MarTech 2018 - the headlines

30 April 2018Cleve Gibbon

Last week I attended and spoke at MarTech West in San Jose, California. The MarTech Conference is a conference for marketers to understand the technology that drives marketing and for technologists to get under the skin of what marketers need to get their job done.  Established by renowned Chief Marketing Technologist blogger, Scott Brinker, it brought together MarTech people struggling to design, build and support their MarTech stacks to deliver real benefits.  Now three years in, the MarTech Conference boasts over 1,500 delegates, over 40 speakers, over 100 exhibits, and it’s still growing.  So, what did we learn?

The Martech landscape

In just seven years, the MarTech landscape has grown from an ecosystem of around 150 products to an astounding bounty of over 7,000 products and platforms. During this time we’ve seen the relationship between marketing and IT fundamentally change. While IT are maintaining legacy systems, building core enterprise IT and making it available through APIs, marketing are building marketing technology teams and now reporting into the Chief Digital Officer. They are building stacks to support their vision of a single customer view and seeking one-to-one relationships with their customers. And 50% of MarTech attendees now have machine learning or deep learning embedded within these stacks at some level to help them deliver quickly and at scale.

The MarTech office

The US appear to be a couple of years ahead in their thinking around the MarTech space and are making fundamental organisational changes to manage the complexity. A growing trend is to do this through a centralised MarTech Office, or CMTO.  In his presentation on the subject, Mark Middlebrook, Senior Vice President and Head of MarTech at City National Bank, walked the audience through how he has built up his CMTO from scratch over the last couple of years. He started with a set of values and defined a clear purpose:

  • Understand the technology ecosystem
  • Coordinate the IT relationship
  • Manage vendors and service providers
  • Embed technology into the marketing process
  • Increase adoption and proficiency of marketing technology

What I like about this approach is that the values and clearly stated purpose cover a lot of the non-technical issues that we are facing whilst establishing MarTech stacks within existing client sets.

New roles

Not surprisingly, this rapidly changing landscape is catalysing the creation of new roles. Directors or Heads of MarTech are now reporting into Chief Digital Officers. And Digital Architects are more commonplace within client teams, with Solution Architects understanding the MarTech landscape and Technical Architects masterminding specific products and sometimes disciplines.

Customer Data Platforms

Customer Data Platforms are the new shiny toy in the MarTech stack. David Raab from the Customer Data Platform Institute defines the CDP as a marketer-driven system, that creates a unified, persistent customer database, which is accessible to other systems. A CDP will gather data from all sources, giving marketers a complete customer view and organise it for customer management.

According to the Jaywing 2017 Data Driven Marketing Report, 30% of marketers cite the availability of the right products and tools as the predominant obstacle to improving data management. With the current focus on transparency around data management (by the way, rightly or wrongly, the consensus at MarTech was that everyone is bored of GDPR), I think we’re going to see a rise in the acquisition of CDPs as an essential part of the MarTech stack.


When Holly Rollo, a security specialist at RSA Security, shared that only 10% of organisations are performing security audits, an eerie silence came over the MarTech audience. Put that another way, 90% of organisations are therefore at risk from attack and the stakes are super high.  In the wild west, bandits used to hold up a single bank. Today, digital bandits rob all banks, at once, and the currency is data.

Rollo also shared that 75% of IT executives believe that their next security breach will be within the marketing department. Security needs to become a core capability of every organisation, not just a checklist item.

Get platformed or die trying!

This was the clarion call of my MarTech session in which I explored how platform businesses have changed consumer behavior for ever and vice versa. I walked through concrete examples of what being platformed means in the experience age and shared war stories and success criteria for delivering digital transformation. You can read a summary of my four imperatives of becoming a kick ass platformed business here.

Finally, what I really like about MarTech is that they have shared all their presentations, since the conference started back in 2015.  If you’re interested in MarTech, and I hope you are, then bookmark the presentations page and when you have time, step through three years worth of slideware.  

Author: Cleve Gibbon
Published: 30 April 2018
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