The rise of the marketing technologist

marketing technology word cloudInternet years are like dog years: time seems to move faster, change is more constant. We’ve all experienced that dizzy feeling when our understanding of online has to shift in a new direction.

When we established our technology agency Techdept, 10 years ago this week, the worlds of tech and creative marketing were poles apart. Like Mars and Venus. I was the creative marketing type, my business partner Rick was the techie.

Yet we’ve seen our worlds merge in that time, to the point where it’s difficult to say where marketing ends, and technology starts. To say you’re one or the other seems increasingly difficult.

This trend has really picked up pace in the last two years. Chief executives, marketers, creatives and entrepreneurs now understand that the geeks aren’t in the back room, they’re running the world. The big beasts today are Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon: all are built on smart tech.

We’re in the middle of a new industrial revolution that’s on a par with the first two (of mechanisation, and then mass production). It’s a digital revolution: the Brunel’s of today are building the cloud infrastructure, the apps that run and record our lives, and next generation internet access.

We’re in the middle of this digital revolution, so it’s still all to play for. Those that connect the worlds of creative marketing and technology will reap the biggest rewards, striking gold in this modern day gold rush.

Correspondingly, we have seen the importance of technology increase across every corporate department. Gartner analyst Laura McLellan recently predicted that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than their counterpart CIOs.

The more innovative brands and agencies now employ creative technologists, a new breed that requires the understanding of both the possibilities and practicalities of digital.

However, as much as the digital revolution is full of promise – it is also full of danger. And so the marketing technologist role is born: to help navigate this brave new world, making the most of the opportunities and avoiding the pitfalls.

The role is complex and requires a deep understanding of the technology landscape (current and emergent), of business strategy, creative ideas and the available marketing channels. And all of this must be measured, with activity tracked against ‘actionable metrics’ to fine tune future activity and investment.

One of the main problems brands face is finding a person that can actually fill the role – some talk of the CTO and CMO role merging in the near future. There are very few true marketing technologists, and this will mean rising salaries as companies compete to recruit them.

As the digital world is constantly changing, any tech-focused role becomes a real challenge. To keep up we must learn every day, be open to new ideas and working with others.

As philosopher John Hagel says:
“Since there are far more smart people outside any one organisation than inside, gaining access to the most useful knowledge flows requires reaching beyond the four walls of any enterprise.”

Hagel hits the nail on the head: it is only through collaboration that we can truly stay ahead of the curve – no one has all the answers. So the lesson is to openly embrace this brave new world, this third industrial revolution. Because one thing is for sure – it’s a world built on technology.

Dan Kirby is the chief executive of Techdept