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Adidas CIO plays to win at digital marketing

Elizabeth Heichler | Feb. 17, 2015
Jan Brecht describes how a unified tech-marketing team scored a victory at the 2014 World Cup.

So how do I not just make sure that I keep my applications and data centers under control, but how do I actually leverage the technology that is in the hands of the consumer to engage them for the brand. And that's something IT needs to fundamentally unlearn and relearn, because, again, this is technology we do not have under control. It's not in the bottle, yet we need to connect to it.

Just to give you two examples of that: No. 1 is the ZX Flux, which is a shoe, and there's an app, you can find it in the Apple iTunes store, or on the Android store. Take a picture with your smartphone, any picture you want -- it should be appropriate content -- and then you can project it on your shoe. We make that shoe for you, and you will have the picture you took with your smartphone on your shoes.

Another example, called Snapshot, you can kick or throw a ball, and your smartphone will measure the speed with which you've thrown or kicked the ball. And again, that's interaction, that's not just sending trivial marketing messages, but you engage people with the brand through technology, which is not technology that we have bought, but technology that is in the consumer's hands anyway.

Another area of challenge for CIOs working with CMOs is navigating the vast array of tools sold for digital marketing. Are you developing in-house or buying externally, and who are the interesting vendors?
Brecht: It's mostly external. The pace at which these startups move is very difficult to match internally. So you do go to tools on the market, social media sensing and data analysis in particular. There are new tools every quarter, so in terms of social media sensing, we've probably tried at least eight or ten. We've always had the best tool at the time, but there's another even better tool six months later, so that is changing rather significantly.

What I can tell you is, usually it's not the well-established companies, the big incumbents of the IT industry. And the pure startups are usually a little too fragile, let's say, for a company our size. What you want is companies that are strong at being able to correlate your data. If I can give you one name, there's SAS, a company with a background in statistics research. It's a midsized company, super smart in doing your data correlation, and these are the guys you would want to work with. They're nimble enough to adapt, not as slow as the big incumbents in the IT industry, yet they are not as volatile or as fragile as the startup around the corner.


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