Digital Technology’s Profound Game Change for Marketers

Within a few years, chief marketing officers will spend more on technology--digital marketing--than CIOs. Jeffrey Bussgang says it is clear that technology is radically transforming the marketing function and the role of the marketing professional.
by Jeffrey Bussgang

When I was a kid, "The Graduate" was a generation-defining hit movie, with Dustin Hoffman playing an aimless college graduate. In the middle of a graduation party, an older businessman takes the wayward Hoffman aside and delivers some wise advice: "plastics." That should be the field his generation should focus on, the field that would shape the future.

Today's advice for aspiring graduates is also a single word: "software."

In a sweeping Wall Street Journal article last summer, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen identifies the twenty-first century phenomenon of software eating the world. Software is disrupting industry after industry and transforming large swathes of the economy. When I was an entrepreneur in the 1990s, I would debate with my investors what sliver of the $70 billion US software industry we could carve out.

Today, as a venture capitalist, I meet with entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out what portion of the $70 trillion global economy they can dominate.

Within the $1 trillion marketing industry, the impact of software eating marketing has now reached the board room. With the explosion of digital marketing, it is clear that technology is radically transforming the marketing function and the role of the marketing professional.

The changes rippling through the marketing industry goes far beyond the simple mantra of "follow the eyeballs" to different screens. Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicts that by 2017, chief marketing officers will spend more on IT than CIOs. The repercussions of social, mobile, video, Big Data, CRM, cloud and other disruptive forces are impacting all aspects of business, but particularly marketing.

As a result, marketing leaders and agencies now carry the burden of understanding technology's impact on their business, the entire customer experience, and leading innovation within their enterprises, not simply following a course set by their IT department.

"Madison Avenue meets MIT" and "Revenge of the Nerds" are common themes in marketing circles as technologists are becoming the rock stars of customer engagement—employing algorithms and analytics along with artistic creativity to win market share. In much the way Apple disrupted the music and phone industries with smart industrial design and clever software that shielded users from complexity, technologists are building sophisticated systems with interfaces that are as simple for marketers and designers to manipulate as their iPhones.

FutureM—an upcoming gathering of marketing and technology leaders that kicks off Oct. 22, will address these challenges head on, exposing marketers to today's most innovative thought leaders and companies who are transforming marketing. Hosted in Boston, at the nexus of the technology and advertising industry, FutureM is a weeklong extravaganza that will bring together marketing artists and marketing scientists, left brain and right brain thinkers alike, to debate the most pressing issues facing the industry. FutureM is fast becoming the equivalent of SXSW, the place to get inspired and see what's next, but focused on digital marketing.

    • jose lauro magalhaes
    • Director, Assesso Consulting
    Very good's real regards
    • Kapil Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited
    We are advancing (?) rapidly to make our living more and more mechanical. Software provides all knowledge in such a way that the use of our brain is getting restricted day by day. Who can make use of plethora of information before us just at the click of the mouse?
    M-future is incredible. It is impossible to fathom where at the turn of this century the world would be !
    • Faisal Shah
    • Marketing Manager, Driver Scanner
    Softwares are indeed changing the way marketing works. Technology helps measure results more effectively and CMOs are in a better position to track ROI. However, integrating offline and online marketing strategy will remain a big challenge for marketing leaders in this decade.

    Faisal Shah
    • Michael Nova
    • Pres, nova custom label printing
    Technology is important but without the human element, it can't succeed. Technology software can't think like a human, and since humans are irrational, software can't predict INDIVIDUAL human behavior with any degree of success unless it has a large degree of history to input. Maybe then, but we are not that far along yet.
    • Mark D. Hulett
    • Senior Website Developer / Website Designer, Georgia Web Development
    Good stuff Jeffrey. Today, everyone is a gadget geek. Check out the latest data coming out of the tech industry and it's easy to see that digital has the starring role.

    Perhaps the greatest challenge I often see among large organizations is the lack of clearly defined roles in regards to their IT & Digital Marketing infrastructure.

    While the two obviously intersect and share many commonalities some organizations have yet to clearly define what each is responsible for. The end result is usually an IT department that attempts, as best they can, to handle tasks that should be left in the creative arena of digital marketing and design experts.

    Ideally you don't want your IT people worrying their pretty little heads over the "marketing message" or "engagement". Their primary focus should be on ensuring the technology is there to deliver.

    Digital marketing on the other hand is responsible for practically every aspect of the end users experience. Whether it's an iPhone app to compare the companies products to a competitors or something as simple as complete social media analytics for the company this is in the domain of digital marketing.

    Companies that attempt to make a marriage of the two or even worse substitute one for the other are bound to face some hard, unforgiving lessons.

    With all due respect to IT professionals, provide the technology and infrastructure to deliver and let digital marketing and designers handle the rest.

    - Mark D. Hulett
    • SolutionLab
    • Developer,
    With all due respect, the argument is slightly oversimplifying the issue at hand. Both the IT department and the marketing departments are undergoing a fairly radical transformation concurrently :

    The approach in the article is a bit too reminiscent of Thomas Friedman with his customary sweeping statements and it somewhat throws glitter over the fact that, often, the reality of the matter is less exciting or glamours, mostly involving confused CEOs assigning marketing tasks to the IT department because "it is IT related" while marketing people are often poorly equipped for the IT side of their work and end-up soliciting the IT department's help every other hour.

    Granted, the potential is quite amazing, both for larger firms that can utilize "big data" as well as small firms that can have exposure previously unimaginable. However, none if this is new and, since the 90s when this was so much in vogue, we have still failed to find a clear middle ground.