t do that without technology.

“In my world, it’s the synthesis of three things: Customer insight, data, and the digitisation of experience to solve customer problems.”

As an example of how IT and marketing are working together, Reinke said he and the CIO are jointly recruiting staff, and implemented a graduate program to build the creative technology skills Suncorp needs to better solve customer challenges.

“Secondly, we are increasingly adopting the same processes,” he continued. “Our marketing team is now using agile methodology to be more nimble in how we operate, and that provides constant iteration.

“We also both engage in the same ideation processes; we include marketing, product and technology these teams. Two weeks ago, we had 700 people in five countries for 24 hours to work together to solve customer problems. I don’t know how to do it any other way.”

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Westfield director of marketing, John Batistich, agreed creative technologists are vital to the future of marketing. “This is about having people so attuned to technology they can solve customer problems with that,” he said.

Batistich also said his CIO as a critical partner, but stressed the need to set clear responsibilities and areas of focus. He saw CIOs as critical players at the infrastructure and platform level, and marketers owning services and applications alongside their strategic partners.

“Where the CIO has a very important role to play is creating the data warehousing, supporting the digital asset management layer, API and content management system layers – all of which enables you to fuel innovation and allow that to be open with outside partners,” Batistich said.

“We have a digital lab in San Francisco manned by a chief digital officer, which gives us access to partners and technologies not available here and enable us to pilot and scale that. That brings more complexity into my business, but it’s a big part of our learning and trajectory.”

At Weight Watchers, there has been growing recognition across senior leadership that legacy and outdated technology systems have hindered its ability to market, tailor services, engage customers and better utilise data, its general manager of marketing, Michael Burgess, said.

Read more: CMOs must have courage to lead successfully

The decision to appoint a former IBM senior services executive to lift its technology capabilities is helping foster a huge transformation in the business, he said.

“It’s a stark example of going from one extreme to the other, and the future is looking extremely bright as a result,” Burgess said. “We are working closely together on it.”

Beam Global director of marketing, James Sykes, compared the current debate on whether marketers need to become technologists to former arguments on the role of marketing in product development.

“Today, those folks involved in product innovation know tons about marketing, and that understanding allows marketing and product teams to have fluid conversations,” he said.

“We’re currently in the mucky middle of this conversation [around marketing and IT alignment] and perhaps in five years’ time, we won’t be having this conversation. Maybe that is all this is right now.”

More from the panel: Marketing's boardroom rise is about competitive edge

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