The Time Is Ripe For A Chief Marketing Technologist

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Think about where the world of business is. Think about how much Marketing has changed. Think about how much of that change is due to technology.

When my agency, Twist Image, got started in 2000, there was an issue in the Marketing world: more often than not the website and whatever remedial online marketing initiatives a brand was engaged with were housed within the IT (or technology) department. More often than not, the Marketers of the time were not all that tech savvy and – to be blunt – were terrified of the technology. If the IT department said something was not possible, they simply took that direction as law. Marketers didn’t have the knowledge base or experience to debate it.

That’s where the opportunity was/is.

Our little agency quickly realized that the true Marketing agency of the future would be one that could both work with the technology department by helping them to understand how to best deliver powerful online initiatives, while also working with Marketers to help them be less afraid of the IT department. I jokingly say that "not much has changed in the past decade," but that is just a joke. Sort of. The truth is that the digital divide gap has shrunk, but it’s still far from where it should be.

The technology has advanced. The Marketing has advanced.

Who amongst us is not using technology (on many levels) more and more every day to deliver more Marketing efficiencies to the brands we represent? I’ve been in corporate boardrooms where the online marketing department is tethered into the general marketing department while the online channel of the organization (the website, etc…) is tethered into the IT department. I’ve also seen instances where the online channel stands alone while the online marketing is tethered into Marketing. Confused? You should be? Departmental divisions like this seem logical on an org chart and in planning, but rarely act that way out in the wild.

Bring forth the Chief Marketing Technologist.

While helping to organize a Marketing conference next year, I came across this notion of a Chief Marketing Technologist and it made my ears perk up. In researching the concept further (thank you, Google), I came across the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog by Scott Brinker (by the looks of it, he’s been using the term since 2008 or so). Brinker recently published an article in Advertising Age titled, The Case for a Chief Marketing Technologist (September 29th, 2010), where he states:

"Marketing has become deeply entwined with technology. This didn’t happen overnight; it’s been sneaking up on us for a while. But because technology had been so tangential to marketing management for most of our history, the organizational structure of marketing has been slow to adjust to this new technology-centric reality. But we’ve clearly reached a tipping point. To fully reap the benefits of this Golden Age, marketing must officially take ownership of its technology platforms and strategies. And the first step of such ownership is to appoint someone to lead it. Enter the chief marketing technologist."

It makes perfect sense.

We can no longer continue down a road where IT, Technology and Marketing are not at the table together. We can no longer continue down a road where Marketing is not held to full accountability based on metrics, analytics and results. We can no longer continue down a road where this is not a critical part of the c-suite and how the overall brand and organization operates. We can longer continue down a road where this isn’t a corporate imperative. While the idea of a Chief Marketing Technologist probably didn’t make sense for any organization five years ago, it’s hard to imagine that all of the Fortune 1000 companies are operating without one today.

You have to stop and wonder, why don’t most organizations of size and substance have a Chief Marketing Technologist?


  1. While I’m not against this idea, I wonder how urgently many companies will view this issue considering that many companies are still struggling with the ideas of a Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer. Too many companies still view IT as a supporting role and not enough IT leaders are stepping up to work with Marketing.

  2. Far to often IT isn’t as open to new technology that’s needed for marketing initiatives, a Chief Marketing Technologist with the ability to direct IT will result in very positive outcomes for an organization.

  3. I’m just hoping you are right and that the CMT-age is approaching.
    For a couple of years I worked as a “mediator/translator” between Marketing/Sales and IT. While I had no formal authority over neither CTO/CMO, I acted as the Liason Officer for both which increased our effectiveness quite significantly.
    I constantly hear tales of complaints that the two competencies don’t “get” each other, but there still seems to be few companies ready to embrace the CMT Idea.

