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Why Marketers Will Rule the World

Today I’m delivering the keynote at Marketing Magazine’s 2012 Social Media Conference, and I’ll be speaking about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: that the explosion of customer data provided by social and digital have put extreme power in the hands of marketers, if only you’ll learn how to wield it. We’re entering a new era of big data, automation and the ability to drive business strategy by delivering real-time access to the voice of the customer. One of the questions I’ll be asking is whether your team is ready to let go of decisions made based on “gut feel;” and get ready for the Chief Marketing Technologist, who’s much more of a “quant” than a “qual”. Savvy, forward-thinking marketing leaders who “get it” can position themselves to deliver enormous business value and take a seat at the big table if they can figure this stuff out – and keep up.

The average lifespan of the CMO has increased from 23 months in 2006 to over 43 months in 2012. Forbes magazine suggests this is a reflection of the growing strategic nature of the role – and there’s enormous opportunity to solidify this position by delivering measurable business results, thanks to big data. Technology is playing an important role in this. By 2017, Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicts that CMOs will spend more money on technology than CIOs.

At the moment, however, most marketers are falling down on the job – badly, especially when it comes to technology. A recent survey from ITSMA and VisionEdge Marketingpaints a stark picture of marketers and their ownership of their own technology choices:

•    59% don’t specify marketing technology
•    45% don’t recommend marketing technology
•    46% don’t select marketing technology

This is a shockingly hands-off approach, and one that could very well come back and bite you if you allow it to continue. Just this past weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran a story that suggested CIOs, not CMOs, should be responsible for digital leadership in most organizations. The article predicted that a new role, The Chief Digital Officer, would fall to IT because “IT is everywhere”. Russell Reynolds, one of the world’s top recruiting companies, describes the CDO as  “[someone] who can oversee the full range of digital strategies and drive change across the organization.” (I don’t know about you, but that sounds like something marketing should own).

And it’s not just technology where marketers’ chops are being questioned: it’s also the ability to deliver business and operational intelligence (real-time insight into business performance); two things that are of enormous value to the entire organization, and two things that marketing is uniquely well-positioned to deliver in the digital age because of your access to that same massive data stream.  In July, Oracle released a survey of more than 300 US and Canadian executives that showed 93% of them believe they’re losing revenue because they aren’t able to access or act on information already available to them. And they are missing out on something – the New York Times recently referenced a study of 179 large companies that found those adopting “data-driven decision making” achieved productivity gains of up to 6% – that couldn’t be explained any other way.

So what’s your opportunity? To blend the “Art and Science” of marketing; the art is the storytelling (something you’re so very good at) and the science is the technology and strategic business value that you can deliver by leveraging big data generated by social media and other customer interactions online. This is a wellspring of fantastic intelligence, if you have the technologies and skillsets to process and analyze it. In Inc. Magazine, Brian Halligan recently described it as delivering to a “segment of one” – think about sites like Netflix and Amazon, which use a combination of individual leverage (the more I use the site, the more it learns about me) and group leverage (the more people like me use the site, the better the site can predict what I may want or like) to deliver a better customized, higher-revenue experience.

There are many examples of marketers who have leveraged big data in order to deliver business value. Steve McKee, who writes for BusinessWeek, has written about how his team took a look at simple web metrics and their relationships, the increases and decreases in media buys, and used that data to increase the effectiveness of a clients’ media spend by 9%. Pamplin College in the U.S. did a large-scale study to see what the relationship was between social media mentions and automotive recalls, and found a direct, predictive connection.

One of the biggest challenges behind turning social media data into business and operational intelligence is the need to make structured and unstructured data play nicely together (structured data is the stuff that’s easy to put into a database – often things like sales numbers, or numbers of clicks; things that are easy to count and don’t require any interpretation. Unstructured data, however, are text-heavy, things like conversations and facts. Unstructured data is irregular and requires analysis to be understood by everyone – it’s complicated). This will require skillsets you are unlikely to see in a typical marketing department today (unless you’re Target). McKinsey predicts that in the U.S. alone, right now there’s a need for 200,000 people with skillsets in data analytics. And the way you attack data will also need to change; Avinash Kaushik, Google’s digital marketing evangelist says that the ideal breakdown for big data resources should be 15% data capture, 20% reporting and 65% analysis. At the moment, for most of us, that’s flipped, with most resources devoted to capture and very little to analysis and actionable insight.

