How the lines between CMO and CIO are blurring

Nostalgia is quite fashionable these days. Have you seen the latest Star Wars film? What about the new version of Dad’s Army? There may be a desire to celebrate what happened in the past, as it means we don’t need to worry about how to handle the future.

Years ago, IT was IT and Marketing was Marketing. Two distinct departments.


Marc Andreessen, founding partner of US VC Andreessen Horowitz, coined the phrase ‘Software is Eating the world’. This is a reflection of how even the most technologically illiterate person is a power user, compared to a decade ago. Gartner released research asserting that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.  If the roles of CMO and CIO are becoming blurred, The interesting questions are why and how? The “why” can be answered by consumerisation of IT, proliferation of Bring Your Own Device, and ubiquity of high speed internet access. Of more relevance to a marketer is the “how”.

Let’s look at a few activities requiring skills that are musts for anyone in IT as well as marketing.

Marketing automation

  • This is smart workflow process technology, which in the past would have been rolled out by the IT department. Now it’s the preserve of the CMO to configure, so marketing can justify its budgets.


  • A proper knowledge of data analytics is a must to deliver the results required to fuel growth.

Programmatic advertising

  • A deep knowledge of algorithms and real time bidding is needed to get the most from this technology.


  • Understanding a customer’s browse-to-purchase journey is as much about the design of apps and websites, as it is about any of the marketing messages used.

This of course is before any mention of viral marketing, video, social media outreach, real time multicasting, augmented reality, big data or any other technology touted as ‘the next big thing’.

Marketers are often attracted to the latest and supposed greatest, but there’s a staggering amount of platforms and apps out there. While technology is a tool to engage with customers – existing and potential – the crucial issue is how you use it. For this, marketing is irrelevant. It’s technology literacy that really counts.


Startups are often on the lookout for growth hackers to help drive their marketing. Some look for power users of Google Analytics or WordPress, rather than people who understand how to market a product to a specific market segment.


Technology permeates every role in a business, and there is clearly a drive to automate as many processes as possible. This drives down the cost of customer acquisition, while increasing profitability. The challenge for the CMO is this: How to harness and use these tools, so that marketing is as creative, engaging and accountable as possible? The first time I looked at marketing automation software I was left bewildered. Marketing is supposed to be simple, whereas the solution I saw seemed, while incredibly powerful, a tad, dare I say, over-engineered. The message for any marketer is: don’t ignore technology, but don’t be blinded by its science and power features either.

If the CMO looks like a CIO, what does the CIO do? Actually their role is probably more complex than the ever due to two words: compliance and regulation. Legislation such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations is where the CIO’s attention is focused.

It’s not about software refreshes, but rather ensuring that the CMOs approach to data capture is correct.


Irrespective of how technology evolves, marketing will always be about creating a consumer need for a product and effectively communicating with them, while sharing a narrative about the company or product. It’s just that the CMO needs to know how to use the technology tools at their disposal. If the CIO can help make this process easier then everyone will be happy – just like the old days!

Author BIO

Marc Duke is a consultant specialising in business-to-business marketing primarily with emerging technology companies.   About Marc Duke