Marketing is all about perspective. You have to be able to see the world through your customer’s eyes, but you also have to get your message in front of their eyes. Both of these tasks – seeing as they see and allowing them to see what you have to say – require increasing technological sophistication every year.

More and more, the role of the CTO is becoming fused with that of the CMO, creating the need for marketers with IT prowess. The flash and charisma of Don Draper in Mad Men remind us of an era that is quickly disappearing. Ideas are still as important as they ever were, but now “creative” cannot stand on its own. Rather, the brain-children of marketing teams require intricate technological execution.

So long, Draper. Call in the computer geeks. It’s time to run a campaign.

Striking a new balance with customers

Sheryl Pattek of Forrester Research analyzed how technology is changing the marketing game in detail, drawing on her own personal experience. Pattek mentions that when she first became an executive, technology was involved in marketing efforts; however, a marketing professional didn’t need to consider the specifics of the technological side. Now, having seen the light (or the glow of the screen, perhaps), Pattek gave a series of speeches this year on how her role is changing.

The reason that technology has become so central to marketing, from Pattek’s point of view, is that transitioning to the new, hyper-digital world in which we live “changed the balance of power, putting customers in charge.”

There is certainly truth in what Pattek says, at least in terms of digital media versus print or broadcast. In many ways now, the customer creates their own journey along the way. Marketers must be tech-savvy enough to think of clever ways to offer value along a journey so that the customer will turn and give their undivided attention (well, at least, closer to undivided).

What makes Pattek’s basic thesis particularly eye-opening is that she believes the move toward technology is no longer a choice for a marketer. Rather, marketers are now technologists; that shift has already been completed. To stay on top, a marketing chief must dominate that terrain, even if it feels a little uncomfortable.

Pattek also references a poll of C-level executives conducted by The Economist regarding marketing and technology, noting that 20% of CEOs place technological aptitude among the three strengths necessary to be a successful CMO. If Pattek’s assessment is correct, CEOs still may not understand how blended the two fields have become.

Finally, regarding Pattek’s article, it’s important to note – as she indicates – that technology is not just about touching the customer. It’s also about gathering and understanding data. We live in an age in which performance is often directly measurable. The pool of Big Data is invaluable to rethink content and approaches, and every tool and advancement like VPS hosting greatly increases our ability to maximize this cutting-edge technology.

The keys to the technological kingdom

Last week CIO looked at this same issue. The message of the CIO is essentially the same as Pattek’s: climb aboard the technology train, or it’s leaving without you.

CIO references a widely covered study in the marketing and technology worlds because it describes a similar power shift to that described by Pattek. Pattek argued that the customer is taking the reins from businesses. It would seem that the gist of this article is that technology is, in a sense, taking the reins of marketing. Strangely, though, it’s the reverse.

The Gartner study, released in January 2012, found that CMOs will have more tech buying power within four years than CIOs do. In other words, the rise of technology within the marketing field is not really about marketers glumly accepting a new responsibility. It’s about marketers (at least those marketers who have proven their technological expertise) attaining greater control over the tech side of the company.

In the article, Rona Borre, founder of Instant Technology (a consulting and placement firm), mentions that she doesn’t think the “traditional” marketer exists anymore. Concurring with Pattek, she sees the CMO position as drawing on some of the skills and expertise of the CIO – a nuance that is worth addressing.

Really, the new role of the Chief Marketing Technologist is not about a power struggle in which the CMO is gradually gobbling up the IT portion of the company. Instead, what will really make marketers strong – and companies strong on the whole – is more integrated relationships between the CTO/CIO and the CMO. The more the marketing chief can learn from the technology and information chiefs, and vice versa, the more impressively and efficiently the technological infrastructure and knowledgebase will drive ROI.


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By Moazzam Adnan