So what’s next? Like many others, I think it’s the age of the Marketing Technologist – the person who, in the words of Scott Brinker, is “Someone who has a hybrid between business and technology, a strong background in engineering and IT, is an early adopter of technology, but someone who also understands the pragmatic realities of scaling technology. But most importantly, someone who brings those skills and combines them with a deep love and passion for the marketing mix. This is a technologist that reports to the CMO, not the CIO.”

What do you think? And, even more importantly – are you ready?


Join The Conversation

  • Jan 21 Posted 4 years ago tlachi

    The new business need intelligence, analysis and creativiy... with this skills is complicated have a clear vision to generating opportunities.

    We're living a big callenges with our economy arround the world, is fundametal every enterprise have a good marketing talent now.

  • Dec 6 Posted 4 years ago AcquisitionCX

    Having worked with global enterprise marketing I completely disagree with this article. Enterprise marketing organizations are drowning in irrelevant data generated by social listening. Even if they can make sense of it, its either too late to act on or the organization is unable to take action because they don't know what to do. We've become enchanted by the siren's song of big data and social media as the holy grail of insights. Rubbish. We're lost in technology and data and have forgotten what matters.

    You can't use organizational prodiuctivty as a rationale to shift to marketing technologist. Improving your organization's productivty is a price of entry as a leader but a CMO has a mandate to improve business success by acquiriing new customers and helping to keep current customers loyal and spending more - not to take over IT function. Be aware of it? Yes. Be able to leverage IT to deliver your mandate? Hell yes.

    Do we honestly beleive this can be accomplished by moving further away from the human side of marketing towards technology and data? A senior marketing leader exists to make gut instincts that are strategically focused on improving the success of the business. That is integral to their leadership and a huge part of their value to the enterprise. A shift to quantitative marketing technologist is actually the death of the CMO, not the rise.

    Certainly a CMO must have quantitative talent and deep capability within the marketing organization, but the easier road to harnessing that power is to build bridges into IT and the CIO - to help enable a more social enterprise rather than a conflicted one. A CMO needs to work on enabling action on insights gained through both quantitative and qualitiative sources to make better decisions and be a better leader in the enterprise.

    Removing gut instinct? You remove the strategic value a seasoned leader brings to the table. Same old rules apply... focus on the fewest things to make the most difference.

  • Dec 4 Posted 4 years ago KevinHorne

    please - more blue/hot links in your article !!!!  or just spray paint the whole thing blue so we can read it....

  • Dec 4 Posted 4 years ago Joseph Tlachi

    This article have great information about what's happening and what is going to happen.

    I think having a strong analytic capacity gives the opportunity to planning and describe better what's going to be your next step. For marketers, is so important have twice capacity, one of this the creativity and another analytical-innovation.

    One thing is clearly true, technology is the way to do business and develop knowledge about our customers and ourself.

  • Dec 4 Posted 4 years ago MDwebpro (not verified)

    Resourceful passage Fox.Marketing forms an integral strategy in any organization and therefore doctors cannot ignore it.


    Erick Kinuthia


  • Dec 4 Posted 4 years ago Toni_Keskinen

    I totally agree. Managing marketing is about managing company and the other way round. CMO has liquid budget enabling customer interface development and adaptation to customer behavior. This money can deliver agile customer experience and brand not just advertising. The new role of CMO is very different now. Check out

    The new Do or Die for CMO is very much about management of customer interfaces The customer interaces equal customer experience. Its a brave new world and there a lot for CMOs to do. In my opinion, this is much more interesting and rewarding world than the one way history :)


  • Kent Ong's picture
    Dec 3 Posted 4 years ago Kent Ong

    It is double-edged sword. If a marketer doesn't have good intention, it is no good for the world.

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