When I talked with Scott Brinker about marketing technology for this week's episode of MarketingSmarts, he emphasized what he called "two truths":
As far as the first point goes, Scott envisions a role for IT focused on technology governance—ensuring that the organization is using technology wisely with an eye to efficiency, stability, and security.
On the second point, in Scott's view, marketing needs to lead its own technology because technology has become core to what we do as marketers. Indeed, as he has written elsewhere, "Software is now the interface by which marketing sees and touches the world."
I asked Scott what he meant by that last statement. He drew an analogy to science.
While science originally relied on first person observation to understand and interpret the world, technological progress as led to a situation where, increasingly, scientists understand the world, especially those parts that are too small or too far away to be directly observed, via the data provided by their instruments.
The modern marketer is in a similar position, trying to understand the behavior of customers and prospects by looking at the dashboard—a dashboard that gets more and more complex and rich in data as the tools improve and as more and more customer behavior becomes trackable.
There is a problem inherent in this development, however. Sometimes, as Scott put it, we can get "so caught up in the data that we de-prioritize human interaction."
I believe that this is one reason that Scott didn't say that marketing needs more technology, but, rather, more technologists. As the technology becomes more useful and more powerful, we need more humans who not only have a deep appreciation and even intuition for how we may best employ it, but also know how to "configure, alter or create" it.
Indeed, human intervention is required at many levels. "Optimization software helps us test," Scott points out, "but there's nothing about software that's going to generate useful tests!"
Similarly, when it comes content marketing, Scott opines, "Technology can help with production, analysis, testing, etc., but the technology can't generate meaningful content for us."
In other words, the technologization of marketing, if I may call it that, doesn't and can't mean that marketing becomes truly automated (Scott calls "marketing automation" and oxymoron). Instead, it means that marketers adept at using technology are and will continue to be at a distinct advantage.
And the real leaders will be those who understand how technology can help create the most rich and compelling customer experiences.