  4. Perhaps one of the challenges is that many businesses started off with IT as an operational necessity. The role of corporate IT has therefore been extremely focused on stability, performance, and security — and has evolved into a field of seeing only limitations, and saying “no” just to be safe.
    I like the idea of companies having CMT’s. But if they are under the CMO, they will really need to work hard to gain the trust and respect of the CIO and the whole IT department.
    As someone who often played the bridge role between Communications and IT in large organizations, here are 2 things I try to keep in mind:
    – Prove that your project will not adversely impact critical business systems.
    – Find systems and software with demonstrated strong vendor support. IT likes to be able to call for immediate support if something breaks, and usually doesn’t like dealing with community supported systems or building things on their own that they will need to support into the future.

  5. Excellent point. Apply same excellent discussion to Chief Communication Officer as the conductor of outgoing and incoming messaging via cross-media platforms. Traditional PR separate from new media efforts like Twitter & Facebook makes no sense. Customer service and product development having no interaction with feedback coming in from Twitter & Facebook makes no sense.
    We can no longer continue down a road where the internal corporate structure is at odds with the external flow of information – divided and silo versus interconnected and open. Good point that reaches beyond IT.

  6. Hi, Mitch — thanks for the enthusiastic post. I’m glad to hear that the concept of a chief marketing technologist meshes well with your experience and perspective.
    As I mentioned in the article, not everyone in marketing needs to become a technologist. But having a subset of the marketing team — even just one point person — be truly technology-savvy seems like a big advantage in this environment.
    I agree with some of the other commenters here that such a role will likely have political challenges with IT, and that it will be important for a CMT to reach out to IT to address concerns with security, infrastructure, etc. But a good CMT should have the credentials and credibility to address those issues while still staying focused on the needs and objectives of the marketing team. (For the record, the marketing team doesn’t want security breaches or stability/performance issues damaging the brand either.)

  7. The issue is that the time is well past due. Nothing is ever urgent for business until it’s too late. As you know, we use this Blog as a platform to discuss these very different concepts and issues facing Marketers. Is the idea new? Seems like Scott was kicking it around almost four years ago (maybe more).

  8. If you follow the links, you’ll note that the Chief Marketing Technologist reports directly into the Chief Marketing Officer with a dotted line to the Chief Technology Officer. That type of org chart makes sense to me.

  9. Part of the additional challenge is time. It’s hard to sync up the speed/pace of the Marketing department and the development timeframes of traditional IT departments. Those two roadmaps will need to become that much more agile for this to work.

  10. Having people like you guide us would also be of value. You should be Blogging and Tweeting this stuff up a whole lot more. If we can point both Marketers and Technologists to people like you – from a business case and experience perspective – there is more likelihood for quicker adoption.

  11. Wouldn’t the Chief Marketing Officer have the the head of corporate communications within their mandate already? Or, are you suggesting that we separate Marketing and Communications? I’m not sure I like that idea.

  12. Thanks for coming up with the concept of a Chief Marketing Technologist, Scott.
    I wonder if the initial strike at bringing that role into a corporation shouldn’t be a tag-team effort by the CMO, CTO, CIO? It makes sense to work together in hiring the right individual. In this instance, both departments can insure that the individual has both the competencies and knowledge base to push the agenda forward.
    In doing so, something tells me that the org structure and how inter-departmental teams collaborate could evolve. I like that. I like that a lot.

  13. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been saying for some time now that technology is the driver for change in marketing (closely followed by the changing behaviours that ensue..which let’s face it, are closely tied to our use of technology).
    The reality is, many corporations are still – for whatever reason – reluctant to align the two and siloes still exist. To their detriment. If a CMT is a step too far for some, IT and marketing departments at least need to start talking, learning from each other and – importantly – trusting each other. Where that happens already you’ll see a real advantage. Where it is not happening, there are bottlenecks, misaligned agendas and many, many missed opportunities.

