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The CMO’s journey from analogue to digital is only just beginning

Over the past 20 years, chief marketing officers have watched their world change at an unprecedented rate. First came the Internet and the Web, creating a dynamic, new platform for marketing and advertising. Then, just as marketers started to come to grips with banner advertising, electronic commerce, and microsites, we saw the rise of mobile marketing. Then, the explosion in social media upended everything again.

Consider this: Amazon has been in business for just over 20 years and Google for a little more than 15. A decade ago, household digital brands such as Apple, WhatsApp and Twitter did not exist while Facebook was still in its embryonic stage. Each of them has changed the ways that consumers behave surprisingly quickly, attracted mind-blowing market valuations (some place the value of new tech star Uber at $40 billion), and marketers have battled to keep up in their wake.

The train is just starting to gather momentum. In 2014, for the first time, digital advertising will account for more than of 25% of global ad spending. According to eMarketer, companies worldwide will spent $140,2 billion on digital advertising in 2014, an increase of 16% over 2013.

We have seen the role of the marketer change in lockstep with the changes technology has brought. At first, marketers treated digital as a separate discipline, to be managed by specialist digital marketers and their digital agencies. Now, marketers accept they are operating in a digital world. I recently heard a CMO say: “We are not digital marketers, but marketers in a digital world.”

That’s a great ethos, but marketers should go even further in their embrace of digital technologies. It’s not enough to evolve from a marketer to a marketer in a digital world. We as marketers need to be solutions-focused thinkers that not only understand the traditional marketing disciplines and new digital channels, but also the technologies underpinning a new world of marketing.

Marketing technology is not exclusively about marketing. It has fundamentally changed how businesses can deliver value to customers. This change has been felt beyond marketing in disciplines all the way from supply-chain management, logistics, sales to customer service. As technology influences the way people live their lives, companies are capitalizing on new opportunities to deliver seamless experiences to make consumers’ lives easier. While Uber has changed the landscape of private travel, Nest and Dropcam have revolutionized security and energy-efficiency for homes.

The rise of the marketing technologist

As such, savvy marketers are increasingly becoming technologists, to – marketing technologists. This means they can for example talk about the mechanics of SMS, USSD and social media, and their relevance to different geographies and audience segments. What are the technical hurdles to a social media platform in Latin America? Is USSD or SMS better for engaging an audience in South East Asia? A marketing technologist will know the answer or at least have a view. For this reason, we are seeing many organisations create a chief digital officer or chief marketing technologist to try and bridge the gap between marketing and technology.

The savvy marketers will embrace technology quickly and position themselves as marketing technologists who understand how to use today’s technology and digital touch points to deliver superior customer experiences and better marketing ROI for their businesses.

Marketers can no longer simply outsource digital or delegating it to a specialist – they need to understand it intimately. They must be familiar with today’s major technology platforms – be they ad-serving, CRM systems, analytics tools, social media monitoring or search – but they also need to have an eye on tomorrow’s potential disruptive technologies.

Further disruption incoming

For example, how many marketers are thinking deeply about the Internet of Things or wearable computing devices, trends which are just on the horizon? With each new development, they have access to new interfaces for customer interaction and access to more data points to shape business strategy. Consumers adopt these new trends faster than marketers can keep up – and those marketers who do can get a competitive advantage.

A next-generation CMO needs to understand his or her business’s data architecture and how to gather, visualise and analyse data in a way that will enable the organisation to deliver more personalised marketing and get closer to its customers. And in today’s increasingly global market, a CMO should also understand how to consolidate marketing technology platforms to deliver simpler processes, more automation and lower costs.

To ensure a career with longevity, CMOs must thus invest in their digital skills. They must be able to speak to technology suppliers as well as chief information and technology officers in their language. Those that understand the potential of technology to transform customer experiences will play a leading role in tomorrow’s most successful enterprises.

Ed FlowerChief Commercial Officer
About the author

Ed has a proven track record in marketing technology and the adverting industry.

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