The age of connected products is about to hurl two traditionally distant departments together. The result? An army of Chief Marketing Technologists will be born. 

At this year’s MarTech Europe conference, a man emphatically told his audience:

“Connectivity isn’t an incremental change, but a fundamental disruption.”

The man was Andy Hobsbawm, CMO of Internet of Things software platform EVRYTHNG. Now, Hobsbawm may have something of a vested interest in getting people excited about product connectivity, but the fact is, he was largely preaching to the converted.

In a survey published by the Economist Intelligence Institute earlier this year, marketers ranked the IoT as the future trend set to have the biggest impact on their role by 2020.

What will that ‘fundamental disruption’ look like? In a Q&A with chiefmartech.com, Hobsbawm identified three species of use-cases for IoT-enabled products:

  • Products-as-Media – e.g. putting a smart tag on a bottled drink, and rewarding customers for drinking them in specific bars.
  • Products-as-a-Service – e.g. enabling a car to adjust and optimize performance based on your driving style, and to automatically apply fixes.
  • Ecosystem-Connected Products e.g. connecting your fitness tracker to a partner’s contactless payment services.

These IoT use cases offer huge opportunities for Marketing – creating the potential for rich, nuanced, ongoing customer interactions, throughout a product’s lifecycle.

But to realize that potential, IT and marketing teams will have to work together in harmony.

IT and Marketing – a rocky road

Not very long ago, IT and marketing needed a pretty good reason to talk to each other. Today they are becoming strategic partners.

At the recent FutureM conference in Boston, Crista Corone recounted a tale from 2008, when she was recently inaugurated as Xerox’s CMO. She explained how her IT counterparts “nearly fell off their chairs” when she told them how much her team had been investing in technology.

Since then, Marketing’s relationship with technology has only intensified. Just four years after Corone sent IT’s jaws floorwards, Gartner predicted CMO spending on tech would outstrip that of the CIO by 2017. It’s a prediction that – in stark contrast to your average doomsday prophecy – looks even more plausible the closer we get to its end-date.

Simply put, from content management platforms and marketing automation, to social analytics and customer-facing apps, technology has fast become as essential to marketing as water is to a fish.

Indeed, it’s currently thought marketing’s tech spending will leap from $1.2 billion today, to $120 billion by the end of the next decade. (And it’s safe to say IoT-enabled marketing will be a big part of that.)

But while Marketing and technology have been getting on famously, their relationship has often been conducted behind IT’s back. As recently as April this year, the world’s tech executives reported they had a weaker relationship with Marketing than with any other department.

With the advent of connected products, this will change. The opportunities of IoT enabled marketing are too great to ignore, as are the privacy and security questions around the huge volumes of customer data they’re set to generate.

Someone has to bring IT and marketing together. And there’s a good chance their job title will be Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT).

The CMTs will come

What’s a CMT? The Harvard Business Review suggests their key tasks include: ‘Aligning marketing technology with business goals, serving as a liaison to IT, and evaluating and choosing technology providers’.

It’s that second job – keeping marketing and IT on the same page, and pulling in the same direction – that’ll cause the role to really take off in the age of connected products.

We’ll see ever more businesses turning to CMTs to help them ride the ‘fundamental disruption’ ahead, and use the IoT to reach out to customers in smarter, more timely, more personalized, and more surprising ways.

And, as marketing technology itself takes on many tasks formerly completed by human hands, there’s unlikely to be a shortage of candidates.

Your next steps

Now is the time to look to your team, and see if it contains any natural CMTs in-waiting – people with the knowledge across Marketing and IT, the business vision, and the interpersonal, relationship building skills needed to bridge the departments effectively.

Fancy the challenge for yourself? You’re not alone. Read why Gary Shatswell, ‘a bonafide chief marketing technologist’ thinks becoming a CMT ‘feels like a natural evolution of the CIO’s role’.