Chief Marketing Technologist: The Marriage of Marketing and IT—a match made in heaven or not?


Just as CMOs are coming into their own they are facing a new challenge. Being a marketing guru is no longer enough, now you’re expected to be a technology whiz as well. Many senior level marketers are finding they have a gap in their skill set leaving them poorly equipped to lead a modern marketing organization.

This leaves CEOs and executive recruiters at a crossroads in finding the ultimate marketer, the elusive Chief Marketing Technologist. What’s more important to an organization, decades of marketing know-how or the ability to define and manage the technology that powers modern marketing? A recent survey by recruiting firm Spencer Stuart found that 70 percent of senior marketing leaders believe that creativity is just as important as analytical ability, but only 19 percent felt their teams hit that balance. That’s a big gap and the only way to fill it is for hiring managers and CMOs to adjust what they look for in a candidate based on the needs of the company. They must break down the siloes and embrace how these individual channels should work collectively.

Statistics by Gartner predict that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CTOs due to the growing demand for high-tech marketing. Some of these tools, such as marketing automation, customer analytics, and managing the advertising technology stack require skills that previous hires don’t possess, simply because they didn’t need them. However, technology is evolving faster than organizations, and CMOs are struggling to keep up with hiring those who can prove ROI through technological solutions and assessment.

As an industry, we are finding that there is a general lack of knowledge within our ranks simply because of this rapid pace of technological advancement. Due to the demands of a constant game of catch-up, today’s “ultimate marketer” hasn’t surfaced and the CMT may be a pipedream for now. There is an entire crop of this new breed of marketer in Millennials. They have grown up professionally in a world where marketing and technology are one and the same. However, they lack the years of experience to manage a multi-million or billion-dollar organization. Conversely, there is a generation of marketers with decades of experience who are trained in classical brand marketing, but they lack the technology background to be this new uber marketer.

Many large organizations staff their CMT role with technologists that understand and manage the stack powering marketing and advertising. This is a very literal interpretation of the role.  The CMT to me is both marketer and technologist. These two things must merge to drive organizations into the future as everything that can be automated will be automated. The CMT will navigate the ever-evolving waters where marketing and technology are one, which presents the problem of finding senior level hybrids to fill the breach while the next generation of marketers matures.

We see this struggle first hand with organizations that try to manage the entire advertising tech stack internally. It’s a difficult job, and even more so when we consider the constant evolution of technology. David Roman, senior vice president and CMO of Lenovo said “the risk is that we get so caught up in the data and the analysis of it that we lose sight of the objective.” The objective being to engage with consumers to provide them products and solutions that make their daily lives enjoyable. This tunnel vision on technology completely forgets the art of marketing. We’ve become so focused on the science the art is being left behind.

To find the best fit for their organization, especially in this time with titles like “Director of Programmatic” and “Yield Manager” floating around, and lines blurred around the requirements for each position, hiring managers must consider the following:

  1. Is this person fluent in marketing AND technology? And do they know how to bring these together to achieve our business goals?
  2. Do they ask questions about the big picture and overarching strategies?
  3. Do they understand the technology our vendors are using?
  4. Do they have the capacity to analyze and measure data and translate that into programs that capitalize on the data and drive greater returns?
  5. Are they flexible and eager to keep up with new technologies, but still enchanted by the romance of advertising?

With marketing and IT decisions so closely related, this hybrid CMO-CTO role will create new efficiencies in the workplace and drive marketing programs at a scale never seen before. However, to get past this hurdle, organizations must understand that the true success in marketing lies in the human element. The human element extends beyond technology to imagination and vision that only a human can provide. To remain relevant organizations must move beyond their tried and true methods and embrace the new face of marketing enabled by technology. Those organizations that succeed will do this, but they won’t forget what makes marketing and advertising magical, the people behind the technology.

 Glenn Humble is currently the Marketing and Communications Director at Adroit Digital a digital marketing firm that drives performance across channels using technology and industry experts.

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