The case for synergy between adroit CMO and CIO

T.C. Seow

In an email interview, René Bonvanie, Chief Marketing Officer of Palo Alto Networks, talks about the different roles CIOs and CMOs can play, and how technology can be better utilised to help both achieve organisational goals.

René Bonvanie
Photo: René Bonvanie, Palo Alto Networks

Question: How are CMOs working closely with CIOs, as marketing goes digital and technology dependent?

René Bonvanie: There are two angles to this. The first is related to how consumers want to be marketed to. It is crystal clear that on the consumption side, digital is the norm. Google's annual Consumer Barometer report recently revealed the following trends:

  • Singapore has the second highest smartphone penetration in the world
  • Thailand is the most prolific mobile shopping nation
  • China watches the longest videos on mobile devices

Oddly enough, most B2B marketing budgets in Asia are primarily spent on traditional marketing channels. New-age CMOs understand that digital has become the norm and they realise that they have to be technology proficient, on top of having good business acumen and great understanding of customers' behaviour.

Second, marketers need to use technology to better understand their customers and the markets they are in. This calls for deep analytics on top of large amounts of data. To achieve this, the CMO needs to synergise with the CIO to invest in technologies that offer actionable insights. CMO's and CIO's need to jointly fund and execute projects that require cloud architectures, analytics, mobile integration, real-time functions, and having stringent cybersecurity defences in place.

How tech savvy should today's CMOs be?

CMOs in many organisations have become bigger IT spenders than any other business function, including the CIO. This is because the role of the CMO has effectively moved to that of being the 'chief digital officer'. Customer engagement and lifetime value expansion have become integral in the entire business process, whereas customer retention is proving to be more and more difficult. Targeted and informed engagement with thousands or millions of customers would usually require multiple technologies and applications. It is therefore an imperative that the CMO masters these technologies and has control over them.

Tech savvy or not, CIOs should work with the CMOs to help fill in the gaps in terms of technological proficiency.

Who's taking the tech-savvy CMO's role for smaller businesses, who don't have a dedicated CMO?

Smaller companies would usually have a marketing manager that oversees all marketing functions. Sometimes, it is the general manager or the business owner himself/herself who assumes this role. Digital marketing, particularly through social media has become a popular choice for SMEs with small budgets, needing to target a specific group of people. Platforms such as Facebook Ads Manager allow marketers or any individual to promote anything on Facebook, with an easy to use interface.

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