What Makes a Marketing Technologist – Just Technology?

If there is one thing that struck a very strong chord with me in 2012, it has been the notion of MARKETING TECHNOLOGY and a strong need for MARKETING TECHNOLOGISTS in order to enable Marketing in a Digital World (yes not the same as Digital Marketing). The year of course started with a LOT of noise around Responsive Design and Big Data, both covered a reasonable ground throughout the year with some successful executions across brands and organizations but the evolution and recognition of Marketing Technologists, the push to have a Marketing Technology Office in Fortune 500 companies, an acceptance to move a significant portion of the technology budget to a CMO’s Organization has been the biggest game changer for me personally.

After spending almost 13 years at one of the leading digital agencies in the world, strategizing and delivering a sleuth of creative and interactive technology gigs for clients, I have recently moved to take up a Global Marketing Technology leader role at a global CPG organization and have quickly realized the gap and the opportunity for a Marketing Technology Office to drive home the digital & marketing vision for brands. More than an organizational need, it is a mindset shift that is needed to fill the gulf between inception, strategy and conceptualization of a marketing idea AND its actual execution and enablement. It is a shift from the pure black & white and often well-defined and structured world of Information Technology to a more fluid, at times semi-structured and fast paced world of Marketing Technology which is bound to benefit from what I call an mOS – Marketing Operating System .

While Scott Brinker in his blog  8 things every marketing technologist should know discusses core competencies of a marketing technologist from a technology standpoint, there is one element that is very critical to each one of the 8 areas that for me is the foundation of a Marketing Technologist that brings their role & value way upfront in the food chain.

This is the role of Marketing Technology as a Strategy and Marketing Technologists as Strategic Leaders and not just the enablers of an idea or a step that comes once the box has been incepted and designed. For me, a MARKTEING TECHNOLOGIST is “PART CREATIVE, PART STRATEGY, PART TECHNOLOGY”.

Besides the technology skills that need to be part of any marketing technologist’s DNA, a marketing technologist brings a dramatically different mindset, approach & strategic thinking as compared to a conventional IT counterpart or even a traditional marketer, for instance:

Treats Technology as Strategy vs a Commodity

I credit Steve Jobs and the iPod to change the perception of Technology period. From being perceived as an after thought commodity step especially in the marketing and advertising space with a very specific purpose of “executing” an idea TO a very strategic part of the “ideation” process – the role of a technologist has evolved. This shift has changed the dynamics and engagement model between a brand strategist, a creative director and a marketing technology leader, collaborating to incept and “create” the idea. The addition there has been of the marketing technologist who now plays a strategic and innovative role.

In fact I would go on to say that the role of a Marketing Technologist and a Marketing Technology Office is more strategy than execution, the latter being still owned and driven by conventional Information Technology (IT). It is this collaboration and partnership on both sides of the coin that makes a Marketing Technologist an evolved role — on one side it needs the strategic & creative thinking with the brands, agencies and digital strategists to DISCOVER & DEFINE an idea and on the other side, a tight collaboration with IT and Technology Partners to DESIGN & BUILD the idea into reality. A quick illustration of how this collaboration flows through especially in tandem with IT:

Marketing Technology & Strategy
Marketing Technology & Strategy – IT Collaboration
Perceive Technology as anything But a Straight Line

For a Marketing Technologist, technology is not a straight line anymore, it is a recursive, agile and innovative mindset that does not follow the stereo typical “Give me the Business Requirements” – it is a PROACTIVE vs REACTIVE mindset that can carve a vision, strategy and roadmap for a solution from an idea without looking for well defined requirements and business needs. In the digital world where the consumer journey is far more complex, the consumer expectations are soaring high and the technology ecosystem is moving at a faster pace than ever before, the marketing technologist has to stay ahead of the curve and influence the idea and brand strategies using innovative technologies. They “create” requirements and don’t just “take” requirements as inputs.

Not Always about Security, Governance and Creating World Peace

I guess even World Peace starts with one country, one town and one individual – trying to go beyond that at any moment will only remain a theory. It is the same mindset shift from an IT lead to a Marketing Technologist, from thinking strict governance, security and scalability concepts to a more nimble, fast paced, incremental and at times even throw away solutions to meet the needs of an ever evolving digital landscape while still acknowledging the value and relevance of security, governance and other guiding principles of an strong IT organization.

At the end, I think Marketing Technology and folks who will champion the art will continue to evolve, different models and methodologies will be adopted like anything else that goes through an early adoption and maturity curve. One thing is for sure, the concept of Marketing Technology and the breed of Marketing Technologists is far more than a certain type of technology, it is a mindset, a behavior and a way of thinking that we will all learn and adopt with experience.