Will marketing technologists replace CMOs?

Most marketers agree that the importance of technology to their jobs will grow in future, with many predicting technology specialists will join or replace them, but budgets and time could restrict brands’ ability to manage systems in-house.

As technology continues to shape modern marketing, the relatively new role of chief marketing technologist (CMT) is moving into prominence causing the traditional marketing hierarchy to shift. So much so, in fact, that 35% of UK marketers believe the CMT will soon replace the traditional CMO role entirely, according to research by programmatic marketing platform DataXu.

Whether or not the CMT title sticks, it is clear that technology will continue to play a leading role as 70% of the 250 marketers surveyed believe brands will be recruiting more tech-focused marketers over the next five years, with 31% keen to do the job themselves.

The majority of respondents (53%) believe there is a place for both a CMT and a CMO within marketing and 51% believe they should have joint responsibility for marketing technology. At present, only 14% of respondents say there is a CMT within their organisation.

Berit Block, marketing director at DataXu, says: “I don’t think it’s just about a new job title, it’s the realisation that today’s marketers need to have a different skill set. For most people in the marketing department, their job is actually changing.”

However, not all marketers see the landscape shifting significantly. Nearly half (45%) do not see their company hiring a CMT in the next five years and 41% do not believe it is necessary to create a new position to deal with marketing technology. Over a quarter (26%) say the trend of brands hiring a CMT will fade over the next five years.

The same number suggest they use marketing technology to execute at least half their job responsibilities, with the average marketer spending 35% of their time working with technology. This excludes email and social media, suggesting that both figures would rise substantially if these were included.

Marketers’ opinions are split over how they will use technology in the future, with more saying the level will remain the same over the next five years than predicting it will rise. However, the vast majority say that their use of technological systems will not decrease, indicating that marketers’ understanding of these platforms and ability to work with them is only going to become more important in the coming years.

The size of the organisation determines how businesses deal with finding more tech-savvy marketers, the study finds. Larger companies tend to hire people with the skills they need, while smaller businesses rely on training and educating existing staff. Chris Le May, managing director UK & Nordics at DataXu, believes it is “purely a factor of available budget”.

“Not only is it more achievable for a larger organisation to bring in skilled and experienced people, but it is probably perceived as more important because of strategic considerations with regards to their investments in technology,” he says.

When managing marketing technology, 38% of marketers do everything in-house while 18% handle the majority of it internally. On the flip side, one-fifth of marketers use external firms and 18% use a combination of options. A large portion of marketers (41%) have seen an increase in the level of technology they manage internally over the past year and the same number expect it to rise again over the next 12 months.

By far the most common reason for managing technology in-house is that it keeps costs down, while 20% believe it provides more accurate results on marketing campaigns and 16% say it enables greater transparency and the chance to learn new skills.

However, handling everything in-house is not without its challenges. Among the most commonly cited problems are the time burden of managing technology and the struggle to find the right staff to make it work, again suggesting that marketers need to broaden their skill set. The cost of buying technology and software is also a stumbling block.

Although marketing technology is playing an increasingly dominant role, there is inconsistency with regard to who handles the budget for it. More than half (51%) of respondents believe the CMO or senior marketers should be in charge of purchasing marketing technology, but 35% say they have to share their tech budget with other departments. Only 28% have a separate budget for buying marketing technology and 8% want to implement a standalone budget.

Whether or not the prevalence of the CMT role increases, the use of data and technology in marketing is here to stay so marketers should embrace the evolution. Le May concludes: “The point of technology is to remove wasted man hours, not replace people. The creativity and messaging of marketing is still going to be there, but data and technology give teams a more detailed brief and greater scope to talk to better defined audience groups.”

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