IBM's Not-So-Secret Weapon: Big Data Marketing

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2013-02-26 Print this article Print

The ubiquity of data in an increasingly instrumented world are driving a new business landscape in which CMOs can now target customers as individuals instead of clustering them within vague demographic categories. This makes marketing feel more like a welcomed service instead of an intrusion.

"I think the B2B world has traditionally thought more about companies than people," Horan said. "What we are increasingly recognizing is that it is individuals within companies that are making decisions. And it's those individuals that are the ones that have different levels of knowledge or different roles within the company and different levels of influence over decision making. And what we are starting to think about is, how can we start to build up that body of information about people as individuals, so that we can start to present much more targeted offers."

Social media has also made the CMO responsible for building an internal employee culture that represents the company's brand in online interactions. Technology and creativity are fusing to drive a new interdependence between two seemingly diverse business disciplines, the CIO and the CMO.

"Data could be really, really key to using social media to better understand the nature of your market, using device data to optimize your supply chain, etc.," said Tony Baer, an analyst at Ovum. "The potential upside is huge. But there are some important "buts." There is the danger in euphoria over big data. There is the need to know what data to use, how to realize patterns and analyze the data, and of course—the more solvable issue, master the underlying technology. These are not trivial issues."

At IBM, the CIO and CMO partnered to create campaigns that on average have reduced marketing emails by 93 percent in 2012, shifting from a "spray and pray" approach in delivering a message via automated marketing. This targeted email strategy, which analyzes factors such as purchase history, buying power and customer behaviors, is delivering a response rate that is 14 times greater than the traditional approach.

"Big data, like BI before it, has provided marketing—and to lesser extent, operations—new tools that deliver visible results to the business," Baer said. "Of necessity, CIOs are drawing closer to CMOs, thanks to the power of data and the need for technology to harness that power."

"When it comes to big data, CMOs are becoming to big data practitioners what CIOs have been to CTOs," said Andrew Brust, founder and CEO of Blue Badge Insights and big data guru. "CMOs are focused on the marketing application of data and insights and, in the process of discovering it, have become mavens on some of the products and technologies.  But their motivation is the application of it to more effective marketing. So if CIOs focus on the biz application of data, and much of that space is dominated by big data these days, it's no wonder that CMOs and CIOs are finding their paths crossing and their jobs overlapping."


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