Inside The Never-Ending Evolution Of Marketing With Scott Brinker

January 28, 2020 by Lauren Donovan


“Collectively, this professional community is going to be at the vanguard of forging marketing-as-we-know-it in the 2020s.”

It’s nothing new but it bears repeating: The only constant in marketing is change. Changing platforms, technologies, best practices, titles, roles, responsibilities… it’s all continuously evolving, and who better to explore that evolution than Scott Brinker, MarTech program chair and VP platform ecosystem at HubSpot — someone who has been closely documenting the landscape and the people who work it in for over a decade.

As we gear up for the next MarTech Conference, April 15-17 in San Jose, I shared an insightful Q&A with Scott (a.k.a. “the godfather of martech”) to get his take on all of this change. From the shifting role of the marketing technologist to must-have marketing skills in 2020 and beyond… the ways The MarTech Conference program has grown over the years and the sessions in store for this April… it’s all here for you to enjoy 🙂


Lauren Donovan: Welcome, Scott! Let’s dive right in. Back in 2008, you launched chiefmartec.com around the premise that “[m]arketing has become a technology-powered discipline, and therefore marketing organizations must infuse technical capabilities into their DNA.” How do you feel about this premise 10+ years later? Did it all shake out as you imagined it would?


Scott Brinker

Scott Brinker

Scott Brinker: I’d say that premise is now accepted fact. Everything in marketing is powered by software and data today. We don’t even call it “digital marketing” anymore. It’s just marketing. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a marketing department of any size where there isn’t at least one person serving as a marketing technologist or technical marketing operations manager.

That said, I can’t claim I ever imagined the explosion of the marketing technology landscape was going to become what it is today. In hindsight, we can look back and dissect the forces that led us to 7,000+ martech solutions. But predicting the magnitude of those forces back in 2008 was certainly beyond my line of sight.

LD: It certainly has been a massive explosion. Similarly, how has the marketing / marketing technologist / marketing operations profession changed over the past decade? What are some skills that are table stakes today that marketers wouldn’t have thought of 10 years ago? And where do you see things heading in the next decade?

SB: That question probably deserves a whole textbook as an answer. Not sure I can do it justice in a couple of minutes.

A decade ago, “marketing technologists” didn’t exist as an identified profession. It was a small set of pioneering hybrid individuals who were doing the work, but the industry didn’t really have a label for it. It certainly wasn’t institutionalized at scale.

Today, however, you can search LinkedIn for a ton of positions and professionals with that title. As we discussed previously, with the 2×2 matrix of marketing technologist roles, there’s actually quite a lot of variance in the different skills and specializations that people now have across the field.

Marketing operations did exist before, but with a much smaller scope of responsibilities. They were the folks managing spreadsheets, reports, budgets, maybe simple databases around SKUs and coupon codes. One analyst used to refer to marketing operations as the “island of misfit toys” in those days.

Today, however, marketing operations has become the backbone of modern marketing departments. They run the martech stack, which powers, well, pretty much everything.

As for the next decade, the exciting thing is that we’re just getting started. Marketing technologists, “full stack” marketers, and strong marketing operations leadership roles are all on the rise and in high demand. Collectively, this professional community is going to be at the vanguard of forging marketing-as-we-know-it in the 2020s.

LD: And as the vanguard, they’ll need to be well trained, with sharpened skills. Which leads us to… The MarTech Conference returns to San Jose April 15-17. This year’s agenda strikes me as quite different from past events… the sessions feel more actionable somehow. Was that intentional, and if so, in what other ways is the conference evolving?

SB: As with the marketing technology landscape, we have an embarrassment of riches of skills, ideas, experiences, and insights to draw upon across the field of martech today. There’s more to learn than hours in the day! Or, sessions we can program in a single conference, for that matter.

With the MarTech program, we’ve worked to curate educational content on the topics that we think will be most valuable to marketers, marketing technologists, and marketing operations leaders. If you want to harness martech more effectively in your business — get beyond the hype and fluff, and really push your understanding forward — this event was designed for you.

In addition to terrific keynote speakers — Tony Ralph of Walmart, Brian Solis, Nancy Duarte, Mathew Sweezey of Salesforce — we’ve programmed four deep-dive tracks:

    • Marketing Operations: people, process, and technology
    • Marketing Data: analytics and customer data management
    • Marketing Technology: tools, technologies, and technical approaches
    • Marketing Orchestration: applying martech across marketing and sales

In addition, we’ll have 15-minute lightning talks continuously running in our Discover MarTech Theater and two tracks of excellent sessions from state-of-the-art martech vendors, covering real-world case studies of how leading brands are leveraging their capabilities.

LD: Awesome stuff. I know there’s a lot to choose from, but if I may… which sessions and speakers are you particularly looking forward to?

SB: That’s like asking me which of my children I love most. Everyone we’ve invited to speak are people I admire: accomplished experts in the field, passionate about the work they do.

Learn marketing ops management insights from superstar practitioners like Sara McNamara and Kelly Jo Horton. Get the latest benchmarking insights on multi-channel marketing technology stacks from Ben Bloom of Gartner. Learn about Twitter’s own demand engine and martech stack from their own marketing manager, Amisha Sud. Learn about harnessing 2nd-party data from David Raab, the founder of the CDP movement. Learn how to apply machine learning to lead scoring from Guan Wang, director of marketing analytics at DocuSign. Get data-driven customer journey insights from marketing data scientist extraordinaire Christopher Penn.

That’s just scratching the surface! Check out the full agenda.

LD: Yes! I’m adding all of those to my list. Okay, we’re almost out of time. Let’s get to the really essential stuff: Favorite food, vacation destination, and musical group – GO!

SB: Favorite food: Showing my stereotypical software developer roots, pizza is the hands-down winner. Vacation destination: Road trip on the California coastline. Musical group: Weird Al Yankovic. Four decades of brilliant parody.

LD: Get out, I was just yesterday listening to “I Lost On Jeopardy”! Classic. Well Scott — thanks so much for spending some time with us today. I look forward to seeing you and the entire MarTech community in a few short months! 


So! Will we be seeing you April 15-17? There’s still time to secure your seat and lock in the best rates available.

Can’t wait until April? Attend Scott’s live webinar about the ways martech will continue to evolve through the new decade — Tuesday, February 18 at 1:00pm EST. Register for free here. It’s a great sneak peek at what you’ll learn during his opening MarTech keynote.

Lastly… I invite you to contribute your invaluable two cents to our 2020 Martech Career survey — you’ll help us and the entire martech community better understand the current roles of marketing technology and operations professionals. It’s 100% anonymous and won’t take more than five minutes of your time. We’ll publish the results in the coming weeks.

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