Written by Dean Takahashi

SAN FRANCISCO — Getting the chief marketing officer and chief information officer of a major corporation to cooperate isn’t easy. But in an age where marketing technology can make a huge difference, it’s increasingly vital.

That was the message of a panel session at VentureBeat’s GrowthBeat 2014 event. Cammie Dunaway, the chief marketing officer of Mexico-based KidZania, said that she teamed up with her CIO to get better real-time information on customers that they could use as the basis for swift actions.

“If you are a CMO and are not excited and engaged with technology, I question how long you will be in the job,” Dunaway said. “It has changed in ways to help your job, and you can use technology to drive top line growth.” Nadine Dietz, senior vice president at the CMO Club and a fellow panelist, agreed.

KidZania creates role-playing theme parks for kids, with 80,000 square feet of space in places like shopping malls. Kids can learn how to be doctors or police officers, and they come back over and over again. KidZania has 16 theme parks around the world.

“We have collected data since 1999, and what is exciting is to use it to shift the consumers’ experience to be more real-time and personalized,” Dunaway said. “We use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for each child and encourage them to join a loyalty program,” Dunaway said.

With that data, KidZania can greet kids by name, wish them a happy birthday, and engage with them beyond the theme park (with their parents’ permission). Kids can come back and see their bank statements and virtual currency earned from their “jobs” in the theme park. All of this use of real-time data required deep collaboration with the CIO, Dunaway said.

“Getting big ideas is the easy part,” she said. “Making it work is where the challenge comes in. Before, queries took a day to run. Data was in different silos. Now we are able to change the experience for the consumer, based on what we know.”

Dietz said that surveys show this collaboration of CMOs and CIOs is a huge priority among executives as companies try to be more customer-oriented.

“It’s at the top of the list,” said Dietz, who is working with Gartner on new research for metrics on CIO-CMO collaboration. “This goes beyond the CIO and across the entire C-suite. It’s about shifting from being product-oriented to being customer-oriented.”

At KidZania, Dunaway said that she and the CIO now go to the CEO together to make their pitch for more investment in technology resources. To get a better understanding of the tech, Dunaway took a class on learning how to write code. “I needed to be able to talk the same language,” Dunaway said.

Click to see more on CIO CMO Crossroads

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