What’s Old Becomes New Again in Marketing Technology

What’s old is new again. The phrase applies to many areas from fashion, movies, science and indeed technology. History is one of the best and most underutilized research tools. Consider how business, economic and sociological are a few examples that exhibit evolutionary cycles. What’s most fascinating is not just seeing old trends emerge in modern times, but how people and organizations respond to it. My inspiration for solving problems or finding innovation can be influenced through other disciplines, and of course, history.

In my research, I came across a paper, Marketing and Technology: A Strategic Coalignment, published in 1987 and co-authored by two notable professors in marketing, technology and strategy, Noel Capon and Rashi Glazer.

What struck me were the early notions of customer centricity, agile (or market driven) product development and technology enablement. The paper comes from both the use of technology within an organization and development of technology as a product. As I have already seen this in many areas of MarTech, consider how resilient and applicable this 30 year research applies to marketing technology as we describe it today.


Professors Capon and Glazer identified four (4) challenges in technology and marketing strategy:

  1. Business environments have become ‘turbulent’, changing the growth prospects and positions of firms within an industry.
  2. Rapidly changing technology being introduced into the environment.
  3. Long-run competitiveness on how well a firm manages technology as an asset.
  4. Technology and marketing strategy together were still not being recognized as a formula for growth.

So, these sound familiar? Thirty years later, marketing technology has the same profound impact across all industries as firms shift toward a more data driven customer centric outreach and product development. In a recent Capgemini survey, a majority (87%) of executives at enterprise firms knew that digital transformation is a competitive opportunity and changing the foundation of business. Across the spectrum of organizations I’ve worked with in the past, the executive teams truly felt either behind and overwhelmed with adapting marketing technology or wanted to continue to maintain their competitive edge in the marketplace.

Nature of Technology

The authors call out “know-how” in the paper, which can broadly refer to talent, IP or intelligence. The definition is meant to distinguish technology use from new products developed:

  • Product Tech (“know-how” in product) = R&D
  • Process Tech (building the product) = Operations
  • Management Tech (administration, marketing) = Marketing Technology & Decision Support

All too often, the organizations acquire and simply on-board marketing technology, but still need help with strategy and guidance to fully incorporate the tool or solution into their business operations. As an example, in the marketing automation space, SiriusDecisions found that 85% of B2B marketers using marketing automation in 2014 still feel that they’re not using them to their full potential.

Only as part of the larger strategy can a firm realize the fullest benefit and significant return (time, agility, consistency, revenue) on that technology investment.

Knowledge as a Commodity

The authors discuss when the technology and it’s use is common knowledge, the technology itself is relatively irrelevant. However when disruption exists, then technology begins to receive greater attention and concern. Access and use is more important than possession of marketing technology.

Their point is that the management of [marketing] technology is the management of chaos. Scott Brinker once shared with me that the multitudes of marketing technologies, that are both available in the marketplace and in use at a firm, are simply a new normal.

Even when consolidation into platforms occur, the number of capabilities in them will require individual and interdependent planning for proper deployment. A timeless notion which applied in 1987 and today is that a proper MarTech strategy must begin with the understanding of technology’s impact and contribution to a firm’s strategy and operations.

How should an organization treat marketing technology?  Well, bring your CFO into the mix because the ecosystem needs to be treated as an “asset” for true realization.

Because knowledge (know-how), customization and feedback are built into every deployment, the marketing technology ecosystem has significant goodwill and can become a competitive advantage. A fine example of the sum being greater than its constituent parts.

Decision Making & Support

Implications of decision making are more pervasive in developing a strategy and setting up its structure. Referring to the corresponding table 1 in the paper, I’ve summarized and included a “then and now” of marketing technology’s impact on today’s business:

  • Changing Product LIfe Cycles (Waterfall to Agile)
  • Changing Definition of Segments (Segmentation to Clustering)
  • Changing Definition of Industry / Competition (Company-Based to Customer Centric)
  • Changing Employee Relations (Enablement, Empowerment, Purpose)
  • Changing Govt Relations (Privacy, Security, Classifications)
  • Globalization (Internet, Social Media, Digital/Virtual Connectivity, Interdependence)

Companies that do not profit and use know-how fail to extract and operationalize a valuable asset! Feels like you’re running, but going nowhere? A concept called Red Queen Effect translates the driving motivation in today’s chaotic marketing technology ecosystem.

Framework for a Strategy

Here are questions to help firms develop mindset to best leverage marketing technology:

  • Is your technology considered an asset (and not an add-on)?
  • How does a firm measure and maximize use of that asset?
  • Does your firm view the total marketing technology asset base as a portfolio of discrete & interdependent technologies?
  • Has your firm internalized that elements of the portfolio change as the strategy changes (and visa versa)?

Now here are four plus one considerations to get started:

  1. What’s in the technology portfolio?
  2. What is the process to add technologies?
  3. How does one measure and obtain ROI from each marketing technology in the ecosystem?
  4. How will you manage the ecosystem as interdependent technologies and not in isolation?
  5. And my addition, have you identified or plan to enable the right people to use the technology?


Concluding Notes, Direction and a Modern Take

The “co-alignment” by professor Capon and Glazer encompasses:

  • Consideration of technology change on-going strategic and operational decisions. (Remaining agile in technology use and deployment to increase enablement and competitive advantages)
  • Adopt a more comprehensive definition of technology as a real asset and maximize returns.
  • Evaluate the broadest set of options to acquire technologies.
  • (Think beyond marketing and how it fits to maximize customer-centricity)
  • Utilization of the portfolio and optimal allocation/deployment and marketing decision for future tech-based scenarios.
  • (Examples of IoT, Big Data)

With various martech stacks being deployed, it’s not only what you chose, but how you will manage the ecosystem of people, process, data and the technology in an agile capacity moving forward. Revenue generation (marketing/sales), strategy, development and operations are even more strongly intertwined to become even more customer-centric!

After 30 years, the takeway from “what’s old is new again” in MarTech is the marketers need to manage and develop a mindset for marketing technology as an asset to your organization.