The decentralization of marketing

There was a bit of a concerted marketing push it seems yesterday by IBM, heralding the announcement of new services from the company targeted at the Chief Marketing Officer. In coverage, the Gartner-sourced factoid that by 2017 the head of marketing will influence more spend on technology than the CIO has been repeated.

Now that little nugget of futurology is great to draw headlines (and, let’s be honest, I’ve used it myself on more than one occasion), but I’m becoming increasingly sceptical that it will come to pass.

The last few months of my working life have been spent looking at where the marketing agency industry is currently at. As I wrote recently, it’s a world that is experiencing significant disruption. My hunch is that whilst an increasing proportion of technology spend by organisations will be being placed on “marketing” services, that spend will not necessarily be being made by the marketing department.

By way of example: for organisations in the media sector, there is significant spend being made to digital agencies to develop web and App services that deliver content. That spend is “marketing” in that it is being made to agencies. But it’s not “marketing” in the sense that it’s being used as a way to provide new distribution channels to consumers (and maybe new products for advertising clients).

But I don’t think this is just a CMO vs CIO discussion; my take on what is happening is actually a decentralisation of spend on services that are technology-enabled which means that any part of a business may find itself procuring “technology” because so many business services these days are delivered by technology. Where does the remit of the CIO fall in this world? Well, there are a host of options.

What will be more interesting to see is whether the confusion that technology puts into the mix will lead to, say, more marketing spending happening outside of the average CMO organisation in the future. If technology is being decentralised by (effectively) the Cloud delivery of services, will similar happen to other business functions?

I was in conversation with a mobile marketing technology strategist a couple of weeks ago, and he put forward the idea that we are now “post-digital”, in the sense that more or less every part of the marketing world (bar maybe the final method of delivery) is now digital, so the term is increasingly meaningless. I wonder, in a similar way, if we are also now “post-IT” in that there is little that an organisation can do now other than consume business services via technology: in that world, where significant friction to acquire a service is removed, do we all become generalists?

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