The evolution of the marketing technologist: How martech roles have changed during the last 5 years
In 2014, MarTech Conference Chair Scott Brinker defined the primary marketing technologist roles. Today we're looking at how those roles -- and the industry -- have evolved.
Five years ago, marketing technologist roles were, arguably, in their infancy. At the risk of being nostalgic, it was a simpler time for our industry: the martech landscape was comprised of a mere 1,000 solutions and nobody had even heard of Cambridge Analytica. Adobe hadn’t bought Magento or Marketo and LinkedIn hadn’t yet joined the Microsoft family.
Fast forward to today, as we approach our seventh annual MarTech Conference, that martech landscape now has over 7,000 solutions, with new product launches and integrations happening daily. As the martech taxonomy continues to expand, so do the roles charged with implementing and managing our martech stacks. Marketing technologists are no longer considered “the outsider” among the broader marketing organization, but instead play a key role within the marketing organization. Martech is now marketing and martech leaders are, simply, marketers.
“The field of marketing technology has expanded enormously over the past five years,” said Scott Brinker, MarTech Conference chair and the voice behind ChiefMartec.com. He accounts the exponential growth to the massive adoption of martech that is happening across organizations of all sizes. “Gartner recently stated 26% of enterprise marketing budgets are being allocated toward martech,” said Brinker, “You need talented people to implement and harness all that technology, and there’s a lot of room for specialization.”
Specialization is a key factor when considering the technologist role — the more specialized marketing technology solutions become, the more talent is needed to take full advantage of the available platforms and solutions. But when looking at the growing list of marketing technologist titles across the ever-widening martech landscape, it is crucial we understand as an industry which roles are the primary drivers of marketing technology and its place within the marketing organization. Of course, there are the leaders — the chief marketing technologists and other C-level executives driving the martech ship — but how have roles evolved since we first started separating marketing technology from the IT department?
Marketing technologist roles: v2.0
Five years ago, Brinker came up with a list of six primary marketing technologist roles. The roles, or “archetypes” as Brinker labeled them, were based on a survey he and former SapientNitro CTO Sheldon Monteiro conducted via Chiefmartec.com readers and attendees at the inaugural MarTech Conference in Boston. After a recent conversation with Marketing Land’s VP of Content, Henry Powderly, Brinker decided it was time to revisit the roles he had defined more than five years ago.
“Coming back to the concept of marketing technologist archetypes five years later, the split between ‘marketing focus’ and ‘technology focus’ didn’t resonate as much because technology has become much more deeply infused into the marketing organization overall,” said Brinker, ” I decided to step back and try a fresh approach to identifying the dimensions on which different marketing technologist roles focus.”
In the latest version of Brinker’s marketing technologist archetypes, the list has been narrowed from six to four roles: Operations Orchestrator, Brand/Demand Builder, Analytics Architect and Marketing Maker.
One of the things that stood out to Brinker when revisiting his original archetypes, was the lack of marketing operations roles.
“Marketing operations has grown tremendously as a discipline over the past five years as a real hotbed of marketing technologist talent,” said Brinker. The explosive growth happening within marketing operations can be attributed to the fact that, as a function, it is what “keeps the trains running” for marketing technology teams, according to Brinker.
The four primary marketing technologist roles
As the number of martech solutions continues to grow — martech roles have become more systematic in the ways they are connected. Brinker recalls, during the original concept of the martech archetypes, he felt somewhat lost when trying to connect the roles. In Brinker’s latest iteration, the four quadrants separating the martech roles are independent of each other, but it’s clear how the roles are connected now.
The Brand/Demand Builder is usually the marketer using martech to conduct their work, implementing different platforms to run and manage marketing campaigns. Brinker says the vast majority of marketing technologists fall into this category.
The Operations Orchestrator is responsible for implementing and managing martech systems. They are the “maestros” according to Brinker, the ones who support all the other martech roles and are often given a “marketing operations” or “CRM/MAP admin” title.
Brinker defines the Analytics Architect as “modellers” who focus on the structure and infrastructure of data collected by the marketing organization. Usually known within the team as the “marketing analyst,” “data scientist” or “data engineer,” the analytics architects are rarely found at smaller companies, and instead, are part of martech teams within larger enterprises with the resources to dive into the data.
The Marketing Maker, located in the bottom right quadrant, is the builder of custom apps and digital experiences. They have titles like “web developer” and “marketing engineer” and are usually part of the teams working with code. Although, with the latest crop of no-code and low-code martech solutions, Marketing Makers don’t necessarily have to be the expert coders they once were.
The martech leaders
What’s not listed within these four quadrants are the leaders who oversee the entire martech organization — the executives defining strategy and aligning marketing technology goals with the overall marketing and business objectives. Brinker has devised a fifth archetype — The Manager — to fit this role, an executive who essentially oversees the breadth of the marketing technology and operation teams.
Some businesses have added this leadership role to the C-suite, hiring chief marketing technology officers to work alongside their chief marketing officer. But lately, we’ve seen a trend with major brands dropping the CMO role for chief digital officers and chief customer officers — both of which often oversee the marketing technology function. (Sheldon Monteiro, who helped Brinker come up with the original roles in 2014 is now a chief product officer at Publicis Sapient.) Other organizations have opted to onboard vice presidents or directors of marketing technology and marketing operations who report to the CMO.
How the archetypes align with each other
Brinker believes everything in marketing should ultimately be centered around the customer. “That said, there is a lot of marketing technologist type work that serves internal stakeholders in the service of building a great customer-centric business. It’s the ‘back-stage’ workflows, processes, analytics, infrastructure, systems, etc. that enable customer-facing activities in marketing to be more successful,” said Brinker.
With this in mind, he arranged the four marketing technologist roles along an X and Y axis. The Y-axis, which moves from process orientation to technology orientation, separates processes like workflows and customer journeys from technology capabilities such as data engineering and coding. The X-axis stems from the question: Does the role primarily serve internal stake holders or customers?
“There’s a ton of marketing technologist work that touches customers directly on the ‘front-stage’ of the business,” said Brinker, “Personalized campaigns, web and mobile apps, chatbots, conversion optimization — the X-axis in this framework looks across that spectrum of internal orientation to external orientation activities because, while they are deeply entwined, they are different kinds of activities that apply different skills.”
Brinker acknowledges the four archetypes attached to each of the quadrants are not always completely separate roles, and that nearly every marketing role connects across all of the quadrants to some degree. The newly defined roles are meant to show how marketing technologists, in general, lean toward distinctly different areas within the martech organization.
A work in progress
The martech industry is pushing forward at a tremendous speed. As stated earlier, the marketing technology landscape is more than seven-times the size it was in 2014, with new solutions — and integrations — being launched daily. The first half of 2019 saw 246 mergers and acquisitions, a steep rise from the 162 deals that happened during the same time period in 2018.
Exponential growth is the nature of technology and martech is no different — every new iteration of a martech solution aims to improve upon itself, resulting in an accelerated rate of progress. And with every new evolution cycle, the marketing technologists tasked with managing it all will have to evolve as well. There is no “final” list of primary marketing technologist roles — as the industry changes so will the players.
As Brinker so eloquently puts it when looking at how these roles will continue to evolve, “Everyone has a horizon that keeps pushing the industry forward.”