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Technology will continue to dictate marketer mission, say top CMOs

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Whether by way of analytics or social connections with consumers and partners, technology will continue to dictate the missions of brands and the role of the CMO, marketing chiefs of some of the best-known corporations told Advertising Week attendees in New York on Oct. 3.

During a panel discussion titled “Winning the Marketing War,” Raj Subramaniam, CMO of FedEx Corp., stressed the importance of marketer creativity. “When I look at talent, I look at people who can build an infrastructure; people who are creative about concepts that work on the Web; and the ability to analyze and change things on the fly,” he said. “And that's a team effort.”

Beth Comstock, CMO of General Electric Co., pointed to her company's clean energy-focused business initiative Ecomagination, which she described as a “Match.com for startup ideas. You had the water guy getting with the solar guy and coming up with whole new business applications," she said. "That's nothing we could have created on our own; it was the power of the community.”

Similarly, GE two weeks ago unveiled its Healthymagination global campaign to fight cancer, to which the company has pledged $1 billion for research over the next five years.

“New technology is allowing us to leapfrog and accelerate: all the things we dreamed about are now possible,” Comstock said. “If you're a marketer who doesn't like data and insights, you're not going to have a very long tenure.”

As part of its ongoing mission to employ analytics and the latest technology to prove its worth to advertisers, Stephanie George, EVP and CMO of Time Inc., used the panel discussion to tout a new program, PinPoint, combining detailed shopper data from Nielsen Catalina Solutions and Time Inc.'s own databases, as first reported by Advertising Age on Oct. 3. Earlier, Time Inc. partnered with media-buying giant Starcom MediaVest Group on a program dubbed the Alliance for Magazine Accountability, which seeks to tie consumers' exposure to magazine ads to marketers' bottom-line results.

“It's a big, brave, bold world, and we are testing it all,” George said. “Analytics is at the heart of everything we do. We're going to give our agency partners and our advertisers as much information as we can.”

Rob Price, CMO of drugstore chain CVS Caremark Corp., singled out the company's customer loyalty program ExtraCare, with 68 million members, as core to its social-focused outreach and consumer research. “We're now carving narrower and narrower slices: there's a scrum of consumers and regulators and b-to-b clientele and b-to-c clientele and team members and other stakeholders all overlapping in the social sphere,” he said.

Technology has fine-tuned consumer insights for the chain, said Price. “Historically, you had Nielsen [data] over here and the insights we drew from our tens of billions of transactions over there, but that left whole areas unexploited, like ethnography," he said. "Our internal research center with our mock store and focus groups, user-acceptance testing, eye-tracking – consolidating all those different dimensions … is what we see as a central component of insight into our customers.”

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