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‘Dark MarTech’

I liked the phrase 'dark martech' (not least because, like 'dark social' it is suggestive of things that are in reality quite notable but less talked about) that Seth Ulinkski, an analyst at tech research business TBR, uses over on Scott Brinker's blog to describe the mass of home-grown marketing technology that companies build themselves internally.

There was some interesting data from some research that tech research business TBR have done into the phenomenon that suggests that inspite of the plethora of marketing technology solutions out there many companies are still at the point where they are using homegrown solutions or in-house developed tools (and even spreadsheets) for key marketing technology functions.


Seth speculates that the reason such a large proportion of companies are using dark martech solutions is down to the early stage of adoption that many businesses are at with marketing technology, and the inherent difficulty of changing approaches, budgets, structures within established organisations:

‘Many companies decide to use homegrown tools because they are a known entity and provide a less-costly, less-risky option in the short term versus newer, untested tools. However, in the long term organizations that string together an assortment of tools will likely be challenged by data portability, interoperability and most importantly, the ability to compete in an increasingly competitive, always-on digital world.’

According to the research, fewer than 20% of respondents indicated that their companies have fully implemented solutions so martech platform adoption is still in something of a nascent stage. But it is happening, and I think is already changing marketing in really interesting ways. For example Seth makes the point in his post that greater investment in a unified marketing technology stack can not only benefit marketing but other business units as well, where marketing might be positioned in a more unified way with sales (improving communication along the full customer journey), or with customer service (smarter messaging, improving loyalty), and even with innovation (identifying customer needs sooner through dialogue).

I moderated a panel at Ad Week Europe yesterday that included Paul Muret, VP Display, Video Ads and Analytics at Google (who created the company that became Google Analytics), and the point was made in the discussion not only about how data is increasingly able to flow between systems, but what this might mean for the marketing function and the agencies that serve it. The greatest potential opportunity here is that through adept deployment of technology and use of data, we have far more options to tie marketing activity directly to sales and other outcomes and not only understand the levers we need to pull to achieve certain outcomes, but when and how.


The TBR survey showed that the marketing function is still largely viewed as a cost-centre, but technology has the potential to help us change the perception of marketing entirely, towards becoming far more of a profit centre. The implications of this are not insignificant for the future of the marketing function within companies but also the ability of agencies to add value more directly to their client's bottom line and potentially move upstream within client companies alongside the marketers that they serve.

I talked about this, and more general trends in marketing technology as part of Digital Shift – the quarterly digital marketing trends updates I do for Econsultancy.

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