The Marketing Strategist:

Why Marketing Needs a Chief Technologist

May 5, 2011

When ITSMA declared 2010 the Year of Marketing Transformation , one of the major changes we saw was marketing’s transition to becoming a data-driven organization—making decisions from hard data rather than the gut. Of course, being data driven also means that you must be technology driven. Marketers use technology to manage marketing operations, reach target audiences, and communicate the benefits of products and services. Managing all this technology is becoming too difficult for marketing to handle without resident experience, says Scott Brinker, president and CTO of ion interactive. Brinker argues that marketing needs a chief marketing technologist. ITSMA:Scott, are you saying that marketing needs its own IT department? Brinker: Not exactly. However, I believe that the marketing department needs a marketing CTO or a chief marketing technologist. The marketing CTO would report to the CMO, not the CIO—although he or she would certainly collaborate with the IT department. This person would be a technologist, with a strong background in software and technology management. But his or her focus, passion, and allegiance would be to the marketing mission. Resources that used to be begged, borrowed, or bought would instead become a native part of the marketing organization. If you don’t ascribe anything mystical to technology and simply treat it as a talent and skill set of the new marketing—part of the natural shift from old media to new media—then this is a completely logical move. The marketing CTO is the person who combines marketing vision with technical depth. Ultimately, the goal of the marketing CTO is to enable the CMO to wield technology as a strategic marketing capability. That being said, I still think IT should have governance over the things it knows best—for instance, security standards. But part of that governance needs to be recognizing different classes of security (e.g., social media software shouldn’t be treated with the same iron-clad control as customer financial records) and enabling more distributed leadership for application-layer technology. So, within guidelines overseen by IT, a chief marketing technologist and his or her team would lead most of the adoption and operation of marketing software applications. ITSMA:How would you suggest that CMOs go about lobbying for their own group of technologists? Won’t the CFO and CEO see this as a potential duplication of resources? Won’t they say that the CMO needs to work harder to get what he or she wants out of the existing IT organization? Brinker: First, this is largely a “net new” set of technology demands. This isn’t about taking existing resources away from IT, and it’s not about duplicating them. It’s primarily a need for new resources. If there’s a tradeoff in resources, it’s largely inside marketing, which increasingly has less need for legacy resources in print advertising, direct mail, event marketing, etc. Those channels are being superseded by digital alternatives. Second, marketing must understand—deeply—how these technologies work (and work together) to apply them effectively in creative and agile ways. They can’t outsource or delegate that know-how in driving modern marketing campaigns. To achieve that, marketing must incorporate the native technology talent on its team. It’s not for the sake of doing the kind of work that IT has traditionally done; it’s for the sake of doing an entirely new kind of marketing that uses software and data as a creative medium in its own right. Marketing technologists are a function of an evolving marketing department more than a reflection or referendum on IT. To learn more about the chief marketing technologist role and to discover the two other major changes marketing must make to support the data-driven organization with technology, read the ITSMA Viewpoint, Do You Need a Chief Marketing Technologist?

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