The Titans of E: Actionable Strategies from Global Brand Executives

An event recap written for the Internet Strategy Forum newsletter. July, 2009

The Titans of E: Actionable Strategies from Global Brand Executives
by Sharon Rockey

In an age of information overload, finding an effective marketing strategy has become increasingly demanding. Today there are more ways to communicate and network online than anyone could have conceived of a decade ago. As technology changes, user behavior changes, and companies must get immersed into the social media scene. But then what? How will it help you meet your company’s goals?

When you consider that fifty-three percent of today’s consumers believe that less than half the information they receive has value, how can corporations connect with consumers in a meaningful and persuasive way?

Those were some of the questions that were addressed at the 2009 Internet Strategy Forum, an annual event that brings together the marketing, e-commerce and IT executives who are responsible for driving the Internet strategy within their organizations. On July 23-24 at Portland’s Governor Hotel, attendees came to learn from industry thought leaders–The Titans of E–who shared their own best practices and visions for the future.

Two major themes ran through the presentations: the rapid explosion and importance of social networks, and the fact that people increasingly rely more on each other for information, than on corporations. In fact, it appears that social networks are becoming the new CRM systems (Consumer Relationship Management).

The morning Keynote speaker was Jeremiah Owyang, Forrester Research’s Senior Analyst and Web Strategist. He discussed the present and future of the web and the growing relationship between developers and social networks.

He broke down the timeline of social media into these five eras:

  • Relationships – people connecting — Facebook, My Space
  • Functionality – Social networks using their own widgets and apps like Scrabulous
  • Colonization – Every website is going to become social
  • Context – contextualized experience based on universal IDs
  • Commerce – Communities will begin to define products and services

Maybe you thought the film, Minority Report, was science fiction. Well, think again because with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) the virtual world and the real world are merging. Owyang described how if your mobile device has your Facebook identity in it, you could be emitting that signal using BlueTooth or any other device. In the near future, a monitoring scanner could pick up your signal, know your profile, and serve up contextual product information on a near-by digital display.

Already, Volkswagen can ask for your Twitter name, do a quick scan of a couple dozen recent Tweets, and based on the subject matter serve up information about the right vehicle model to suit your lifestyle. It’s just the early stages of a new social contract.

Katherine Dunham, Hewlett-Packard’s VP of Marketing for the Imaging & Printing Group, stressed the power of the word “and.” It’s no longer a case of either/or, (blogs v/s newspapers or smart phones v/s pcs.) She said it’s the job of marketers to harness all the tools available to reach the right customer with the right message at the right time and in the right place. That means leveraging the trends, engaging bloggers, encouraging user-generated content, and integrating digital media and conversational marketing into the mix.

Sheila Tolle, Intuit’s VP of Marketing for the Small Business Group seconded that message with her presentation, the title of which summed it up nicely: Combining eCommerce & Community: It’s a New Normal . . . And, There’s No Going Back. She agreed that the new normal in consumerism is the power shift that’s allowed the individual’s voice to be heard. She urged everyone to listen in at Twitter, blogs, and forums and to become part of the online communities that your products serve.

Lisa Welchman, owner of WelchmanPierpoint, gave a few tips on dealing with the frustrations of maintaining a web presence while balancing the needs of marketing, IT, budget and the C-Suite. Her recommended options:

  1. Keep doing what you’re doing until the C-Suite “gets” it.
  2. Stay put, but make changes in a systematic way because web governance and standards enable collaboration, usability and measurability.
  3. You’re smart! Get yourself into the C-Suite as the Chief Web Officer so you can make things happen.

Johan Jervoe, Intel’s VP of Creative & Digital Marketing Services, pointed out that while technology is changing how we connect, the basics of human interaction are still the same. Using the model of a medieval town square, the five underlying reasons for connection are still self-expression, connection, information, entertainment, and commerce. He also recommended getting everybody at the table to share ideas — “it’s a revolutionary democratization of content creation.”

Duane Schulz, Vice President of Interactive Marketing for Xerox Corporation. With a presentation title like, Integrating Your Digital Marketing in the Age of Information Overload, he warned about individual departments measuring corporate success just by measuring within their own silo’s benchmark. You have to cross over into another silo even if it challenges accepted success metrics. Focus on establishing standards so branding is the same across all departments, ad agencies, and media.

Chris Dill, Portland Trail Blazers’ Chief Information Officer and CIO of the Year winner said one of the primary marketing tools at the Trail Blazers is their CRM system. It’s essential for managing the stats of their season ticket holders and fan base. But you can also see Chris’s latest work first hand at an upcoming Blazer game — Dynamic Digital Signage. Rotating themed menus and directional and event information will be placed throughout the Rose Quarter on up to 800 digital display screens.

What are the challenges we face in the changes that have already happened as well as the future changes that are quickly approaching? Privacy is clearly a major concern. Then there’s the risk that we may simply burnout on social networking. What if we stop caring what everybody else is doing or thinking? Not to worry. By then we’ll have discovered new ways to stay connected and you can come to a future Internet Strategy Forum Summit for answers.

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