Marketing tech pros,‘Frankenstack’ tools and the future

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Today’s marketers are asked to take control of the digital customer experience, from brand awareness to sales conversion to customer loyalty. To make this work, marketers need an integrated set of tools. Instead, what has emerged are ‘Frankenstack’ tools. talks to marketing tech expert Scott Brinker about the challenges that lie ahead.


When marketers go it alone, what can go wrong? A lot.

Marketers have been operating in silos for years, gobbling up tech tools to solve point problems. At larger companies, there are even silos within the marketing department. Now marketers are being asked to take control of the customer experience, from initial brand awareness to sales conversion to customer loyalty, across all sorts of digital channels.

To pull this off, marketers must have an integrated set of tools. They need to become data scientists of sorts, tapping into a customer data pool with cutting-edge analytics tools in order to glean actionable customer insights. In other words, they need a well-designed marketing technology stack.

scott brinker

Marketing tech expert Scott Brinker.

Unfortunately, after many years of operating in silos, marketers have created something far different: the Frankenstack -- a hodge-podge bunch of tools and data islands not integrated, not working in concert. Even worse, remaking this Frankenstack into a sound marketing technology architecture won't be easy.

"This is going to be the challenge of the next 10 years," says marketing tech expert Scott Brinker. "There's no quick fix."

Not many people understand the issues surrounding marketing tech and the Frankenstack better than Brinker, creator of a popular marketing technology landscape graphic, editor of the ChiefMarTech blog, host of the MarTech conferences, and co-founder and CTO of Ion Interactive.

Brinker has emerged as a calming voice in the tumultuous world of marketing tech. He brings technical clarity and logic to marketers bombarded with thousands of marketing-tech pitches making all sorts of lofty promises. Central to Brinker's view is the role of the chief marketing technologist -- someone who can bridge technology truth with marketing action. sat down with Brinker to get his insights on the marketing technology architecture. What is a 'Frankenstack?'

Brinker: It's become a humorous label. We already know marketers have dozens of marketing technologies and vendors they're working with. Are all these different pieces organized in a way that makes sense? Say you've got two dozen vendors worldwide, and you know where each vendor fits into a very rational picture. It's giving you what you want. On the other end of the spectrum, say you have two dozen vendors and there's overlap. You're not quite sure what you're using each vendor for.

The Frankenstack comes from marketing silos that grew up independently. What the search marketing people were doing five years ago wasn't connected to social media and completely separate from what they were doing with email. One of the missions of the new generation of marketing leaders is, they've got to get the technology stack organized. It's not going to change overnight. People are dependent on these tools. It's a process. The Frankenstack is an amusing term for a not-very-amusing state of affairs.

Marketing has grown up in silos to be a very large mission. You've got a whole bunch of technologies and responsibilities around search marketing, email marketing, website. While content marketing touches a number of things, it kind of developed its own team within most marketing departments. Within individual teams, marketers have a very good feel for what tools they're using to accomplish their specific goal. But as people move to a more integrated approach, really looking at how all these different channels fit together, how can you connect and coordinate the tools and data from the different silos? It's part technology, part process and organizational structure. What does a good marketing technology stack look like?

Brinker: The challenge for most companies wresting with assembling a marketing technology stack is that they're trying to get one primary vendor to provide the main suite, like an Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce. If it's a small company, they might be able to buy one package that does everything, such as HubSpot.

For large companies, they might buy one suite that will serve as the coordinating device, a central repository for data, the system of record. Then they will supplement that with specialized products. They need to make decisions about what data needs to get passed from this specialized product back into that primary suite or platform. Most marketers say they're wresting with that kind of an architecture. More advanced ones -- not sure if you heard Tony Ralph of Netflix speak at MarTech -- have a very sophisticated marketing-ad technology team that assembles things that are more best-of-breed or built in-house. Your marketing tech landscape graphic is wildly popular; I see it everywhere. Is this an example of a marketing technology architecture?

Brinker: The landscape is definitely not an architecture. I needed some rough way to categorize things. With nearly 2,000 vendors, if you don't provide some level of categorization it'll be completely unreadable. I tried to think about products that were positioned [within] infrastructure, platform, and to a certain degree middleware for some of these products that are really helping to exchange data between multiple systems.

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