by T.J. Graven

IT and Marketing Mix Well for Beverage Maker

Aug 27, 20143 mins
IT Strategy

The CIO at Brown-Forman, a wine and sprits maker, says that IT and marketing find they have lots to learn from each other. 

Digital marketing is relatively new in the beverage alcohol industry. It was once a tiny percentage of the marketing budget, but some brands — ike our Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey — now rely heavily on the digital aspect of ad campaigns.

Because we have a lot of digital natives on our teams, our IT organization has a solid awareness of how consumers interact with our brands in the digital space and can provide meaningful insights to our marketers.

Turning to Tech to Understand Customers

While we’re not equipped to teach our marketers how to market, we can help them understand technology, the technographic behavior of consumers, and where our messaging should appear. When you ask a digital native how they interact with brands, you get a very different answer today than our marketers would have expected just a few years ago.

Our marketing-IT partnership started with marketing asking our technology team to help establish Web development standards for our agency partners. The marketing teams quickly realized it made sense to leverage those digital assets across our portfolio of brands.

Soon, marketing began asking IT more questions, like what consumers were doing with technology and which platforms were seeing the largest growth. Having an internal research group in technology collaborate with the marketing organization has been very special.

It has not been easy, though — IT and marketing speak completely different languages, and we struggled with something as simple as agreeing on what “digital marketing” means. To a traditional technology group, it’s primarily a development effort, whereas to marketers, it’s about consumer touch points. My advice for IT and marketing is to invest the time to understand each other’s priorities. It is not a natural fit, so you must force yourself to do it.

Mix Well With CMO

I am fortunate to have a good relationship with our chief marketing officer, which goes back to earlier days in our careers when we were both in finance. Because we share that background, we can help our organizations work through the barriers and develop a mutual appreciation for each other’s work.

Also, the digital marketing teams report to both marketing and IT. This makes the teams accountable for developing digital material that both meets technology standards and is reusable across brands. It bridges the gap between marketing language and technology realities.

Our director of digital media hosts a quarterly Digital Day, where the digital marketing directors and technology folks discuss opportunities, trends and what our competitors are doing. In that meeting, it is hard to distinguish between the marketing and IT personnel. This was an “Aha” moment to me, because IT’s value was different from what I anticipated.

IT has historically supported marketers with little opportunity to influence them. Technology was technology, and marketing was marketing. But the IT efforts involved with marketing execution have grown in scope, depth and breadth, and marketing is now turning to IT as a partner to help reach consumers in an efficient and effective way. When we realized that our target consumers were walking our own halls with the kind of technology skills that marketers were trying to understand, it was a nice marriage of functions.

T.J. Graven is CIO at Brown-Forman.

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