  14. …and in a small company this person might serve dual duty as the CEO or CTO. In that role (s)he might want to read blogs like this one 🙂

  15. I’ve also seen Technologists try to be Marketers (not pretty), and Marketers pushing for Technology without enough knowledge (also pretty ugly). The concept of a Chief Marketing Technologist needs to be created and engaged with great attention and care to the needs of both departments, but beyond that: the greater need of the brand.

  16. I’m doubtful that this role could even exist in a small organization unless it was held as a mutual title. It’s funny to say that, considering that the concept of this role is probably ever-more critical and important to a smaller organization. Think about it: if you’re small and you’re doing Marketing, wouldn’t the best efficiences and results come from leading with this type of role?

  17. In many ways, at my company, that’s what I already am, and I’m sure many people in my situation also see themselves in that light. Thanks for giving it a name (especially one that sounds so snazzy).

  18. Who doesn’t love big, snazzy titles?
    Seriously, it’s well beyond that. We’re talking about c-suite status – which includes optics into overall business operations and management at the most senior level. It’s not just about job function. It’s about having the credibility within the organization to truly lead/affect overall management and economic value.

  19. We’ve lived through this kind of “what can be measured can be managed” era before. This one is the best yet, no doubt. Marketers get more efficient, consumers get more relevance. But I’m not sure the time is yet right to put someone in the C-suite who thinks this way. Putting data-driven managers in leadership roles has always been a risky business (ask anyone old enough to remember TQA, of which the pursuit resulted in brilliantly efficient organizations that couldn’t innovate). But the risk here is much greater because it institutionalizes the notion that marketing is a stimulus/response game. The fact is that technology is a lot better at helping people find things than it is at making them want them, and it’s a lot better at calibrating behaviour than it is at calibrating sentiment. Without desire and affinity, there is no real marketing, and there are no real brands. Without brands, consumers are powerless, and all product categories become commodities. Selling everything would become like selling long distance phone cards is today. This is a truth that techno-monotheism hasn’t really faced yet.
    I still think companies need CMOs, and that marketing technology is an expertise that should serve the marketing agenda rather than create it. This system of ours still runs on desire and social meaning. Until that changes, marketing is going to be an enterprise wide concern, and should be led by someone with an enterprise wide vision.

  20. I don’t know, Mitch. I could see a job like this working out for some, but what’s the difference between hiring a Chief Marketing Technologist and just making your VP if IT and VP of Marketing get along? At some point this new knowledge has to bubble up, right? Does this warrant a new position or an adjustment by those that are in the power to make the types of changes you suggest?
    Is this akin to saying that you need to go out and hire 20 social media specialists because no one in customer service, marketing or sales knows how to use it?
    What makes the top of the food chain any different from the bottom? Help me understand. 🙂

  21. No argument here, and you should dig through the links in the Blog post. You’ll note that we’re not talking about removing or replacing the CMO or CTO. We’re talking about adding a bridge between the two.
    I’d also argue that leveraging technology to make Marketing more effective doesn’t remove creativity or the brand… quite the contrary. For more on that, please check out this Blog post: Creativity In The Age of Analytics:
    Beyond that, Marketing departments are using technology for a lot more than just the Web stuff too.

  22. It’s more about looking at the current competencies of those who currently fill those roles today. Do you think many CTOs understand the needs of the Marketing department? Do you think that many CMOs understand the technology and how it works throughout the organization? I don’t. I think there are some that can appreciate the other side of the fence, but most do not. And, therein lies the challenge.
    This is a Marketing Revolution. If we don’t want to “waste it” (as Seth Godin says), we’re going to need to step-up. This type of role seems like a logical progression and coming together of the two departments.

  23. You’re absolutely right. Now more than ever, departments need to coexist and work in unison to create better business plans and user experiences. As technology and media continue to cross over in other avenues, communication channels and business strategies will increasingly require partnerships among departments. For example, social media has now entered the local-search realm, which means search marketers and social marketers must cooperate to create a unified vision. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  24. Be careful that we don’t spend too much energy on just the consumer-focused side. The technology permeates everything. Looking at Marketing Optimization platforms that help the Marketing department on workflow of all campaigns (not just the digital ones). It’s bigger than web analytics and social media.

