Blake Cahill, Head of Global Digital Marketing at Phillips, is unequivocal about the importance of understanding today’s fast-moving mobile and social technologies.

‘As a marketer,’ he says, ‘if you don’t understand those technologies well and how they’re being used by relevant audiences, it’s going to make it incredibly tough for you to do your job well.’

And he’s right. Indeed it’s no surprise that, as technology becomes ever more central to the marketing role, many businesses are now seeing the need for a special kind of professional who can bridge the gap between marketing and IT.

Of course there are already people applying technology principles to marketing under a variety of job descriptions: marketing operations, digital strategy, conversion optimisation, growth hacking and so on.

But it is increasingly clear that we are currently witnessing the emergence of a quite specific new breed among marketing professionals – the marketing technologist.

And it’s significant that most businesses embracing this new trend underline the importance they attach to the role by appointing a formal Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT).

As marketing technology enthusiasts, we view this promising future with excitement. We look forward to the emergence of new talents, people who will revolutionise the marketing landscape, changing the behaviour both of consumers and marketers.

These individuals will be the pioneers of advanced marketing technology, with a keen understanding of how products or services can be aligned with the company’s overarching marketing objectives.

It’s interesting that many of these emerging CMTs are coming up from a marketing operations and digital strategy background.

It seems that automation of so many of the processes that marketers had to execute manually in the past is increasingly encouraging marketing operations people to eye up the career possibilities of a marketing technologist’s job. 

So what does a CMT actually do? 

CMTs play a critical role in selecting, evaluating and choosing marketing technology providers to match the organisation’s needs. So the job is part creative, part strategy and part technology. 

Scott Brinker, who writes a blog at chiefmartec.com, believes CMTs don’t see marketing as discrete disciplines.

To them, technology is simply the clay from which modern marketing is sculpted. Marketing technologists have fundamentally changed the capabilities of the marketing department. They’ve cured it of blind co-dependency on IT and external service providers. They’ve helped integrate technology into the bones of its strategy and tactics. They’ve made marketing tech-savvy.

Brand marketing is already powered largely by technology. Everything digital is controlled and managed by software – from digital asset management and social media analytics to web content and CRM.

By 2018, digital is expected to capture about a third of advertising budget worldwide. So the marketing technologist role is going to be a critical investment for many big companies in the next decade. Research figures on the CMT trend provide food for thought:

  • Businesses with a CMT spend 11.7% of revenue on marketing technology, compared with 7.1% for those with no CMT.  
  • Those that have the CMT role will spend 30% of their marketing budget on digital marketing, compared with 21% for those who don’t.
  • 92% of companies with a CMT have allocated money from their marketing budget for innovation.  

I see marketing technology from both sides – both internally and externally. I believe that in order to improve marketing performance, technology shouldn’t be used solely to collect market data.

It has to play a critical role in improving efficiency, saving time on low-level admin tasks and encouraging team members to learn more about the brands. Marketing effort should be invested in strategic thinking and developing execution plans, while the process tasks are taken care of by software. 

There are five critical qualities that single out the successful marketing technologist:

  1. A combination of marketing strategic thinking and deep technology understanding.
  2. A clear understanding of the organisation’s overall mission, how this should be communicated through marketing and an ability to apply technology strategically.
  3. A wide knowledge of the marketing technology stack, plus the ability to identify and select technology solutions (a tall order these days, see e.g. this landscape chart from Scott Brinker.
  4. An ability to educate fellow team players on the latest technology in order to raise levels of expertise.
  5. Sound general management skills, in order to manage change effectively.