Who Killed the Marketing Technopologist?

“There is no black and white in marketing; it’s all gray. There are no silver bullets. Marketing objectives sometimes need to be solved with a combination of efforts, not by putting all your eggs in one basket.”

Joe Pulizzi, Content Marketing Institute

During my current job search, an interesting point of discussion has come up a few times in interviews regarding my actual experience with Marketing, specifically campaign development, copywriting, and execution. It’s been sparked by some confusion around what terms like “audience development” and “content strategy” mean, combined with my having been in senior roles the past 8+ years, potentially implying more oversight, delegation, and/or arms-length consulting than actual hands-on work.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” It’s broad enough to encompass pretty much anything you want to throw under the Marketing umbrella—including Advertising, Branding, Engagement, Digital, Global, Marcom, Metrics, Research, and Strategy, as the AMA does—but it also leaves room for erecting the silos that have kept many organizations behind the curve on developing truly integrated marketing strategies.

I’m more a fan of The Cluetrain Manifesto‘s take, as outlined back in the proto-digital days of 1998:

Markets once were places where producers and customers met face-to-face and engaged in conversations based on shared interests. Now business-as-usual is engaged in a grinding war of attrition with its markets.

No wonder marketing fails…

Marketing has been training its practitioners for decades in the art of impersonating sincerity and warmth. But marketing can no longer keep up appearances. People talk. They get on the Web and they let the world know that the happy site with the smiling puppy masks a company with coins where its heart is supposed to be. They tell the world that the company that promises to make you feel like royalty doesn’t reply to e-mail messages and makes you pay the shipping charges when you return their crappy merchandise. The market will find out who and what you are. Count on it.

Doc Searls and David Weinberger, Markets Are Conversations

For me, “audience development” is a fundamental component of any integrated marketing strategy, because if you don’t know who your audience is and where they live (physically and virtually), and how to measure your efforts to reach and engage them on an ongoing basis, your strategy will be less effective than it could be. At best.

In some circles, audience development is still defined as the evolution of circulation and direct mail marketing, traditional disciplines that are deeply rooted in similar analytical models that drive the best digital marketing efforts but have been unfairly relegated to the “print is dead” division. I got my start in circulation back in 1993, and everything I learned in that area has been critical in the evolution of my own career in marketing, from free newsletters and webcasts, to paid subscriptions and events, and even display advertising and sponsored content.

In a presentation back in 2010, “Audience Development in the Digital Age,” I noted that it includes all customer touch points—from editorial and circulation, to ecommerce and competitions, to advertising and customer service— via our own media platforms, and everywhere else our community gathers. At the time I was a 1.5-man show running Digital Book World, so that approach wasn’t just theoretical, it was necessary, but even when I moved on to Team Library and worked with a bigger team, that fundamental premise remained: Marketing is a team sport.

If finding and engaging with your audience is a fundamental component of an integrated marketing strategy, “content strategy” is the spark that gives it life. From high-level planning to the actual creation of compelling copy, every successful marketing initiative is driven by compelling content, including text, images, audio, and video in every conceivable format… all depending upon the audience you’re trying to reach.

Content marketing, branded content, native advertising… they’re not interchangeable terms, but clumsily lumped together, they’re a hot topic for brand marketers these days. At its core, though, it’s all just good old-fashioned publishing: producing great content for an engaged audience.

And to do that well, you need a content strategy.

Traditional editorial content usually aims to educate, entertain, and/or excite a particular audience–with the often unspoken business goal of driving revenue, either through paid subscriptions or eyeballs for advertisers, or both. Marketing content can (and should) do all of those things, too, as needed, with the main difference being priority of business goals is usually more apparent, for better or worse.


marketing technopologist

A number of managers identified an ideal set of skills for an executive that go beyond those of a typical M.B.A. holder or tech expert. We coined the term marketing technopologist for a person who brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction. A manager said, “I’d want to see someone with the usual M.B.A. consultant’s background, strong interest in psychology and sociology, and good social-networking skills throughout the organization.”

Salvatore Parise, Patricia J. Guinan, and. Bruce D. Weinberg
The Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World

I first came across the term “Marketing Technopologist” at Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit back in 2009, and although I immediately connected with it, it didn’t really catch on which is a shame. Not only is it a great representation of my skill set, it’s arguably a role the industry explicitly needs today more than ever.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had two great roles that explicitly embraced that overlap of marketing, technology, and social interaction (along with a history of that overlap benefiting me in more traditional roles). In both cases, it allowed me to take a holistic, strategic approach to integrated marketing, but neither title clearly communicates that on a resume, so I’m glad the Marketing question has been asked explicitly and I was able to address it head on.

Of course, that only works if I’m in the room and the question is asked. The bigger challenge will be dealing with it on my resume to ensure I’m getting into the right rooms as my job search continues.

Photo by Ivan Vrani? on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Who Killed the Marketing Technopologist?

  1. I like the idea of just finding ways to help people, and letting everything fall into place. Needless to say, we’ll probably never have a term for that which fits easily onto a resume.

    1. I suspect (hope) we’ll start seeing what’s old become new again, with titles like “Marketing Director” expected to have a firm grasp on digital and analytical skills, with specialist roles reporting into them rather than being siloed away from them.

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