81% of big firms now have a chief marketing technologist

Chief Marketing Technologists in Large Organizations

Looking at the latest marketing technology landscape, you might ask yourself, “How the heck do marketers make sense of all of this?”

Increasingly, the answer is: they have a chief marketing technologist.

A terrific new research report by Laura McLellan of Gartner, How the Presence of a Chief Marketing Technologist Impacts Marketing, confirms that this senior hybrid role — “part strategist, part creative and part technologist” and “broadly the equivalent of a CTO and a CIO dedicated to marketing”— is growing in popularity.

Within large companies — more than $500 million in annual revenue — 81% of them now have a chief marketing technologist role, up from 71% just a year ago. Another 8% expect to add that role within the next 24 months.


“Every aspect of marketing — from brand, experience design and demand generation, to content marketing, analytics and measurement — is affected by technology,” the report states. “The CMO needs a senior trusted advisor skilled in the art of evaluating and implementing technology-enabled solutions.”

The CMO needs a senior trusted advisor skilled in the art of evaluating and implementing technology-enabled solutions.

In the 285 companies that Gartner studied, 71% have the chief marketing technologist role report directly to a senior marketing executive. The remaining 29% have the role report to IT. Either can work, but Gartner recommends: “Ideally this position is solid line to marketing, whether the most senior marketing executive, brand or line of business marketing, or regional marketing.”

Of course, there are many variations in titles for this role — the most recent one I’ve heard is SAP’s “business information officer” (BIO) role. But the primary responsibilities are all very similar, with the #1 mission being to align marketing technology with business goals:

Primary Responsibilities of Chief Marketing Technologists

According to Gartner, they help senior marketing executives answer questions such as:

  • Who is leading the charge, deciding which technologies to adopt, how they are implemented and at what pace?
  • Even after they are integrated, who will manage their ongoing evolution?
  • Which marketing technology projects should be done in-house, and which through external marketing service providers?

What effect do chief marketing technologists have on organizations? Expanding their research this year, Gartner found several powerful correlations among those that have someone in that role compared with those who don’t:

  • They will spend 11.7% of their revenue on marketing, compared with 7.1% for those who don’t.
  • They will spend 30% of their marketing budget on digital marketing, compared with 21% for those who don’t.
  • They will spend 9.8% of their marketing budget on innovation, compared with 5.0% for those who don’t.

While correlation is not causation, it’s hard not to see the pattern: companies with marketing technology leadership are investing much more than their peers in marketing — particularly digital marketing — to engage with their customers. If you put your money where your strategy is, these companies clearly view marketing more strategically.

Even more interesting, they’re spending nearly 2X as much on innovation in marketing, which includes pilot projects and experimentation with new technologies and techniques. 92% of the companies that have a chief marketing technologist have allocated money from their marketing budget for innovation — as compared to 43% for those who don’t.

Gartner concludes their report:

“If you don’t have a chief marketing technologist, consider the evidence above and strongly evaluate the benefits of creating the role; increasingly only exceptional cases will be able to argue that they don’t need one.”

As you might imagine, I enthusiastically agree.

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13 thoughts on “81% of big firms now have a chief marketing technologist”

  1. There is some comfort for me in learning that such a position is coming into being, if only to give voice to the struggle I face as the single marketing person in a small business. My budget will never allow the addition of such a position, but it does show how overwhelming it can be to know, understand, select, implement and manage all of the available marketing technologies. I’d love to have access to someone with this knowledge on a regular basis!

    1. Being a marketing army of one is a challenge these days. On the upside, however, hopefully many of the tools available to you can serve as a “force multiplier” that give you greater reach and capabilities.

      And, yes, I suspect there will be freelance marketing technologists on the market to help people in a more on-demand fashion.

  2. Can’t wait until Business universities worldwide will offer such an MBA major…or dare I say a marketing degree on its own!

      1. Actually, I teach Digital Marketing & Social Media at Hult International Business School, and just finished working with over 200 Masters in International Marketing students from over 50 countries. Of course, digital is not their only course – they also have to learn about financials, analytics, market research, product / service development and pricing, etc. But it’s a great start to your vision – and it is a Masters degree dedicated to marketing!

  3. Thank you for sharing this. I think this trend also begs the question that every three-year-old asks: “Mommy, where do CMTs come from?” In other words, are firms hiring marketers who are moving more into technology, or technologists who are moving closer to marketing? I’m sure both have their strengths. In the end, I think Mommy’s correct answer is: “Ask Daddy.” 😉

    1. The CMT Stork, of course. 😉

      I’ve seen marketing technologists arise from several backgrounds:

      1. People from IT who are interested in digital marketing.
      2. People from marketing who are interested in software and technology.
      3. Web developers and digital entrepreneurs who are typically native to marketing technology.

      I can’t say that one is always better than another. I’ve seen successes from all of them. It depends a lot on the particular individual and the organization in which they’re operating.

  4. This doesn’t really translate to the vast majority of law firms. Today’s CMO and Marketing Director wear many hats, and most are looking to bring more value with what they currently have, not add another high-priced position with a fancy title.

    1. I think most small businesses would be hard-pressed to justify a separate role for a chief marketing technologist. (I don’t think the title matters, just the role and its value.) In those cases, having someone on the marketing team who at least carries the responsibility for managing the firm’s marketing technology makes sense though — even if it’s one of many hats.

  5. I certainly don’t believe these figures at all. Gartner mis-judges many sectors maturity through it’s research and this is one. CMT’s are rare beasts and when you do find them, they are often skewed into one stream of the marketing technology platforms. You have to have loads of experience, both in business, technology, marketing and sales to really fulfill this role with any credibility and as yet know and have met only a few. Many global companies I work with are still struggling to realign there businesses and structures to take on board this important role and with the lack of maturity of “marketing platforms” available in this sector, there is much divergence, confusion and disparity all round. Lots more to do, many confused and silted approaches and not helped by the lack of leadership from the agency sectors!

    1. David, I certainly agree with you that doing this role really well is a huge challenge — particularly in a large, global company. I did just publish a Q&A with Andreas Starke, effectively the chief marketing technologist at SAP, which gives some great insight into how they approach the role.

      In defense of Gartner, their study seemed to define the role fairly broadly and doesn’t tie it to a specific title. Certainly 81% of large companies don’t have people with the official title of Chief Marketing Technologist. For instance, Andreas is marketing’s Business Information Officer. In some companies, I’ve seen this role absorbed into marketing operations. In others, it’s been a “marketing point person” in IT.

      My belief is that this role is still emerging, and so many different companies have people playing this part either officially or unofficially under a wide range of charters.

      We certainly have a long way to go, for many of the reasons you point out. But hopefully we’ll start to bring to light more of the best practices of organizations that are making it work. If you find examples of companies who you think are doing a terrific job, I’d love to hear about them!

  6. Finally the Marketing team has caught on that they need technology and not more spreadsheets. I am a marketing technologist and understand the value that we as a profession bring to the table. Sure its lead generation, quality of leads but its also proper content and metrics and measurements. It is also about CRM integration and a sales driven agenda not just marketing’s efforts for “best in show awards”.

    We did a trade show and the marketing girl was so excited that she gave a GPS away that she threw away the fishbowl with all the leads when she was tearing the booth down.

    Now to be fair to her, the previous trade show the leads went to a bunch of sales people that never made any calls to the prospects.

    Technology would have caught that very quickly.

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