In Search of the (Marketing) Unicorn

“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the unicorn,

“if you believe in me, I shall believe in you.”                                     Lewis Carroll – Through the Looking Glass

In 2014, the first MarTech Conference was held in Boston, and an affectionate nickname began to spread … the “unicorn.”

The MarTech Conference’s website states that they “tackle issues at the intersection of marketing & technology.” “Unicorns,” then, are industry professionals who are equally adept at marketing and technology.  They are more properly called, “technololgists,” but frankly, if it were me, I’d prefer to be called a “unicorn” too because … UNICORN!

As we all know, the multi-level integration of interactive marketing technology is no longer a “like” to have, but a “NEED” to have. Companies of all shapes, sizes, and verticals need access to talented “technologists” who can not only write the code and design the interfaces, but who can also assist in creating the overall marketing strategy.  I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been in a brainstorm when we look at each other say, “We need to get so-and-so in here to help with this …”  And of course, “so-and-so” is one of our interactive media designers.

I’m writing about this because before long, this will be the norm and not an option, and to be honest, “before long” may have already happened. Today, even the simplest, paper-based, face-to-face engagement strategy AT SOME POINT needs to connect and integrate with technology.

The point of this blog, then, is to add my voice in support of this evolution/revolution, and to emphasize the importance of staying ahead of the curve.  My own experience is teaching me several things:

  1. I do not know everything, nor should I expect myself or my team to know everything. I need to be willing to bring in people with new skill-sets, and my existing team must be open to learning and evolving. As Clive Sirkin, the CMO of Kimberly Clark is reported to have said, “… it’s not about digital marketing but marketing in a digital world.” The nuance is subtle, but apt.
  1. While I am a staunch advocate for integrating “the human element” into every interactive tradeshow marketing program I produce, I must also understand that there are tasks that technology can do better than humans. As Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy says, the most effective performances come when humans work with technology, not against or in spite of it.
  1. When I work with new and existing clients, I must be persistent in my efforts to pull their CIO (or members of his or her team) into the input process because as Laura McLellan, VP of marketing strategies at Gartner reminds us, 91% of marketing leaders believe that they are competing primarily on the basis of the customer experience, and it is nearly impossible to integrate all of the systems needed to deliver those experiences without the collaboration of the CIOs’ teams.

Of course, interactive technology is only as good as the humans who created (whew!), but I must now admit something I never thought I’d hear myself say …

Unicorns are real … and soon, they’ll have the biggest budget in the company.