Tell Me About Your Vision For "CRM"

I recall reporting to an Executive who called CRM a "four letter word". This person felt burned by the failed promises of a movement that may have been ahead of its time (or maybe way behind the times) in the late 1990s.

Maybe things would have been different if CRM were shepherded by marketing folks. Often, CRM was driven by the Information Technology folks, in partnership with vendors selling solutions. All too often, the focus was on "Management", not on the "Customer Relationship".

These days, it gets harder and harder to define "CRM". I believe that's a good thing. Here are examples of "CRM" in the year 2007.
  • The President of Whole Foods talks directly to his customers via a blog, allowing customers to respond to him.
  • Nielsen and Experian enter an alliance to provide "CRM for CPG Companies", promoting use of a series of traditional direct-marketing techniques to traditional brand-marketing organizations.
  • Tamara Gielen writes a great blog about using E-Mail to build relationships with customers.
  • The American Catalog Mailers Association is formed to protect the craft known as cataloging.
  • Google might say they own relationships with customers, by matching customer needs with vendors willing to pay Google the most to meet the needs of a customer.
  • might argue that they provide software that allows folks to manage relationships with clients.
My questions for you, the loyal reader, are these:
  • Do you believe that a "brand" can manage customer relationships? In other words, is the term "CRM" antiquated, given today's marketing environment?
  • If you were building a "brand" from scratch, which elements of "CRM" would you use to build your business? E-Mail? Catalogs? RSS? Blogs? Paid Search? What else?