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Change In Marketing Will Never Be As Slow As It Is Today

MarTech entered the marketing subconscious with a bang ever since Gartner predicted that – in a span of five years, by 2017 – the CMO will spend more on IT than the CTO. Interestingly, the average tenure of the CMO doubled in the past six years.



By Peter Orban

MarTech entered the marketing subconscious with a bang ever since Gartner predicted that – in a span of five years, by 2017  – the CMO will spend more on IT than the CTO. Interestingly, the average tenure of the CMO doubled in the past six years – despite increased expectations of marketing. Is MarTech improving the CMO’s performance? If so, what is the nature of the improvement: tactical or strategic?

I was pondering these and similar questions while attending the second MarTech conference in early April, chaired by Scott Brinker, the creator of the MarTech Lumascape. Based on the presentations and conversations with participants and exhibitors alike, here are few observations.

  • The big change in how marketing operates and fits into the enterprise is not coming – it is here.
  • The foundation of the emerging new marketing function is a combination of internal & external data.
  • Sitting on top of the data is the “decisioning layer,” the intelligence which – combining deep user/consumer insights with business logic and machine learning – provides direction.
  • Finally comes the “execution layer” which carries out the interaction with customers and captures the resulting data generated in the process, feeding it back to the first layer.

David Raab’s presentation about Customer Data Platforms illuminated the new architecture. Corey Craig, HP gave a great example of combining business logic with the understanding of the user journey. Tony Ralph, Netflix, shared a story about building its own execution layer when the one for sale was not good enough.

  • To successfully implement the emerging function you cannot piecemeal it: one needs to adopt systems thinking covering structure, processes, and people at the same time.
  • A new organizational blueprint is emerging incorporating Marketing, IT, and even Sales. It is not a new silo replacing old silos, but a flexible and agile organizational “quick sand” adopting as necessary, frequently in real time.

Laura Ramos, Cynthia Gumbert, and others spoke about a merger between Marketing & IT. Jill Rowley had similar thoughts but related to Marketing & Sales, arguing sales is becoming more social, and marketing is capable not just delivering a lead, but also converting it. Jeff Cram included customer service and the principles of service design to integrate thinking around people, content, processes, and platforms when designing customer experiences. In any case, most in the room thought that – to paraphrase David Packard – IT is too important to leave it to IT.

  • With the death of “the campaign,” processes also need to become flexible, and able to handle exceptions to deliver “uninterrupted experience” – just like a computer program.

Advocating Lean and Agile approaches, Jeff Gothelf, ( underscored the need to combine customer-centric experimentation, data-informed iteration, and humility. Isaac Wyatt pointed out the increasing similarity between creating a marketing and a computer program. According to Pat Spenner, traditional marketing is like an orchestra (or waterfall), while the new one is more like a jazz band (agile).

  • The new org will need new frameworks, tools and trained marketing technologists. The road to this is via culturally fitting experiments pointing to the many variables in the path of becoming a marketing technologist and specifying role of the new MarTech department.

Joseph Kurian, (Aetna) and Saad Hameed, (Linkedin) described their respective journey of identifying or ‘creating’ hybrid talent necessary for their operations.

However, the other big change – a tectonic shift in consumer/customer behavior – was not nearly as much represented on the agenda. Granted, most speakers suggested as a starting point that consumer and user intent is well understood, signal and noise have been separated, and the ingredients of user experience have been successfully isolated/attributed. But only a few actually dissected the benefits of new insights and a deeper understanding of consumer behavior.

Maybe because of the relative scarcity, the few “outside in” sessions were eye opening.

  • With the right consumer insights MarTech can effectively extend the business model of the organization into the digital realm. Also inevitably, return on technology will start to diminish at some point, but return on creativity – rooted in ever improving consumer insights – will not. (Gerry Murray, IDC)

Perhaps it is not surprising that Venture investors interviewed on the closing panel agreed that future investments will target the “decision layer” while the other layers are more likely to experience consolidation.

This tells me that the most exciting days of MarTech are yet to come.

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4 responses to “Change In Marketing Will Never Be As Slow As It Is Today

  1. Interesting article

    Marketing was about exploring and meeting customer’s needs profitably. Is it that still today? I do wonder.

    I think it is revealing how interest in understanding and meetings people’s needs feels like it has been receding from the conversations I read about the future of “marketing”.

    Marketing technology and automation of marketing operations is obviously where the money is at the moment and a shift in focus towards short term ROI on digital communications is understandable because of this.

    And the causality is thinking about people as humans.

    Even the term customer-centric in the context of marketing technology and venture capitalist conversations is a give-away that human needs are not the priority.

    I do find myself increasingly having to pause more and more and ask myself philosophical questions before reading about trends in marketing technology practices, and how these links to the calls for more purpose-driven goals and societal responsibility from businesses.

    Questions like:

    “What paradigm of marketing am I hearing about here?”
    “What does marketing or Marketing mean and stand for these days?”
    “Do we really need to understand people as customers if we can manipulate them to give us their money?”

    Am I becoming a cynic, or is marketing becoming schizophrenic? Or there something else going on?

  2. Interesting observations, Peter. Thank you.

    I do see the MarTech conference perspective as largely viewed through the lens of the marketer. And when you consider the volume of conferences dedicated to “Big Data” in recent years, many of which viewed the same issues, but from an IT perspective, we can’t help but assume that IT and Marketing are inexorably enmeshed.

    I do think that Martin’s comments are on-target. We have heard for some time how digital is finally going to allow us to market one-to-one, with very specific products and messages delivered directly to the appropriate consumer. That had a distinct consumer-centric ring to it. The new MarTech viewpoint, with its focus on behaviors (as opposed to motivations), does give you the sense that the pendulum is swinging.

  3. Interesting to see CMO’s spending passing that of the CTO. Metrics are more available and are needed for informed decisions, or are they. Metrics are used, but are we relying on them too much. We need to integrate our digital and traditional media in order to make the best use of the metrics we use as marketers.
    Slow or fast changes in marketing, either way it will be exciting and fun to see!

  4. Customer decision management and actionable simple execution are where the focus needs to be, no doubt. I’m not surprised that there wasn’t emphasis on behavioral data yet. It requires deep thinking to make it executable (i.e. when it encompasses much more than simple transactional data), and most marketers are stretched too thin to do much more employ reactive marketing tactics. Behavioral data in itself won’t complete the decision layer, it’s only a part of it. Viewpoint data, a new emerging science that uncovers consumer viewpoints is now being combined with behavioral and core data to bring easily executable, cost efficient and dramatic results.

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