Ashu Garg is a general parter at the venture capital firm Foundation Capital, focusing on start-ups in the marketing technology sector. He is currently on the boards of TubeMogul, Localytics, and AdRise, and was formerly on the board of Aggregate Knowledge before it was acquired by Neustar.
Before going VC in 2008, Ashu was the general manager for Microsoft’s online advertising business, worked at McKinsey in software and digital media, and set up Unilever’s operations in Nepal. He has deep roots in both marketing and technology.
When you meet him, you can’t help but be charmed by his broad smile and hearty laugh. He brims with enthusiasm for the transformation underway in marketing — and the grand opportunities that await marketers, technology start-ups, and, of course, the VCs who fund them.
When I first met Ashu, I remember him excitedly sharing with me his vision of how the next 10 years would be the “decade of the CMO.” Last week, Ashu published a spectacularly produced e-book on that theme: MarTech and the Decade of the CMO.
He makes his big claim right up front: “We expect technology spend by CMOs to increase 10x in 10 years, from $12 billion to $120 billion, unlocking a huge opportunity for marketing technology companies and opening the door to the decade of the CMO.”
Of course, those of you who are naturally skeptical of big claims — and I love you for that — will point out that Ashu has a significant stake in seeing such an outcome materialize. It’s in his interest to serve as a cheerleader for the sector. Why should you believe his hurrahs?
Like all truly great content marketing, Ashu’s e-book gives you the evidence to reach that conclusion on your own. He combines objective, third-party research — from respected analysts such as eMarketer, Gartner, GroupM, IDC, Magma Global, comScore, AdAge Data Center, and the Advertising Research Foundation — with a well-thought out rationale that connects those dots into a compelling narrative.
I, for one, think he’s right on the money. He may even be undershooting.
“We’re increasingly living in an all-digital world,” Ashu said to me in a call the other week. “The last year or two has been a pivotal turning point. Consumers now spend more time on devices than in front of linear TV.” We have seen this coming for a while, but the inertia of traditional marketing machinery is just now starting to react to the implications of this.
Ashu describes a perfect storm of four key changes affecting marketing:
- There are effectively infinite media channels.
- Consumers are now in control — and they know it.
- Purchase behavior and process has shifted — the traditional funnel is less relevant.
- Consumers now demand evidence to support brand propositions. Fluff falls flat.
“The lines between marketing, sales, customer support, UX and product are all blurring,” he says. “The canonical example is if someone gets pissed at an airline, do they call customer support? No, they tweet about it. Is that a customer support situation or a marketing situation?”
This shift in behavior is creating a massive opportunity for CMOs. They can own the end-to-end customer experience.
“This shift in behavior is creating a massive opportunity for CMOs,” he believes. “They can own the end-to-end customer experience — rise to be the de facto Chief Experience Officer.” This dramatic increase in the scope of marketing, in an effectively all-digital environment, “will drive an explosion of spending in marketing technology to support this. The money marketers spend on technology will grow 10X by 2025.”
Who are these conquering hero CMOs? What do they look like? Where do you find them?
“The data nerd of today is the CMO of tomorrow,” he replies. “They will come from VPs of digital, CDOs, and people who own product experience and UX. They will have three key abilities: leadership, understanding of the customer, and understanding of technology and data science.”
The triple-threat: tech-savvy, marketing-savvy, and leadership-savvy. Such wonder-wonks are still relatively rare today — but more are emerging quickly. For instance, we see this blend being cultivated and rewarded in the growing marketing technologist community. (By the way, you’ll find hundreds of these “unicorns” at MarTech.)
Speaking of MarTech, Ashu will be one of my guests for the closing fireside chat, Follow the Martech Money: VCs, IPOs, and M&A. He’ll be joined by Ajay Agarwal of Bain Capital, Brian Andersen of LUMA Partners, and Neeraj Agrawal of Battery Ventures. We’ll be triangulating among them the trends that we can expect in marketing technology for the year ahead — I expect it will be a lively conversation.
For Ashu, there are five keys to this new decade of the CMO:
The marketers who can master these — and the marketing technology companies who can empower them — will rule the world.