  25. I agree — everyone’s in the same organization with the same meta-mission. Collaboration and cooperation across departments should be encouraged as much as possible. And I genuinely believe that a senior marketing technologist can be a positive catalyst for these collaborations, helping to translate marketing-speak and tech-speak and to balance the needs and concerns of each group.
    But, that being said, I do think it’s important for this role to belong to marketing, and not get lost in a no man’s land of all-dotted-line reporting. As you point out in your post, this technology savvy is part of what’s required for good marketing now — not merely the proper operation of technology tools somehow independent of the marketing strategy itself.

  26. For those of us on the agency side, this role would certainly create opportunities to really help organizations embrace technology (long-term) to achieve results (metrics, etc.)
    Educating the client from a technical side, would be less of a factor, which would be the “icing on the cake”. 🙂

  27. I absolutely agree that the CMO is in charge of marketing. I see a chief marketing technologist as simply the CMO’s right-hand person focused on enabling the technical dimension of marketing’s strategy.
    There’s certainly a need for that role to coordinate and collaborate with the CIO and the IT department, but the emphasis of a chief marketing technologist is specifically on the marketing implications of technology — and that’s a dimension that the IT department isn’t really suited for or inclined to address.

  28. I guess my worry in this is more about the realpolitik of it than the potential benefit of a “bridge”. Power tends to concentrate in particular ways in a corporation, and structure tends to be a signal to the rank and file about what matters. It’s in this spirit that I think the idea of separating marketing technology from marketing – even optically – and making them peers on the org chart might be a little premature.
    The funny thing is that I’m actually most critical of CMOs who haven’t bothered to build some basic technology competence. Advising corporate leadership on this stuff today is often a lot like watching a steamship captain at the helm of a nuclear submarine. You have correctly identified a problem, there is no doubt.

  29. Definitely *not* recommending that marketing technology be separated from marketing. Quite the opposite — I think technology management needs to be more deeply entwined in marketing’s gestalt. I propose that the “chief marketing technologist” role would work for the CMO, not be a peer of the CMO.

  30. Very interesting piece and very interesting subject as well! At Bombardier my role and title is Chief Web Officer(CWO). Title is not exactly what you are proposing, CMT, but in essence it goes in the same direction in terms of responsibilities and duties. I am pretty sure large companies will evolve in that direction rapidly, but to my opinion, the main problem with the CMT is the T…Cause then you go directly against(!) the CTO or the CIO field. And as we all know, well at least it is my opinion, the IS-IT’s of this worls are oftenly the ones that are the most reluctant to theses changes because it reduces their power.

  31. I often tell people that you don’t call the postal office to develop your strategy/creative for a direct marketing campaign, so why does the IT team lead the web charge?
    It’s not that the IT team is not important (they’re critical), but lead has to come from Marketing.

  32. This also reminds me of Charlene Li’s new book, Open Leadership. We are quickly moving to a different dynamic when it comes to organizations, how they’re structured and what that “power base” really looks like.
    Don’t stomp on my dreams 😉 Allow me to live in a Pollyanna world where this is possible… please 🙂

  33. Take a look at what Gunther Sonnenfeld is doing at RAPP. His title is SVP, Director of Experience & Applied Technology at the advertising agency. Granted, it’s not a CMT role, but it’s fairly close. We did an audio podcast conversation together that you can listen to here:—digital-storytelling-transmedia-and-participatory-culture/
    Marketing and technology are already co-existing… we just have to bring them closer together.

  34. Excuse my ignorance here, but is there confusion because we have a Chief Marketing Technologist reporting into a Chief Marketing Officer? In my experience, a chief doesn’t normally report into another chief (they are peers/contemporaries)… or am I missing something?

