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October 09, 2012

Software Is Eating Marketing

When I was a kid, "The Graduate" was a generation-defining hit movie, with Dustin Hoffman playing an aimless college graduate. In the middle of a graduation party, an older businessman takes the wayward Hoffman aside and delivers some wise advice: “plastics.” That should be the field his generation should focus on, the field that would shape the future.

Today’s advice for aspiring graduates is also a single word: “software.”  

In a sweeping Wall Street Journal article last summer, Netscape founder Marc Andreessen identifies the 21stcentury phenomenon of software eating the world. Software is disrupting industry after industry and transforming large swathes of the economy. When I was an entrepreneur in the 1990s, I would debate with my investors what sliver of the $70 billion U.S. software industry we could carve out. 

Today, as a venture capitalist, I meet with entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out what portion of the $70 trillion global economy they can dominate.

Within the $1 trillion marketing industry, the impact of software eating marketing has now reached the board room.  With the explosion of digital marketing, it is clear that technology is radically transforming the marketing function and the role of the marketing professional. 

The changes rippling through the marketing industry goes far beyond the simple mantra of “follow the eyeballs” to different screens.  Gartner analyst Laura McLellan predicts that by 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs.  The repercussions of social, mobile, video, Big Data, CRM, cloud and other disruptive forces are impacting all aspects of business, but particularly marketing. 

As a result, marketing leaders and agencies now carry the burden of understanding technology’s impact on their business, the entire customer experience, and leading innovation within their enterprises, not simply following a course set by their IT department.                             

“Madison Avenue meets MIT” and “Revenge of the Nerds” are common themes in marketing circles as technologists are becoming the rock stars of customer engagement -- employing algorithms and analytics along with artistic creativity to win market share. In much the way Apple disrupted the music and phone industries with smart industrial design and clever software that shielded users from complexity, technologists are building sophisticated systems with interfaces that are as simple for marketers and designers to manipulate as their iPhones.

MITX, the Massachusetts Interactive Technology Exchange (and an organization I serve on the board of) is putting on a killer conference on this topic called FutureM that kicks off on October 22nd.  FutureM will gather marketing and technology leaders to address these challenges head on, exposing marketers to today’s most innovative thought leaders and companies who are transforming marketing.

Hosted in Boston, at the nexus of the technology and advertising industry, FutureM is a weeklong extravaganza that will bring together marketing artists and marketing scientists, left brain and right brain thinkers alike, to debate the most pressing issues facing the industry. FutureM is fast becoming the equivalent of SXSW, the place to get inspired and see what’s next, but focused on digital marketing.  

If you think the last few years were disruptive, imagine how much the marketing industry will be transformed in the next three years!

(a version of this post originally appeared in Mediapost)

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