Will The CMT Replace The CMO?

Are we going to see a data driven shift at the top of marketing?


The role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) has been a staple of company boardrooms for decades. Their directive has always been the same: create marketing campaigns to sell products and services. They are judged based on the success of these and the number of sales made.

The fundamentals of this are still broadly true, but the techniques used to achieve these are entirely different to only 10 years ago. Suddenly the use of TV and print advertising pales in comparison to digital advertising and social media use and although the end goal is the same, the foundations of how they are achieved is entirely different.

Where the use of technology and data, by the marketing teams used to be relatively limited, today they are arguably the most technology and data dependant business function. It was even predicted by Gartner in 2012 that a CMO would spend more on technology than the Chief Information Officer by 2017, with only 18 months until this is meant to take place, it would be surprising if it was not already true.

This increasing dependance on technology and data has led to the creation of the CMT - Chief Marketing Technologist.

Their role consists of being a strategist, a creative director and technology evangelist. They will create marketing plans based around new technologies or new ways of using existing tech, whilst imagining the best ways to do it, whilst also looking at new technologies and platforms to improve the marketing department.

A white paper from Data Xu, ‘How Data and Technology are Driving the Rise of the Chief Marketing Technologist’, surveyed several marketers about their thoughts on new technologies.

One of the the standout findings was that 35% felt that the CMT role was so important that it would replace the CMO role within the next 5 years. The question is whether or not this is realistic.

Although data has become central to marketers today, I believe that believing that a CMT would replace a CMO is not feasible. The roles have a huge amount of crossover, but to be effective in both requires different mindsets.

For instance, is it fair to expect the person who sets the creative direction of a companies marketing department, to be the same person who implicitly understands the complexities of every piece of technology used in it? Sure, there will be people who can do both to great success, but these will be in the minority and most companies will not find anybody like it.

If there is an expectation that this will take place then the likelihood is that it will end up in the same way as the mythical data scientist who can do the technical side, analyze the data, make it actionable across relevant business units and then communicate all this in simple language to the company. They exist, but are incredibly rare and almost impossible to find.

So if this won’t happen, what will?

The increasing dependence on data and technology within the marketing department necessitates a focussed role to make sure that opportunities aren’t missed, which is the CMT. However, with the effectiveness of marketing technologies comes the necessity for good content and a strong strategic direction, which comes from the CMO.

Therefore, rather than being a replacement for a CMO, a CMT is far more likely to be part of a symbiotic relationship with the CMO. 

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