Business Forum: Rise of the chief marketing technologist

  • Article by: ISAAC CHEIFETZ
  • Updated: May 11, 2014 - 12:29 PM

This hybrid executive will be fluent in both IT and marketing and have expertise in both tool kits.

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In a previous column, I described the new executive titles being created to leverage the SMAC revolution — social, mobile, analytics and cloud. Soon after, a friend referred me to a blog dedicated to another of these new roles: chief marketing technologist.

The blog, chiefmartec.com, is written by Scott Brinker, himself the CTO (and co-founder) of Ion Interactive, a Boston digital marketing platform vendor.

So what are chief marketing technologists? They are IT architects who are immersed in marketing to the point where they have expertise in both tool kits. Their role, according to Brinker, is to be the chief marketing officer’s architect and “general contractor” for constructing and continuously enhancing the firm’s digital marketing platform, choosing from among the hundreds of niche technology, data and service vendors available in today’s marketing technology ecosystem.

In some ways, this is a continuation of a long-term trend. In many industries, marketing has long been the single largest consumer of IT resources, particularly for customer relationship management (CRM) and database marketing.

The chief marketing technologist is not just an IT executive embedded in a marketing department. These folks have achieved enough marketing expertise that they don’t need to have marketing strategies and requirements translated to them. They are new-wave enterprise architects, except the enterprise is no longer inside their corporations’ firewall. Rather, the “enterprise” is the complex, ever-changing totality of the firm’s digital marketing platform, composed of digital building blocks all through the cloud, all around the world.

For retailers, the expansion of the digital enterprise is a critical challenge. One can speculate that it could have been a contributing factor to Target Corp.’s recent credit card data breach.

The SMAC revolution has radically changed the nature of marketing and customer interaction. The explosive adoption over the past five years of smartphones, social networks, Big Data analytics and cloud-based software has created, according to Brinker, “The mother of all marketing megatrends.’’ As a result:

“Marketing is taking over the business. In a hyper-connected digital world, everything that a business does — the entire customer experience that it delivers, from the very first touch point onward — is now the scope of marketing.” In other words, marketing is no longer about creating communications to project at a customer, but creating a digital experience for them to immerse themselves in.

“Technology is taking over marketing. Marketing has more software entwined in its mission today than any other profession in the history of computing. Leveraging these capabilities requires new approaches to marketing strategy and management — as well as new kinds of talents within the marketing team.’’

Brinker describes two “metatrends” that present profound cultural and organizational challenges to classic marketing departments:

• The shift from media silos to converged media. “We need to rethink how we’re managing marketing because these silos do not operate independent of each other … We need to think more about how we’re going to leverage technology and put in place certain management processes so that … we’re still coordinated when it comes to effecting customer experience.”

• The shift from rigid marketing plans to agile iterations. “Marketing has a rich legacy of being driven by long-term planners. The problem is that sort of planning is at odds with the ability to adapt and be more flexible to changes in the market. … You still want an overarching plan or vision. … [But] when it comes to executing, you want to leave more white space for priorities to change, for tactics to change.’’

What is the career path for a chief marketing technologist? For now, there isn’t one. The need is new, the role pioneering. The best CMTs I know are curious lifelong learners who have gone back and forth between enterprise architect roles and field marketing roles for marketing service providers like Acxiom or Harte Hanks. Until recently their hybrid skill set was an impressive accomplishment, but not a critical need for a marketing department.

Progressive companies are not relying on serendipity to find these rare individuals. I am working with several of my clients creating structured career paths for moving promising IT architects into marketing roles.

Brinker has written a 40-page e-book, “A New Brand of Marketing,’’ available for free download on his website (www.chiefmartec.com). The book is powerfully and clearly written.

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  • About the authorIsaac Cheifetz is president of Open Technologies, a Minneapolis-based executive search consultancy for information and IT industries. Reach him at isaac@opentechnologies.com or on Twitter at @isaaccheifetz.

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