Is marketing rapidly approaching a post-technology world?
For the last 6 years, we’ve watched Scott Brinker update that MarTech landscape diagram each year. It started with 150 technologies in 2011 and now in 2018 it’s just shy of 7000. The 2018 edition adds up to more technologies than all of the previous five years added together.
With this rate of change, you could be forgiven for thinking that the marketing technology revolution is still building a head of steam. But I think we are on the cusp of a real change. Not in spite of the rate of innovation, but because of it.
The fact is, there is more tech out there than you will ever use. No matter what the marketing technology challenge, today there is a solution. The real constraints on our effectiveness as marketers are no longer technological. They are strategic, conceptual and operational.
Strategic constraints: Are you really clear on what you are trying to achieve as a business? I mean really clear? Can you demonstrate exactly what customer outcomes you need to drive to deliver on your business strategy? Do you know what capabilities you need to have as an organisation to deliver these outcomes? Are you clear on what the role of marketing in is in all of this? Do you know how to measure whether you are making headway? Too often, the starting point for this conversation is technology, when in fact the technology choice should only ever be the means of delivering the answers, not the answer in itself.
Conceptual constraints: Are you thinking about the problem in the right way? In a world of near infinite number crunching horsepower, the ability to mash up any data from anywhere is not a differentiator. Like Deep Thought in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, finding any answer is meaningless, the real skill is knowing what the right questions are.
Every year at Cognifide we host an Unconference where we get some of the leading thinkers in digital together, the trend I have noticed is that analytical conversations are consistently moving away from tech challenges and rationality of answers and towards words like ‘empathy’, ‘trust’, ‘purpose’ and ‘authenticity’. It’s curious that as the technological challenges are resolved, our focus switches to these most human of concepts. It feels as if marketing is coming full circle to questions of human behaviour and what it means to be human.
Operational constraints: We seriously need to think about the way we are working as marketers. Markets are no longer as predictable as they were. The annual marketing plan, where all actions are planned out in advance is gone. Market disruption is constant. This doesn’t mean that there’s no need to have a plan for success, but success depends not on selecting ‘the one’ right execution strategy, but on being agile enough to constantly course correct. It also means that the siloed approach of having a ‘marketing department’ is becoming a thing of the past. MarTech is a means of delivering an experience that spans the entire organisation, and the experience is the product. Marketing and MarTech need to be embedded as an element of a multidisciplinary approach to delivering customer experience throughout the customer life cycle.
So does this mean that the technology is irrelevant? No, quite the opposite. There is now a fairly high, but not insurmountable technological hurdle to be jumped to get to an acceptable technological foundation that enables organisations to be able to execute their vision. But let’s be clear, this is a foundation, it’s not the end state. It’s a platform from which businesses and brands can springboard to execute on the things that matter - trust, joy, authenticity, happiness, enjoyment, satisfaction, purpose. In a post-technology world, these are the things that drive success.