  35. It’s hard to believe that we see this as a reduction of power, when Marketing does so many different things from the Technology/IT side. In my experience, this disruption comes from the fact that Marketing is moving very fast (with short timelines) while IT tends to grapple with long development cycles, multiple projects and roadmaps that make it challenging to dump something in (and out) on the fly.

  36. Totally agree with your last statement. I guess that’s the essence of my reaction to this.
    The alpha problem we have in marketing today is that senior marketers think technology is someone else’s job, a specialty. I’ve advised (and invested in) enterprises that featured this organizational tension, and it doesn’t end well. By creating the discrete position and making it relatively senior, you let leadership off the hook. I’m living this right now, in fact: the creation of a technology power base in marketing has produced internal competition and dysfunction, a ridiculous ‘old-vs-new’ narrative that just bogs the process down and destroys brand value.
    A CMTO might be a good half-step in some organizations, but it’s eventually got to be cultural.

  37. With Google, Microsoft, and majoprity of big brand companies involved in the brain drain. This role gives them a great platform to hire another great mind. As we have seen in the last couple of years with people like Matthew Papakipos being lured away from Google to join team Facebook. Someone that could boast the skills neccessary to hold a position such as CTO would only strengthen a brand.
    I think you nailed it Micth with this role could begin as a mutual title. With so much changing in marketing and advertsing, it will be more important than ever to have research carried out on emerging platforms.
    The CTO could be responsible for evaluating strategy options, with a strong understanding of app developing in particular.
    With Google TV ready to roll out, Apps are going to be an integral part of marketing and advertsing going forward. The role of apps will continue to grow, supported by social media, and traditional advertsing.

  38. Titles really can be a quagmire, can’t they?
    It sounds like we’ve generally got consensus on this thread around the role itself — which is awesome — but the label rubs a few people the wrong way?
    As an alternative, when I’ve discussed this role with other folks, I’ve sometimes referred to it as a “marketing CTO.” This is analogous to companies where the CIO may have one or more CTOs that report to them — the CIO being responsible for the business of IT, and technology experts providing senior support for that leadership.
    It gets confusing there too because in many product companies, you have a CTO who heads up product development, separate from the CIO who heads up IT. But its important to recognize that a product CTO is typically very different from an IT-based CTO reporting to the CIO.
    I’ve talked to one guy who’s title is VP of Marketing Technology, reporting to the CMO, but collaborating with IT as necessary.
    And on the agency-side, I’ve heard the title VP of Creative Technology used in a similar fashion.
    I’m okay with the notion of a chief marketing technologist reporting to a chief marketing officer who, in turn, reports to a chief executive officer. But if that’s too many chiefs in one org chart branch for some people’s tastes, I’d say pick whatever label suits your organization best. Just make sure someone has the role!

  39. I get you here, Mitch. It’s a bit frustrating that the online marketing community has been clamoring for the convergence of marketing and technology (I believe the best articulated argument came from your blog) and yet the movement is so slow!
    Do we have to go out and create all these new positions or can we just simply say to our CMOs and Marketing Managers that it’s time for them to be more technical?
    Maybe you’re right though. Unless the responsibility is clearly within someone’s job description, it may never happen.

  40. Great idea…and I really wish I could afford one right now. We are a small company so this guy is me. We were looking at a product this morning that I would love to be able to replicate that had to have been was produced by 5 pros: photographer, graphic artist, writer, industry specialist and technology specialist. Your CTO would be whip.

  41. They have to have the knowledge and skill-set to deliver. Bottom line. You can’t tell a CMO to learn how the email marketing server operates. It has to be a part of their DNA and – to be perfectly honest – maybe it shouldn’t be… that’s the role of Chief Marketing Technologist now.

  42. We always fall into the titles/semantics debate… were it not for that, why Blog in the first place? 😉
    I think all of these options do one thing: open our eyes, ears and minds to this amazing opportunity that is now in front of us.

