Marketing is rapidly becoming one of the most technology-dependent functions in business as digital now plays a crucial role in any marketing strategy’s success. For proof, look no further than the recent emergence of the Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT). Now, with growing power and boardroom influence, the rise-and-rise of the CMT heralds a new and more effective way of structuring, managing and deploying technology in business.

Today’s digital marketplace is a very different place to what the more conventional marketplace was; data is the glue that connects all elements of marketing, together within a marketing strategy, and also with the rest of a company. Marketers have had to become more digitally-aware and IT specialists more creative and marketing-savvy.

The strategic importance of this is demonstrated by the 57% of marketers who deem being ‘digital first’ as a defining characteristic of a great marketing organisation in a recent survey of Fortune 500 companies by GumGum. And the emergence of the hybrid role of the marketing technologist is the direct result.

Consider some of the ways marketing technologists have already extended their influence and you could be forgiven for thinking that marketing is now treading on the toes of IT. For example, data has fuelled the rise of marketing automation with CRM and, latterly, programmatic buying. Meanwhile sophisticated data models have greatly improved customer experience. Yet, data collection is only the beginning. The key is making sense of that data and turning it into actionable insights and tools – something that IT-trained marketing technologists do best.

Marketing technologists also have a central role to play in investment decision-making. Take programmatic. Choosing the right programmatic platform depends on understanding both how ad buying and ad optimisations are performed, and knowing which vendors will ensure your brand communications runs only in ‘safe’ brand environments, such as higher tier websites. Marketing technologists are best-positioned to ask these questions as they understand the technology, how it’s built and any flaws.

Then there’s the cultural impact marketing technologists can have on business planning and processes. Increasingly, CMOs are looking to make their teams nimbler. Yet, as marketing involves the planning and managing capital and resources, a traditional marketer can struggle to be as agile as the current marketplace demands which can slow down innovation. Technologists, by contrast, excel at agility. Software development, for example, involves rapid iteration and constant testing and evaluation – an approach that already influences marketers’ use of A/B testing.

To become truly data-driven, a brand owner must embrace latest generation marketing tools and technologies. And the growing proliferation of software has enabled marketers to more easily purchase and implement technology without the direct involvement of the traditional IT department. Back to GumGum’s Fortune 500 companies survey, and 41% of marketers say they already influence their business’s tech investments and 39% say the same about their company’s CRM.

Chief Marketing Officers are now nearly twice as likely as Chief Information Officers to lead digital transformation efforts within their organisations, according to another survey by Altimeter. Or, to put it another way, it suggests Gartner’s prediction back in 2012 that Chief Marketing Officers will spend more on technology generally than Chief Information Officers within five years is now surely set to come true.

Yet, while all this means an undeniable shift of budgetary power between traditional marketing and IT functions, it heralds anything but a downgrading of the discipline of IT. Instead, a new era in business is emerging driven by the merging of marketing and IT skills.

With the dismantling of traditional silos between marketing and IT functions, communications and understanding between the two disciplines are improving, more effective and agile ways of working are emerging, and mutual trust and respect are being built. All of which is happening under the guidance of a new breed of senior executive with cross-discipline – and, increasingly, board level – perspective as their influence grows across the entire business: the CMT.


By Ben Plomion, chief marketing officer of GumGum