Marketing technologists make fire

“Shouldn’t all marketers be marketing technologists?”

That’s a comment I’ve been hearing more frequently. One of the more interesting objections to my case for a chief marketing technologist is, “Shouldn’t the CMO be the chief marketing technologist?”

I think there are two separate ideas being confounded here:

1. Marketers who are technology savvy.

2. Technologists who apply their skills in marketing.

I know, that might sound like a subtle, nit-picky distinction. But there’s a big difference between the two.

marketing technologists make fire

Let’s consider a metaphor with fire — you can fear it, use it, or make it:

Fear. You are afraid of fire. You avoid it. You might respect what people do with it — say, cooking — but you don’t understand it. You don’t want to understand it. You’d prefer just to order your steak and have the waiter bring it to you when it’s done.

Use. You can work with fire. Given raw ingredients and an open flame, you can cook up something delicious. You understand timings and temperatures. With practice and a little imagination, you can harness fire to create the amazing and the sublime. But if you were in the woods with nothing but sticks, you’d be stuck.

Make. You can start a fire from scratch. When charcoal, lighter fluid, and matches are available, you can employ them (without burning down the yard). But you can also make fire in less cushy circumstances, using flint and steel — or if necessary, rubbing two sticks together — beginning with kindling in a tepee, building it up with twigs, then sticks, then logs.

Making fire is a different set of skills than using fire — although they’re clearly complementary.

With this analogy, I believe all marketers should be able to use technology. There’s just too much cooking to be done to keep ordering out. But only a subset of marketers in the kitchen actually need to make fire. These are marketing technologists. The two together are an effective combination that rarely gets stuck.

And the IT department? In this over-extended metaphor, if they provide governance, they’re the fire marshal.

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