Ten years ago, chief marketing officers and chief technology officers didn't have much to say to one another. One was viewed as a head-in-the-clouds dreamer and the other, a reclusive nerd. Oh, how things have changed.
We've since witnessed a series of interconnected revolutions in internet, mobile, media, cloud infrastructure, security, and consumer buying behaviors that have rearranged the corporate landscape.
Now, chief marketing officers spend a greater percentage of their budget on tech than chief technology officers do, and are lauded for being data-driven. Today’s chief technology officers, meanwhile, are praised for their business-acumen, ability to innovate, and, don't spit out your coffee — creativity.
In fact, it’s become evident that the once unlikely duo is actually better positioned than any other types of executives to lead companies into the future. And the exciting thing is, they'll do it together.
So what has changed?
Chief marketing officers and chief technology officers have seen an expansion in their responsibilities as the world has gone digital. Chief marketing officers have had to address new media, steward an expanding number of sales touchpoints, and track increasingly fragmented consumer segments. As customers demand personalisation across new channels, the whole business looks to the marketing lead to decode their needs.
One reason marketers are leading the charge with tech adoption within organisations is out of necessity; tools to make sense of an influx of data are essential.
As such, in the US alone the American Marketing Association reports that marketing analytics budgets are expected to rise 375% over the next three years.
More budget gets more scrutiny, though – with 92% of marketers also reporting more pressure to prove ROI.
Yet to the horror of many, the increased responsibility is paired with a decrease in control. In the age of social media, consumers are solidly in charge of brand perception, as demonstrated by the fallout around Pepsi's Kendall Jenner ad.
Chief marketing officers must empower consumers to do the storytelling, and that's only the beginning. According to a McKinsey survey, 75% of chief marketing officers agreed that the skills they'll need are becoming so specialised that they'll have to operate quite differently in the future.
Chief technology officers have faced similar challenges adapting to mobile, the cloud, and security threats. Once upon a time they had a fixed fiefdom of internal infrastructure. But as consumer technology moved into the cloud, business tech followed. Then the BYOD grenade went off, power shifted to employees, and chief tech officers became corporate enablers.
The proliferation of cloud services and devices have made it much more difficult to secure the corporation, forcing tech leads to adapt by becoming far more creative and learning to think like their potential adversaries – whether that be a regulator or a hacker.
Driven by data
Thus, chief marketing officers and chief technology officers are in prime position to advise chief executive officers, forming a trifecta of executive-decision makers who will guide the future of good governance. Both have led key roles in the digital transformation, have learned to be agile, and together, control most of the company's digital spend.
They are also the ground zero for the new influx of data. The analytics they've adopted to process it all has freed them to be more strategic. No longer must they choose between planning and execution – they can manage both. And as customers expectations evolve, chief marketing officers and chief technology officers are best positioned to access the demographic, psychographic, digital, and location data needed to formulate a strategy.
For example, The top marketer and tech boss of a large CPG brand could join forces before launching a popup in New York to analyse the neighborhoods around it. They could see that while the Meatpacking District has greater foot traffic based on location data, its demographic makeup is mostly tourists, whereas Soho has more working professionals and thus real buyers.
Ten years ago, none of this was imaginable, much less possible. Today, it's table stakes as both roles have started to converge.
It's increasingly unlikely that they pass each other in the hall without comment. Instead, they're probably posted up in each other's offices, sharing team members, tools, and insights, and deciding the company's future, together.
Eric Hadley is chief marketing officer at global tech location firm GroundTruth