LAS VEGAS — How marketers hone their skills and refine their strategies is more important than implementation of the latest, greatest technologies. That was the message from marketing technologist Scott Brinker at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Summit at the MGM Grand Hotel here yesterday.

Brinker, best known for his eye-boggling marketing technology landscape supergraphic, talked about the challenge of marketing management in a software world.

The number of companies engaged in the marketing technology space has climbed to more than 3,500 in the last year, according to the supergraphic Brinker released just two months ago. Collectively, those companies are peddling close to 4,000 marketing solutions.

There are more tools than marketers know what to do with, Brinker conceded. This "crazy tech landscape" is often overwhelming — and marketers have to adopt frameworks to make sense of it. 

Marketing Management Frameworks

Brinker, co-founder and CTO of ion interactive and editor of, said marketing today is Inextricably tangled with software. In fact, he said, most marketers have evolved to marketing technologists, something he defines as tech-savvy marketers or marketing-savvy IT people. 

The growth of marketing technologies requires new ways of thinking, acting and strategizing, he explained. And to tame the complexities and capitalize on the potential of a digital world, marketers need to embrace software-smart management frameworks, he explained.

These concepts — from agile marketing to bimodal marketing, from collaborative design to big testing — are the foundation for marketing success and matter more than "shiny new tools," he said.

Brinker noted that agile marketing, an approach to marketing that takes its inspiration from highly flexible and interactive project management, took off because software developers needed to adapt to change. 

Agile marketing depends on strategy rather than big marketing campaigns. Marketers engage in tightly executed iterative cycles of plan-design-launch-measure that are executed tightly together. After a series of iterations, they reflect on lessons learned, patterns discovered and ways to improve performance. That leads into the next little strategy, improving efficiency and performance.

“Thousands and thousands of companies are adopting agile marketing practices,” he said, in a quest to improve the speed, predictability, transparency and adaptability to change of the marketing function. It's an exciting development that still in its infancy, he continued.

Connect With Interactive Content Marketing

Brinker recognizes the value of content marketing, especially interactive content. As he told CMSWire more than a year ago, good interactive content — through the eyes of the participant — either (a) actually helps them learn something, such as an assessment tool might, in a way that's better than just passively reading about it, or (b) provides something genuinely entertaining (like a fun little game).”

Brinker also understands the speed of digital production demands that marketers and marketing technologists organize their content with structure. The more ways marketers have to disseminate content to their audiences, the more the content must stand out in order to draw people to participate, he explained.

“This is a really interesting dimension for marketers to get creative in. We know content marketing has become a big part of what we do,” but people are still consuming passive content — like webinars or white papers — rather than interactive content.

Innovation and Models of Change

Marketers are "wrestling with innovation" more today, looking for new ways to find and engage with their audience, he said.

Structure and marketing goals vary at different organizations, and the way companies innovate and scale with these marketing technologies can take very different forms. 

Brinker talked about a concept he tackles in his new book, Hacking Marketing: the idea that Brinker marketers can learn from software developers to harness the dynamics of a digital world. 

Learning Opportunities

marketing innovation
At the top of this list is the notion of bimodal IT and Brinker's ideas of reshaping it to a framework for bimodal marketing — that is, operating two different management engines at the same time: one for experimenting on the “edge” of marketing innovation, and another for dependability in the “core” of marketing operations.

Bimodal marketing follows a 70 percent core investment and 30 percent investment strategy on the edge around the core.

The innovation process is that transition from the outer edge to the core majority investments, Brinker said. Companies use their backbone applications and core systems to leverage scalability, but they also experiment with other applications on top of those technologies, like social and analytics.

Brinker also talked applying the concept of pace layers as developed by Stewart Brand in his 1994 book, "How Buildings Learn" to marketing. Brand addressed the challenge of designing a building that would have a long and useful life, be resilient to change, and be able to accommodate the needs of various owners and occupants.

Scott Brinker's pace layers
More specifically, Brand identified a series of layers, ranging from the building site, which never changes, to items such as chairs, lamps and pictures, that might move around on a daily or weekly basis. In between are layers, like the building structure, which could last 100 years; the skin or exterior surface, which might be redone every 20 years; and the services, such as plumbing; heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) or electrical wiring, which are often replaced or updated in seven to 15 years. 

While these architectural layers have very different paces of change, they must be designed to work together for the building to function effectively. 

Brinker contends marketing can also be viewed through the lens of pace layers. Picture seven layers on which marketing operates, from those that evolve most slowly to those that change in real time. 

As the graphic shows, the bottom layer is the company’s mission and agenda, campaigns make up a middle layer and is topped off with iteration, like personalization, and feedback, which marketers track via channels like social media.

Build your marketing organization — technologies, processes and approach — with an understanding of the pace of change in technological innovation and shifting goals, he said.

(Scott Brinker will be sharing insights about marketing technologies in a digital world at CMSWire's DX Summit in Chicago this November. DXS16 will be held Nov. 15 and 16 at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago, with a full day of pre-conference workshops on Nov. 14.)