  43. … and let’s not forget about the backend technology that drives everything from ordering hats with logos on them to the technological infrastructure that is required to produce, deliver and put “on the floor” the in-store marketing needs of some of the biggest retailers.
    This role and this technology is much bigger than apps and websites.

  44. It continually amazes me how the organizations I work with fail to implement systems and processes to help them truly understand their business. They have strong sales and operations teams but little sophistication around understanding what tactics, channels or stratgies are driving their business forward and which are holding it back. There are always opportunities being left on the table due to a lack of basic tracking and customer / market intelligence. Sounds like a great time to think about a Chief Marketing Technologist!

  45. I have to agree, but I had it easy as my company specializes in marketing solutions which are specifically centered on innovative technologies.
    I think nowadays it’s becoming increasingly impossible to have your marketing side ignore the technology one, both because more and more often the marketing solution itself IS a a technologic one, and because, as you mention in another comment, marketing departments are in constant need of technology tools to manage their workflow and increase their efficiency.
    The *why* more organizations don’t integrate these two departments in a more seamless way in my opinion is simply because changes like this, especially in monolytic companies, are scary as hell. When you are used to do things in a certain way, it’s hard even for an individual to change habits. Multiplied for the hundreds of people forming a big company, that’s where the real problem comes out.

  46. It reminds me of this quote from Avinash Kaushik, the analytics evangelist at Google and author of Web Analytics – An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0:
    “The Web has been around forever and yet it is not in the blood of the executives who staff the top echelons of companies. Make no mistake, they are smart, they are successful and they want to do better. But the web is such a paradigm shift that if it is not in your blood it is very difficult to imagine its power and how to use it for good. How do you demand innovation & creativity & radical rethink if you can’t imagine it?”

  47. How true this is! I’m currently enrolled in a Certificate in Technology and Communication program offered by UNC-CH’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. The school also just launched a Master’s in Technology and Communication. UNC-CH is looking ahead, just like you are, and realizing how integral technology now is to marketing and communications.
    (By the way, I highly recommend UNC-CH’s certificate and master’s programs. They’re both completely online!)

  48. Finding that right balance of technical savvy and marketing know-how could prove to be a major challenge. In web analytics, we are constantly in search of these balanced candidates. Finding candidates with even broader and deeper knowledge will prove to be even more challenging. Any thoughts on how to uncover these folks? Or better yet, how to develop these skills in potential candidates?

  49. You’re right. Were not just going to waive a wand and have this role. We need people with that cross-functional skill-set. After that, we’re going to need to bring this into the organization for additional training. Let’s not forget about education at post-secondary schools as well. That’s a tall order, as we’ll need to train the educators as well.

  50. Thanks for the nudge! I was long overdue for a blog post, so I just did another one on the topic of bridging Marketing and IT. There’s definitely more to be said, though, so I’ll definitely be coming back to this space again.

  51. Fascinating discussion. I just wrote about some similar issues for Information Week, where we look at these issues starting from the IT side of the house, since our readership is CIOs. Did everyone see the recent CMO Council report on this topic of the marketing and IT relationship? I wrote about it here (, and felt the report reveals a real strained relationship between IT and marketing. Some data points from the research:
    * 46 percent of marketing executives do not agree that their company’s CIO understands marketing objectives and requirements.
    * Nearly two-thirds of marketers report challenges implementing marketing and IT solutions, citing the lack of priority given to marketing by IT as the chief reason.
    * Only one-fourth of marketers consult enterprise IT, contact center, and back office groups in selecting and deploying marketing solutions.

  52. Agree completely – it guys have way too much say in how technology is leveraged in business and many co’s I see end up implementing half assed solutions that do nothing for the business at all.
    Cmt is a great concept but many companies are way too far away from realizing they need a CIO and understanding how marketing actually works before they get this concept v

  53. Chief marketing technologist is a very important position, but are there many specialists in this sphere? Why can’t a technologist take that place? I think he can after having a course on marketing, so that he better understands it.

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