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The rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist

Looking at the latest marketing technology landscape, you might ask yourself, “How the heck do marketers make sense of all of this?”

Increasingly, the answer is: they have a chief marketing technologist.

A terrific new research report by Laura McLellan of Gartner, How the Presence of a Chief Marketing Technologist Impacts Marketing, confirms that this senior hybrid role — “part strategist, part creative and part technologist” and “broadly the equivalent of a CTO and a CIO dedicated to marketing”— is growing in popularity.

Within large companies — more than $500 million in annual revenue — 81% of them now have a chief marketing technologist role, up from 71% just a year ago. Another 8% expect to add that role within the next 24 months.

Chief-marketing-technologist

Why?

“Every aspect of marketing — from brand, experience design and demand generation, to content marketing, analytics and measurement — is affected by technology,” the report states. “The CMO needs a senior trusted advisor skilled in the art of evaluating and implementing technology-enabled solutions.”

In the 285 companies that Gartner studied, 71% have the chief marketing technologist role report directly to a senior marketing executive. The remaining 29% have the role report to IT. Either can work, but Gartner recommends: “Ideally this position is solid line to marketing, whether the most senior marketing executive, brand or line of business marketing, or regional marketing.”

Of course, there are many variations in titles for this role — the most recent one I’ve heard is SAP’s “business information officer” (BIO) role. But the primary responsibilities are all very similar, with the #1 mission being to align marketing technology with business goals:

Chief-marketing-technologist

According to Gartner, they help senior marketing executives answer questions such as:

  • Who is leading the charge, deciding which technologies to adopt, how they are implemented and at what pace?
  • Even after they are integrated, who will manage their ongoing evolution?
  • Which marketing technology projects should be done in-house, and which through external marketing service providers?

What effect do chief marketing technologists have on organizations? Expanding their research this year, Gartner found several powerful correlations among those that have someone in that role compared with those who don’t:

  • They will spend 11.7% of their revenue on marketing, compared with 7.1% for those who don’t.
  • They will spend 30% of their marketing budget on digital marketing, compared with 21% for those who don’t.
  • They will spend 9.8% of their marketing budget on innovation, compared with 5.0% for those who don’t.

While correlation is not causation, it’s hard not to see the pattern: companies with marketing technology leadership are investing much more than their peers in marketing — particularly digital marketing — to engage with their customers. If you put your money where your strategy is, these companies clearly view marketing more strategically.

Even more interesting, they’re spending nearly 2X as much on innovation in marketing, which includes pilot projects and experimentation with new technologies and techniques. 92% of the companies that have a chief marketing technologist have allocated money from their marketing budget for innovation — as compared to 43% for those who don’t.

Gartner concludes their report:

“If you don’t have a chief marketing technologist, consider the evidence above and strongly evaluate the benefits of creating the role; increasingly only exceptional cases will be able to argue that they don’t need one.”

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