There's a big problem with technology in today's business world. It has nothing to do with how well it works, or how technology has made us all more effective at doing whatever we do every day.
After all, business transactions are now easier and more reliable. There are considerable dollar savings gained through improved speed and efficiency. So there's no going back to counting on your fingers no matter what. But the big problem with technology is abundance. There's more than we can handle right now. To prove this point, let's look at two examples in the business of brand marketing through the retail trades. Take "electronic coupons." These are purchase-triggered paper coupons, or paperless discounts generated at the point of sale and given to shoppers when they check out. The latter can be "clipless" coupons available to members of a shoppers club, or they can be a scan-down or automatic price-off available to everyone. Individually, these options offer strong benefits for the shopper, the retailer and the brand marketer. Collectively, there could be a problem for the manufacturer. Since these options are backed by both consumer and trade promotion funds, coordination of brand objectives could become an issue. In his story beginning on Page 1, Managing Editor James Tenser writes, "Hypothetically, a manufacturer might have more than one electronic coupon for a brand available at the same time, in the same store, but arranged by different managers using different funds."
A big problem? No, but there would be no problem if only one option was available. Now let's look at the big picture. Retailers and brand marketers are now starting to come to grips with the wealth of technology available for their own operations and for their business relationships with each other. In all companies, incorporating technology must come from the top. So how computer-literate is senior management? "When they went through school and worked their way up the organization, they personally did not use technology," said George Garrick, president of IRI North America, in an exclusive interview with Brand Marketing (see Page 11). He said there won't be a flat-out embrace of technology throughout the organization "until you get a generation of CEOs who used PCs as a critical tool going up their own ladder."
In other words, the technology is here, but it won't be used fully until the culture changes. And the culture won't change until the generation changes. There are companies that can't wait, of course, and everybody knows who they are. Procter & Gamble, Nabisco and Pillsbury are some brand marketers on the cutting edge of technology. They and everyone else realize the strategic importance of information technology. It's a critical element for Efficient Consumer Response. It will change the relationship between retailers and brand marketers. It will be the true language of business.