The CMO and chief marketing technologist: A match made in data heaven?

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.


As marketing becomes ever-more data-driven, the need for technology-savvy CMOs and heads of marketing is increasingly apparent. It’s not a new concern: back in 2012, Gartner said that in five years, the CMO would spend more on IT than the CIO.

Three years hence, the figures may not be bang on, but the trend certainly is. Here’s another, more recent Gartner finding. 81% of large organisations – those who make more than $500m in revenue each year – hire ‘chief marketing technologists’ (CMT). Similar to a CTO or CIO, they advise the CMO and both work together in perfect harmony. In theory, anyway.

Wendell Lansford is the CEO of Offerpop, a brand engagement platform. In his opinion, will there be an alliance between chief marketing officer and chief marketing technologist? Will it eventually become one job? He notes the disparity between the marketing and IT roles. “The IT world and the marketing world are different planets,” he tells MarketingTech. Lansford adds, laughing: “The marketing world is a fast-paced, rapid moving creative area, and the IT world is almost a risk-averse area, where it’s much more about control and managing change at a different rate.

“Then, I guess the chief marketing technologist in larger organisations bridges those two worlds. The direction of the budgets is to the marketing side, but at the same time, as we’ve talked about, the marketing leader increasingly needs to be technology-savvy.”

Lansford argues the role of chief marketing technologist makes sense for larger organisations, as Gartner posited, as opposed to midmarket. “It’s a reflection of how the role of marketing is elevating, how data is underpinning is, and hence the need for technology and technology-savvy marketing skills,” he explains.

It’s all data, data, data – and for some brands, it’s almost becoming too much. Unless they get a liferaft thrown to them sharpish, they’re in danger of drowning in the data deluge. At this moment, you’ll be less-than-surprised to hear, Offerpop has just one of those liferafts. Yet this is interesting. Launched at the end of March, Offerpop’s latest consumer data product to its engagement marketing software allows brands to collect and manage social, behavioural and affinity data that comes their way when consumers engage with them.

Lansford takes up the reins. “We’re building tools and capabilities that marketers need to be relevant to today’s consumers – the mobile and social consumers that fully embrace all of the changes in consumer behaviour that have taken place over the past 10 years,” he says. “Our platform helps brands bring those notions of engagement to their own digital properties.”

As the press material noted, Offerpop is trying to turn digital marketers into data scientists. It’s not an easy task, however. First of all, brands need to be turned on to taking advantage of user generated content. As this publication has previously examined, not all brands are doing this. Lansford argues brands need to relate to their consumers in the way that they want to related to – consumers, not customers. “Brands are in many ways making their customers the centrepiece of their marketing efforts,” he explains. “That comes in the form of things like user generated content, customer stories, consumer photos, videos – creating shopping or branding experiences around that.”

But ay, there’s the rub. Brands already have huge swathes of data about their customers. It’s just too low down the funnel for it to make a difference – conversion data, purchase history and other post-sales data.  Lansford argues there is a shortage of skills out there – if you combine a data scientist with marketing-specific skills, then it’s even more barren. The company has recently been looking for such talent itself, although Lansford wouldn’t go further than saying it was “a tough market.”

This, he argues, is where Offerpop comes in. If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain. “From our perspective as a software company, it really presents an opportunity for us to bake some of that into the product,” Lansford explains. “We very much strive to make it simple in the product. How can marketers, in a very simple way, get access to the data and insights that are meaningful and actionable, and as much as possible, automate them?”

And what of the brand marketing managers, scratching their heads and struggling with their reams of data? Lansford says: “That’s where I think the opportunity lies for brands – to both take their bottom of funnel data, of which they already have a lot and have always had a lot, and join that with what’s happening further up. You can better optimise what you’re doing to drive consumer behaviour, to drive your marketing programmes, optimise them – and anticipate, or predict, the results of those decisions.”

Perhaps the CMO and CMT need their separate job roles after all. But if you don’t have that kind of resource, Offerpop hopes it can provide some answers to the big data crunch.

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